ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original “idea sketch” next to a finished piece. This week, Washington D.C.-based artist Jonathan Monaghan talks about his 15-minute HD CGI animation Mothership, “a seductive but ultimately vacuous simulation” in ”a kind of hermetically-sealed world” of Romantic painting-influenced spaceships and flying, quivering cow-blob.

The initial inspiration and research I do for my work often takes place while traveling around art museums. From Gothic to the Romantic, the rich history of Western art will spark ideas for scenes, objects or characters which I will then construct and animate in 3D software. Mothership essentially began with some rough sketches while at the Bode Museum in Berlin.

Mothership draws equally on the more commercial and popular forms of culture as well.

Sometimes in my sketchbook I’ll just jot down conflations of seemingly disparate things like “Technodrome Boutique Hotel” or “Luxury Operating Room.”

What connects everything together in Mothership, as in all my work, are notions of power, wealth, technology, and authority.

To help get the environments and objects out my head and into the 3D space…

…I collect reference images.

Sometimes I steal things directly, such as the 3D geometry from Rainbow Road or a backdrop from a German Romantic Landscape painting.

I look just as intently at the commercial side of computer graphics as I do anything else. In a way, I want to compete with Pixar movies or car commercials to maintain the same smooth visual aesthetic.

With limited resources it can be a struggle, but I find this challenge very rewarding.

If we can reconcile our past and present, perhaps we can gain some critical insights on the apparently seamless condition of our lived experience. I like maintaining this broad range of references, from art history, to sci-fi culture, to mythologies, to video games.

When creating work on the computer, I find the immediacy to access of information influential.

How does a cow’s head move? What does the financial center of London look like? Google acts as a collaborator, helping to determine certain creative decisions.

The goal however is to keep everything unified, creating a kind of hermetically-sealed world or alternate universe where things have their own ambiguous logic; seductive but ultimately vacuous simulation where meanings don’t quite materialize.

JONATHAN MONAGHAN, MOTHERSHIP (2013) 15-minute 3D animated HD film is on view at bitforms gallery atthe group exhibition “PostPictures” opening this Thursday. Excerpt:

Previous Artist’s Notebook selects:

Artist’s Notebook: Rafaël Rozendaal
Artist’s Notebook: Kate Torn
Artist’s Notebook: Genevieve Belleveau
Artist’s Notebook: Tristan Perich
Artist’s Notebook: LaTurbo Avedon
Artist’s Notebook: Emilie Gervais
Artist’s Notebook: Nicolas Sassoon
Artist’s Notebook: Addie Wagenknecht
Artist’s Notebook: Yoshi Sodeoka
Artist’s Notebook: Anthony Antonellis
Artist’s Notebook: Rollin Leonard