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"Mother" (2022) by Billelis

Does the religious iconography that inspired Western masters like Rubens and Vélazquez still influence modern digital artists today?

When looking at the transcendental work of Edinburgh based digital sculptor Bill Elis, one can only conclude this to be the case. With a delightful fascination for the macabre, Elis offers depictions that feel at once reverential and sinister. His works often portray memento mori, reminders of the inevitability of death, with a realism that feels both profound and at times frightening. In ‘Forsaken by thy father’ for instance, we witness a decaying Christ in the clutches of desperate skeletal believers, a very different interpretation of a possible pending resurrection. His golden crowned Mother Mary is likewise a synergy of bones and gilded flowers, an eternal afterlife in Elis’s work often seems to have a very physical cost. That fine line between mortality and immortality is explored beautifully in his baroque tableaux, where we find the morbid decay of the grave painted in a golden light. A work like ‘Transcendence’ combines both the classical and the grotesque, where in a biblical scene a plethora of bronze tinted angels witness one of their number literally shedding its skin, revealing a cadaverous mortal essence. It almost feels like with his work, Bill tries to both honor and demystify some of the essential elements of the Christian faith, paradoxically making its angels feel more human by adding aging to the ageless.

Even when we witness the flawless perfection of the marble and gilded seraph in ‘Resurrected’, the fleshless skull of the virgin still watches over this majestic being. Stylistically Elis finds inspiration in the detailed craftsmanship of the past, a level of care and detail is given to his 3D creations that mimics and at times perhaps surpasses that of his classical inspirations. It’s fascinating to discover how new artists reinterpret the biblical and mythological that is still such a dominant factor in our Western European fine art museums. It goes to show that the complicated relationship between art and religion hasn’t quite led to a final rupture just yet.

"Mother" (2022) by Billelis


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