In Gabriel Nardelli Araujo’s The Canvas Project, classically painted figures of centuries past seem to have leapt off the canvas to explore the modern-day world. The Portuguese artist uses Photoshop to collage the characters from famous museum paintings into his own contemporary photographs of public spaces around the globe, where they appear to brush elbows with today’s tourists. Whether plopped onto the streets of New York City, posed before a Glasgow subway station, or poised in So Paulo’s parks and gardens, his re-imagined portrayals of historic subjects are both playful and thought-provoking, encouraging viewers to reconsider the perpetual interaction between past and present cultures.
26-year-old Araujo studied urban architecture at Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, but it was his semester abroad in London that first sparked this series. He wanted a unique way to capture the city’s sights during his temporary stay, and the mixed-media approach arose organically as an amalgamation of his personal passion for photography, his architectural education, and his outsider perspective in the foreign locale.
At first, he explains, his aim was simply to create surreal reinterpretations of the contemporary metropolis, spliced with historic clothing and customs. By plucking the figures from their native tableaus and placing them in startlingly incongruous surroundings, he hoped to encourage a fresh interpretation of the original works. Eventually, however, he found a deeper symbolism in his creative method: his digital collages came to represent “new forms of appropriation of space and works of art.” He compares his work to the way a graffiti tagger might leave a new mark on old buildings, but his strategy avoids destroying the historic relics in the process.