Charlie Engman has a gift for conveying the intangible in his use of AI tools. Engman brings to life dreamscapes that are at once uncanny, familiar and endearing.
From a depiction of an ex-president embracing a soft bulbous sculpture of himself to images in which men appear to be forming emotional bonds with sea creatures, Engman playfully uses AI image generators to explore the terrain of human vulnerability.
Some questions that are always at the forefront of my art practice: how do my images relate to the images that precede and surround them; what expectations are we bringing to images, and how are these expectations established and reinforced; what purpose do these expectations serve and how can we interact with these expectations?
AI image generators are a fascinating new tool for exploring these questions because they create images based upon a dataset of hundreds of millions of pre-existing images but are otherwise unfettered by the pre-existing expectations of visual culture. That is, they make new images based on predictions from all the images (and image tags) that precede them. However, they are not otherwise bound by human logic or cultural codes and therefore make images that reflect these codes in surprising and often challenging ways, like a funhouse mirror.
There is a beautiful collapse of category distinctions and a dynamic interplay between un-indoctrinated naivety and an appreciation of precedent.
Charlie Engman, originally from Chicago, started taking pictures while studying Japanese and Korean studies at the University of Oxford. Intertwining with his art practice, he now stages, styles and photographs people and objects for notable fashion magazines and brands.
Engman’s work has appeared in AnOther Magazine, Dazed, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Vogue, The New Yorker et al. and in campaigns for Prada, Marni, Hermès, Sonia Rykiel, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood. MOM, a series in which Engman displayed multiple portraits of his mother, was exhibited in solo shows at the Scrap Metal Gallery in Toronto in 2018 and in the Lishui Biennial in China in 2019. He is based in Brooklyn, New York.
Since 2022 Engman has expanded his practice to include AI tools.