Irish Artist Patrick Dunning presented his art show, The Signature Project: Exploring the Human Spirit through Art, Music and Technology,” at Y.A.L.E. School in Cherry Hill last week, a free multimedia event open to the public.
The project began more than 20 years ago, and is an ongoing effort, the artist said.
“Back in the early 90s, I wanted to do some work that communicated with a broad range of people and to include those people in the artwork itself,” Dunning recalled. “So the idea of using people’s signatures or including their signatures in the work I found very intriguing, where a person would actually contribute a little piece of paint to the painting or the mural I’m creating.”
After painting a cosmic landscape depicting a sun, moon, stars, the Earth and the Milky Way Galaxy on a 3-by-2-foot canvas, Dunning took a picture of it and scanned the photo into a high resolution computer that broke the image into over a million pixels. Each pixel has a number corresponding with one of 10 colors.
“The signature is like one stitch in a tapestry that is made from a million stitches,” he explained.
Kim Widenor, curriculum and instruction coordinator at Y.A.L.E., shared why he chose to feature Dunning.
“Just like our approach to learning at Y.A.L.E., The Signature Project brings many areas of knowledge together to produce an incredible result: science, art, technology, music, light, sound,” Widenor noted. “ … The event is an opportunity for Y.A.L.E. to come together outside of the school day with the community.”
Dunning’s art has been featured around the country and even in his native Ireland, where in the past 20 years, he has collected about 350,000 signatures using acrylic paint pens that correspond to the colors of his original artwork.
He needs 1,008,016 signatures to complete the mural, which will span three stories tall once finished.
“Even though I sold a lot of my work and I was successful (in his early career), I felt that the vast majority of people weren’t getting to experience the work,” Dunning reflected. “It was a very exclusive thing: You put it in a gallery, only a few people can afford it, so few people go in and look at it.
“It really wasn’t touching the common person on the street,” he added, “so I thought about ways of doing art more publicly, and that kind of led into The Signature Project.
Dunning’s art is layered and features many aspects in each piece to convey the interconnectedness of life. For instance, one X-ray in the show appears to be of a face, but when the lightbox is turned on and a viewer looks closer, he or she can see it is made up of thousands of dots and dashes, Morse code. The image is revealed through the show and music.
“When you think about our existence in this world, we see it through a very narrow window,” Dunning conveyed. “We see it through the color spectrum, we see trees and skies and water and all that, but beyond that color spectrum, there’s ultraviolet light – infrared, Gamma rays, X-rays – there’s all these other ways of looking at the world that we don’t naturally use, but with our painting, I incorporate those disciplines into it.”
To learn more about or view Dunning’s work, visit https://signatureproject.com/index.html.