Pixel art made from Pantone-like colour chips mixes Shakespeare and nudity

Nick Smith’s Paramour collection sees the artist creating pixelated, colour chip-based artworks from portraits of Shakespeare, Venus and topless women.


In his 2015 show Psycolourgy, Nick Smith used hand-made, Pantone-like colour chips to produce pixelated versions of well-known artworks from the likes of Bacon, Hockney, Van Gogh and Vermeer. Now he’s taken inspiration from love and lust – pairing new works with excerpts from Shakespeare, Lawrence and Sarah Walters.

His Paramour exhibition has is drawn from a mix of classical paintings symbolising desire (such as Botticelli’s Venus), portraits of the excerpts’ authors (including the painting ascribed to John Taylor of Shakespeare, which is on a later page) and some soft-porn images of women wearing very little (which you'll find over the next few pages – so be warned).

Image: Venus

Nick says that these were inspired by the early days of the Internet – or the not-so-long-ago early days of the mobile Web – when progressive jpegs would load slowly, leaving viewers able to see vague shapes but have to wait for details to arrive.

Image: Paramour


"Since the days of dial-up – when images loaded pixel by pixel and you’d have to wait for the image to slowly form – I was fascinated with how much information was needed to recognise an image,” says Nick "Even with very little detail and viewed from the corner of the eye, it’s possible to see just as much, sometimes more, than when you look at an image head on. Essentially it began as a sort of personal experiment.”

Image: Tipping The Velvet

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The size and shape of each work is drawn from the text it’s based on – with the number of Pantone chips used matching the number of words in the excerpt.

Image: Three Graces


"I’ll start with an idea of both the text and the image I want to use,” he says, "but – say I choose an excerpt of 551 words, that will mean I have to create an image made up of 19 by 29 colour chips. Some images will work, some won’t; there’s a bit of alchemy involved and that’s all part of the process. The eureka moment comes when I find the image and text that works together and only then can I start creating it."

Image: Shakespeare


That said, there are still 10 shots that are close to porn – though Nick says that "Paramour isn’t objectification; it’s celebration of the female form, and of love and desire.”

Image: Chapter 10

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Paramour is on from March 18th to April 16th April at Lawrence Alkin Gallery in London.

Image: Capulet's Orchard