Surveillance by Jeff Bartels


Everyone is being watched in Jeff Bartels’ Surveillance series as the Canadian artist paints giant vintage cameras stuck between buildings and establishments, looming over the citizens and scrutinizing their every move. Bartels reflects the way modern society works these days, whether digital or physical, and confirms what might be one’s deep-seated fear of being tracked for every transaction and action they make. The hyperrealistic paintings of vintage cameras by Bartels explore the artist’s post-truth phenomena research as he delves into the blurred lines of modern society on what is real and fake. The artist meticulously details the daily scenarios everyone is subjected to, but does not feel or see. Maybe some brush the feeling or fact off, but Bartels is here to remind viewers of the harsh truth that they are now the reality TV show they once only watched.

Jeff Bartels on Surveillance
images & paintings by Jeff Bartels | image: Surveillance Speed Graphic, 2021 | header image: Surveillance Target Six-16, 2021



Vintage cameras monitor citizens


Jeff Bartels turns to vintage cameras as his surveillance buddies for his series. A building-sized Rolleiflex nestles between an art gallery and a bookstore, and the people on the canvas are just minding their own businesses, going on about their daily activities. A Yashica camera tries to dominate the Japanese city night scene but fails as no one pays attention to it, an alarming sign that it has become a norm in the city. A Eumig C16 movie camera appears between the historical architecture of Venice and records the glorified romantic fluff social media citizens have over the city. Every texture found in the paintings is underlined, so much that viewers can already feel it without touching its surface. Bartels awes his viewers with his refined hyperrealistic paintings while sneaking up behind their observations by instilling that they are looking at a present and future they might fully acknowledge yet or even be aware of.

Jeff Bartels on Surveillance
Surveillance Yashica, 2021



Bending and stretching the truth


Social media platforms appeal to users for their features and successfully lure them into signing up without reading the lengthy terms and conditions. Clicking ‘agree’ without even scanning the content of the privacy rules of these platforms is an easy way for companies and algorithms to watch over the activities of the users, an element Jeff Bartels paints as a reminder of modern surveillance. His recent series is meant to stretch and bend the truth ‘about our past in order to bring a focus on the deceptions going on today,’ he writes. With the way surveillance these days works, Jeff Bartels imagines how people would act like around societal monitoring that might just be, if not already happening, around the corner.

Jeff Bartels on Surveillance
Surveillance Rolleiflex, 2021

Jeff Bartels on Surveillance
Surveillance C16, 2022

Jeff Bartels on Surveillance
Bartels reference the song Grace Too by The Tragically Hip, 2022

Jeff Bartels on Surveillance
Surveillance Electric Eye, 2021

Jeff Bartels on Surveillance
Post and Truth, 2021



project info:


series: Surveillance

artist: Jeff Bartels

via colossal