Caulfield's work touches on dematerialisation in art history; fallibility of documentation and perception; authorship and identity. His paintings appear as digital palimpsests that purport to 'document' conceptual artworks from the 20th Century, often by a simulated reflection. The visual base shifts from old paintings, mashed through digital processes and then rematerialised in oil paint. Mythic narratives are related to contemporary issues without losing their numinal potential.
Caulfield’s work is founded on unstable, shifting, temporal elements and perceptual uncertainty. The work toys with the idea that he may not be making a work of art but instead making a ‘documentation’ of other works of art. He worked for years as a film stand-in/double and exploits this ‘reflective identity’ in the field of art. Increasingly, art is a second-hand, digital experience; Caulfield has reflected this phenomenon for more than a decade. The repetitions and simultaneities of historical artworks, in digital space, creates temporal loops and interweaving hierarchies in which past and present are dissolved. This is explored through documentation, asking the question of whether the objective of documenting an artwork is doomed to failure. The artwork being ‘documented’ is a moving target that changes over time and through different ambient/ cultural conditions; of course, materiality and scale are also difficult to perceive through documentation. Caulfield embraces these problems and, perversely, chooses to document, for example, an invisible, ‘dematerialised’ artwork from the 1960s through the medium of oil painting. This is done by a simple conceit that, for example, the video of a performance is rendered as if it were a reflection in the oil painting. Reflections and mirroring have been an important device in Caulfield's work since 1998, alluding to the fallibility of repetition. The image would be digitally manipulated in a 'primitive', instinctive way, allowing digital accidents to occur. The work rhetorically asks if the intention is more important than the result or vice versa.
The contra-hierarchical use of media becomes post-media, for example, oil paintings become something which could be perceived as not in themselves the artwork. His use of the airbrush parallels the interest in transmitting the non-material idea through a nearly invisible cloud of paint and ending up with an object which plays with these notions. Object surface, reflection, projection combine to posit an asynchronous view of time and space. The result is an openness to style, palimpsest-like layered clashes of seemingly diverse sources such as baroque, ethnographic shamanic, horror films, which share underlying roots. Ephemeral images are often suggested, which point to the unknown, silent elements that lurk in the darkness of the collective historical imagination. The disruption of a simple visual harmony looks to Brechtian alienation techniques as a way of pulling the eye into a state of flux between suggested space and the surface and objectivity of the painting. The painting format allows Caulfield to invite the viewer into imagined space of art history, at the same time as disrupting this with the material objectivity of the flat plane. The work can confront the aesthetic predispositions of the viewer, the value of originality, the impossibility of repetition, digital/manual fallibility and temporal expectations.
The practice extends from digitally informed painting to 3D printing, projection mapping and guerilla projections.
Since the second year of studying at the Slade School of Fine Art, 1998, Caulfield has exhibited works in his native London and internationally: France, USA, Japan, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland, South Korea and Norway. Prizes include the Abbey Fellowship Rome, Cocheme Fellowship, AIR residency, Arts Foundation Fellowship shortlist, Natwest Art Prize, Mostyn Open, Royal Academy and the John Moores. Collections include those of Anita Zabludowicz, Paul Smith, Alan Cristea, Vanessa Branson, Yale Center for British Art (from 2035), Nelson Woo, Prue O´Day, Catherine Loewe, Christian Shin, Carolina Botín and Glazo Smith Kline. Publications include Breaking Down the Barriers (Richard Cork), New Gothic Art (Francesca Gavin), Artistic Reconfiguration of Rome (Kaspar Thormod), The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Independent on Sunday, Financial Times, Vogue, Art Review, The Art Newspaper, Dazed and Confused, Tatler, Pop magazine, Contemporary magazine, El Mundo and Le Journal des Artes. Caulfield has also written for the Musee Picasso Paris on Guernica and been quoted in Guernica: An Icon by Gijs van Hensbergen.