Once upon a time the use of technology within the art world was a certain formula for controversy. In London 1968 Jasia Reichardt opened Cybernetic Serendipity, an exhibition of computer-aided art. In response Robert Melville, art critic for the new statesmen, labelled this as ‘the end of abstract art’, arguing that ‘when machines can do it, it will not be worth doing’. Indeed, critics used to believe that technology would kill creativity, but today this fear belongs to the past. Technology has assimilated itself within the art world, becoming the new medium for artistic expression. Each one of us uses a computer or a phone to enhance our work life and communication on a daily basis. So why would this be any different for an artist?
David Hockney is an example of an artist who has fully embraced the digital age. Visitors to Hockney’s new Paris exhibition ‘Fleurs Fraîches’ can see his work, presented not on a traditional canvas, but upon a series of iPads set into the wall. Hockney’s aim as an artist remains the same; his pictures attempt to capture a specific moment in time. Yet this technology brings a new immediacy to his work, allowing him to share his pictures with friends moments after their completion. The speed of this distribution is mimicked within the exhibition itself. Each screen is constantly refreshed, changing to a different picture and a different moment. For Hockney the iPad offers a whole new way of creating and viewing art.
These products make sharing digital art simple, a fact that attracts artists like Hockney. Online communities also appeal to advocates of this new medium. Websites like deviantART let artists self-publish their own work, just as writers often self-publish through online blogs. Members of this particular website commonly share images with each other: an artist may use someone else’s photograph as a backdrop, placing their own creation within the setting. These communities encourage and promote the generation of new work. A quick browse on the internet will offer a world of free tutorials, giving software help and tips for beginners.
Closer to home lies Nottingham University’s own art society where one member, David Kingaby, uses a drawing tablet during life drawing sessions. He attributes the popularity of this art form to technical advances in the last few years. New computers have a higher amount of pixels, meaning that artists can achieve a greater level of detail. David currently works with a Wacom Intuos4, the newest line of tablets available from this Japanese company.
I spoke to David in order to learn more about this creative process. “It was surprisingly easy to get used to,” he said, “but the advanced options really take some learning. It’s just like regular paintings, the time I spend drawing depends on the piece. The difference is that with digital there’s no drying time and you can undo any mistakes, so there’s no need to be so careful”.
Perhaps for some artists the tactile process of painting can never be replaced by a computer screen. I wondered if David was still drawn to use these traditional materials. “This September I bought my first sketchbook in three years” he said. “I like it, but I can’t imagine going back. It’s like writing a 3,000 word essay, you’d use a computer. Paper art is all but a thing of the past. In the videogame and movie production worlds; it’s just not fast enough.”