Digital Aesthetic v.1- Giordan on Graphics- | WebReference

Digital Aesthetic v.1- Giordan on Graphics-



The Digital Aesthetic v.1

There is more to design and graphics than simply knowing how wield a skill or technique. Nuance and intuition are sorely neglected in the techno-digital age, especially where digital art is concerned. This is the first in a series of essays that explore the subtle ideas and intuitive nature of art and design. Send me your ideas, let me know what you think.


Art vs. Computer Art

There were the greats, Euclids, etc., but today everyone must work at trying to interpret the riddle of technology - Paul Verillo

How will the art world of the late 20th century respond to the way that computers have entrenched themselves in our society? There are many today who would bury their heads in the sand, trying to avoid dealing with the issue of digital technology. They would have us believe that digital art is not a viable art form, and that the true modes of artistic expression still lie in painting, photography, sculpture, and the like.

This is probably high culture's way of expressing the techno-phobia that the rest of society has been grappling with throughout the computer boom of the 80s and 90s. To embrace or reject technology is a question which has ceased to be relevant in the business world, with the workplace racing after automation and all of the competitive advantages it brings. In like manner, it is time for the fine arts community to move away from its evasive, distancing stance, and embrace technology and its capacity to help artists express themselves.

Art has always responded, either directly or indirectly, to the social, political, or technical changes our society has undergone. Painting's reaction to social change from the mid-19th century into the 20th century bears this out very clearly. Consider the reaction of painting to the invention of photography in the mid-19th century.

Empowered with the ability to authentically capture images in a split second, the photographer became the official recorder of our life and times, a role that painting had held for hundreds of years. In 1839, faced with the invention of photography, Paul DeLaroche is supposed to have declared, "From today, painting is dead." Painting was not dead, it simply needed to assume a new role regarding the kind of art it would create. In response, painting became much more expressive, moving from its mid-19th century realism through Cezenne and Manet, into the realm of French impressionism. In focusing on capturing a sense of air, light, and space, impressionism set about addressing the shortcomings of photography as an expressive medium.

Photography could accurately render an image or likeness with a degree of detail and fidelity never seen before. It could not, however, address the issue of color the way impressionism did. It also had a problem showing motion and action.

Just when it seemed that painting had reacted well to technology and had staked out its own new territory, technology again made an assault on painting's domain, this time in the form of the motion picture. Here was a medium that unfolded over time, it moved, it conveyed space and action in far more precise terms than painting did. No matter how successful Monet or Van Gogh were in how they suggested movement and space within the picture frame, there is absolutely no denying that their work is static and flat. Painting's response to the motion picture was somewhat different than its response to photography, in that it chose to emulate rather than differentiate.

Painting differentiated itself from photography by focusing on color and space. With the motion picture, painting sought to copy technology, destroying the idea of the flat, static, window of a picture plane. These changes played an influencing role in the development of cubism. Cubism wanted to describe the world in the same terms that the motion picture did. It took an object such as a teapot and described it from all angles and points of view. If the movies could show that the pot had a front, back, bottom, and that there was tea inside, well then cubism could show this as well. It compressed all angles into the surface, doing an early 20th century version of multi-tasking. In cubism, painting even went so far as to shift from the bright palette of the impressionists to the somber, more monochromatic palette of the black and white movie.

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Created: Sep. 17, 1998
Revised: Sep. 17, 1998