From our smartphones to GPS navigation, the digital shapes our culture at every level. Yet, being a digital artist is still a category that seems obscure to many. Digital art encompasses the vast panorama of hybrid forms of art and technology that constitute our moment in culture. Using digital technology, whether in the form of tangible hardware or software, digital artists continuously challenge boundaries between mediums. From work of early computer art like Hiroshi Kawano’s algorithmic interpretations of Piet Mondrian’s iconic paintings to programing, virtual reality, and 3D printing, digital art exists in a constant state of movement, as technology continues to advance and transform our lives.
After an initial resistance, the digital technology has transformed activities such as painting, drawing, sculpture and sound art, but it also made way for a variety of new forms including net art, digital installation art and virtual reality. Since technology is in the essence of everything today, it seems there has never been a greater need for critical engagement with its role that plays in our society. Contemporary digital artists continuously explore this entanglement of the virtual and real, at the same pushing the boundaries of art.
Scroll down for our digital artist list!
Featured images: Sara Ludy – Composition 1, via triangulation.jp; Sterlin Crispin – Data-Masks; Ralf Baecker – Interface I at NOME Gallery Berlin 2016; Manfred Mohr – Cubic Limits, 1973-74; Jeremy Blake – Winchester, 2002, nermanmuseum.org. All images used for illustrative purposes only.
Manfred Mohr - A Pioneer of Digital Art
A pioneer of digital art, Manfred Mohr was largely influenced by his experience as a jazz musician and by German philosopher Max Bense’s theories on rational aesthetics. Ever since, he has been an innovator in the field of computer-generated art. He programmed his first computer drawings in 1969 and has been creating art with the computer only, developing and writing algorithms for his visual ideas. Since 1973, he generates 2-D semiotic graphic constructs using multidimensional hypercubes.
Featured images: Manfred Mohr, via youtube.com; Manfred Mohr, Artificiata II – traces, P2210, 2014-2015, via vimeo.com
Jeremy Blake - A Creator of Time-Based Paintings
A digital artist and painter, Jeremy Blake aimed to bridge the divide between painting and film, creating lush color-saturated digital works. Describing these digital video sequences as “time-based paintings”, he combined representation and abstraction to illustrate psychological narratives. The artist explored various themes in his works, such as violence, glamor, cultural personifications, combining abstraction and representation in fresh and exciting ways. His work was selected for the Whitney Biennial in 2000, 2002, and 2004, and he is best known for his series inspired by the Winchester Mystery House in California. His art was overshadowed by his suicide in 2007.
Featured images: Jeremy Blake, photo by Chris Sanders; Jeremy Blake – Winchester trilogy, 2002-04. Installation view of Project Los Altos, SFMOMA in Silicon Valley, 2013, via honorfraser.com
Ralf Baecker - Dissecting the Entanglement of the Virtual and Actual
An artist working at the intersection of art, technology and science, Ralf Baecker explores fundamental mechanisms of action and effect of new media and technologies through machines and technologies. Seeking to expand our perception, he explores the entanglement of the virtual with the actual, or rather with the world. Digging within obsolete devices for traces and functions that are still detectable in technologies today, he is creating a hybrid between current digital aesthetics and a historical understanding of materials. He uses technology as an epistemological instrument to question the world perceived through technological impressions.
Featured images: Ralf Baecker, photo by Klaus Walderle; Ralf Baecker – The Conversation, 2009, via rhizome.com
Karl Sims - Making Virtual Creatures
A digital media artist, computer graphics research scientist and software entrepreneur, Karl Sims is best known for using particle systems and artificial life in computer animation. Sims uses genetic algorithms to obtain new solutions to real-world problems, develops graphic representations of those solutions, and uses those graphics to help teach the principles of biological selection. His influential artificial life computer animations were programmed as virtual creatures that simulated evolution through these genetic algorithms. These virtual creatures used an artificial neural network to process input from virtual sensors and act on virtual muscles between cuboid ‘limbs’.
Featured images: Karl Sims, via fxguide.com; Karl Sims – Virtual Creatures, via folksonomy.com
Maja Cule - Exploring the Internet Culture
One of the most exciting artists working with/in internet culture today, Maja Cule takes our oldest image-making clichés and makes them new. She uses the banalest aspects of our offline existence, such as stock photography, old movie tropes that we’ve seen hundred times, or chairs we sit on, placing them in a new context through her practice. Much of her work relies on unpacking received narratives and mythologies around the Web, and digital technology more broadly. She is focused on building fictional narratives that are often only a slice away from reality.
Featured images: Maja Cule – Facing the Same Direction, 2014, via atractivoquenobello.com; Maja Cule Art, via dazeddigital.com
Michael Manning - Between Technological and Analog
An artist based in California, Michael Manning is known for exploring capacities and limitations of software like Microsoft paint, which he uses to create Abstract-Expressionistic digital works. With a practice spanning painting, video, sculpture and digital work, he explores the relationship between technology and the analog. He is concerned with ideas about the internet, and technology, as well as the necessity of the object in a time when photography and the distribution of JPEG images and all sorts of documentation are prevailing.
Featured images: Michael Manning; Michael Manning Art, via smartobjects.com
Kyle McDonald - Working With Code
Describing himself as an artist who works in the open with code, Kyle McDonald creates art that is very process-oriented. He enjoys creatively subverting networked communication and computation, exploring glitch and embedded biases, extending these concepts to a reversal of everything from personal identity to work habits. From hacking retail stores full of computers to helping build open-source creative coding platforms like OpenFrameworks, McDonald has a hand in every aspect of the digital art world. He often collaborates with Lauren McCarthy.
Featured images: Kyle McDonald, via audiovisualacademy.com; Light Leaks, by Kyle McDonald and Jonas Jongejan
Sara Ludy - Working in the Confluence of the Physical and Virtual
Exploring the confluence of the physical and virtual, Sara Ludy performs magic tricks with pixels. She creates animated GIFs and 3D renderings that reference the visual lexicon of virtual space. Working with websites, animation, video, sculpture, and audio-visual performance, she imbues her work with the mysticism of the digital uncanny, exploring the space between what is known and unknown, within reach but just out of grasp. Much of her work seems concerned with the psychological and political dimensions of interior domestic spaces whether from second life or Craigslist apartment listings.
Featured images: Sara Ludy, via rhizome.com; Sara Ludy – Spheres 1-20, via youtube.com
Sterling Crispin - Exploring the Impact of Technology
Investigating our surveillance culture in the post-Snowden era, Sterling Crispin brings the issue to light through research, visualization, and 3D printing. His artistic practice explores the relationships between this exponentially growing techno-organism as it relates to our human bodies, minds, and psyches. Critiquing technology’s impact on our lives, he explains that when computers turn our identities into numbers, “the kind of softness, the part that’s really human, is lost in all of this.” In his practice, he often misuses or reverse-engineers this technology in order to give form to things that are otherwise formless.
Featured images: Sterling Crispin; Installation view of Data-mask 001 (Greco), 2014.
Gopakumar R. P. - Creating and Collecting Digital Art
Born in India, Gopakumar R. P. is a pioneering digital artist in the country and a digital art collector. He believes the work of art should change the existing visual, intellectual and aesthetic sense and experiment with finding new visual phenomena. He works closely with the artistic literary movement Immagine & Poesia, a movement founded in Torino in 2007 under the patronage of the late Aeronwy Thomas, daughter of Dylan Thomas.