The use of digital tools and aids in order to create art has not been an uncommon thing for quite a while now, in fact, it almost comes naturally nowadays. But, when we speak about computer art, or computer generated art, the machine becomes the main conductor of the creative force. The term computer art usually refers to any form of digital imagery or graphic art that is produced with the aid of a computer, or any other form where the employment of a computer is emphasized. Today, many traditional disciplines are often combined with digital technologies, thus blurring the lines between traditional works of art and new media works. As it is ever-evolving and changing, the digital world and technology based art tools keep producing new ways of creating, editing and forming the artistic vision of an individual who must keep in touch with the latest updates in order to use the maximum potential of machines. Dating back to mid/late 1950s, the first computer art shows, held at the Howard Wise Gallery in NY, astounded the public. At the time, the artwork was dubbed as Digital or Cybernetic art, it comprised mostly of geometrical shapes in different random combinations. The form was ground-breaking at the time of its conception, and henceforth continued to develop and grow alongside of the digital evolution which was destined to spread globally.
Before fully stepping into the practice of being a fine artist, Jason Salavon worked as a programmer in the video game industry. Widely recognized for his manipulation of the vast quantity of iconographic materials through the use of computer software, Salavon presents a fresh perspective on the familiar. His practice often unearths unforeseeable patterns that resonate through the relationship of the part and the whole. Such is the result of his series of computer generated art pieces where he created his signature blurred photographic effect by overlaying and combining numerous photographs of not-so-average women from the Playboy centerfold foldouts from the four decades; 1960 to 1999. Have a look at the story behind the iconic Marilyn Monroe photographs for the first issue of Playboy. The final product displayed predominant characteristics of a typical Playboy model: light skin, long hair, thin body, radiant against a bluish background. What was interesting is that the pictures in the series actually reveal the gradual thinning, lightening and increased frontality of the models throughout the years.
An immersive interactive narrative installation, named Falling Girl, allows the viewer to become an active part of the story which follows a young girl’s unnaturally slow descent from the top of a skyscraper to the ground. The falling girl reacts to the people and events from each window she passes by on her way down, and the audiences were given the chance to play the part of those people. The message of this technology based art piece is conveyed through an interactive way, emphasizing the shortness of our lives and the (un)importance of the small, petty things. The digital installation provided a unique experience for the visitors, giving them the opportunity to become an integral part of the art.
Hacked pen-plotter printers equipped with pickups for sound, producing…art? Is this example taking computer art to the extreme? Perhaps, but it is at the core of its basic principles. The way it works is that two guys, namely Victor Adan and Jeff Snyder, make physical gestures and motions which direct the hacked pen-plotter printers. The same printers are pimped with pickups to make the sound, Daniel Iglesia, the third guy from this video/geek/music collaboration, analyzes the visuals and creates 3D graphics in real-time. Doesn’t make much sense? Well, have a look at the art piece and the artists in action, perhaps it will give you some perspective, or not… Either way, it is definitely computer art!
In 1980, Mark Wilson bought himself a microcomputer and started learning programming in order to create artwork. His computer generated art pieces have been widely exhibited across the world. The distinct technological flavor to his geometric imagery has made him one of the most prominent names behind computer art. Back in the 80s, there were only a few options for an artistic endeavor involving a machine. Wilson purchased a personal computer and learned to write his own software. Through calculated repetition, Mark creates complex layers that result in very intricate artworks. As in most examples of computer art, some aspects are left to chance and are chosen randomly by the machine, while others are carefully designed by the artist.
French contemporary 3D artist Gilles Tran, mostly known as Oyonale, is dedicated to digital art. His work focuses on 3D rendering software, such as POV-Ray, Cinema 4D, Poser and FinalRender. The website of his portfolio is abundant with digital artwork from over the years of his career. The prolific programmer and designer has created surreal worlds with his digital prowess. His three-dimensional spaces are breathtaking and lure the viewer in, making the art piece almost life-like. His website bursts with various examples of digital art and also provides free images of the work in progress and shows the steps he made in order to finalize the finished product. Such is his piece entitled Blowing in the wind, where the gravity seems to be toying with the subjects within the room. The whole scene seems to be capturing a beautiful, yet dangerous moment in the wind.
The high interest in algorithmic art urged Manfred Mohr to start using the computer in 1969. Considered as a pioneer of digital art, his early computer art pieces are algorithmic and feature a strong attitude towards rhythm and repetition. Since then, Mohr has had many solo exhibitions worldwide and he has participated in innumerable group shows, such as: MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, NY 1980, Centre Pompidou, Paris 1978, 1992; ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe 2005, 2008, 2010; Museum Ritter, Waldenbuch 2005, 2006, 2008, 2013; MoCA, Los Angeles 1975; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo 1984; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco 1973, 1977, 1980, and many, many others. He is also the recipient of numerous highly acclaimed awards like ACM SIGGRAPH Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art, 2013 and Golden Nica from Ars Electronica, Linz 1990, just to name a few.
Located in the city of San Jose, California, Abundance was a temporary public installation by Camille Utterback. In order for this technology based art piece to work, a video camera was installed on the City Hall which captured the movements of people in the plaza below. The captured silhouettes were then projected as a dynamic animation onto the cylindrical building. Movements and paths of the passersby became part of a collective visual record, thus turning the building into an ever-changing and dynamic canvas.
The post-conceptual digital artist and art theoretician, Joseph Nechvatal, creates computer-assisted paintings, animations and custom-designed computer viruses. Ever since his early pieces from 1986, Nechvatal has been fascinated with the relationship between reality and virtuality. Coincidentally, he coined the art theory term viractualism. One of his most famous works was the Computer Virus Project where he aimed to create physical paintings through algorithms that were to implement the “viral” processes. He was attempting to bring back the virtual into the real. The entire series is described by Nechvatal as a part of the viractualism movement which seeks to form and investigate interfaces between the technological and the biological.
Through the use of excessive technological process, Pascal Dombis explores the complexities of visual paradoxes. Computers and algorithmic elements are the key factors in his art. As many other digital artists, through intricate repetitions of simple processes, he produces elaborate geometric and typographical signs. The final piece sometimes appears as a sort of a glitch we would encounter in a computer program, but it is that feeling of unease and de-structure that inspires the viewer to gaze deeper and think about the paradox of mechanical control and the chaotic randomness it produces.
So, how far exactly has computer art progressed through the ages? Well, a little program called Persistence of Vision Raytracer, aka POV-Ray, may provide the answer. This tracing software generates images from a text-based scene description, creating visual works of art from millions and billions of complex mathematical calculations. It does not require any in-born talents like drawing or painting skills, and it is free to use. The end result speaks for itself, the high resemblance to a photograph or a real life-like image is uncanny. It remains to be one of the most commonly used ray-tracing software to date, it is relatively easy to use, and it provides powerful features.
All images used for illustrative purposes only