Painting from Photos and Digital Art – Art or not? (5)

September 19, 2007

In my last post about “Painting from photos” (4) I tried to get nearer to a definition of what ART could be and how subjective it is to consider something as art or not. I also tried to show how often our judgement is driven by prejudices and misunderstandings.

Frequently this even leads to using certain terms in wrong contexts (other than the original meaning) – this I want to show now.

Barney Davey wrote in his comment on my last post (see above):

“We are far too far along into the digital age be getting hung up on the whether use of certain media disqualifies something as art. In the hands of a talented visual artist a book of matches can be made into something that no reasonable person would it wasn’t art. If that’s the case, then why fuss over digital media. It is a burgeoning field that will continue to grow into importance in this new millenium.

Generations born now cannot conceive of a world not digitally enhanced in every way from Blackberrys to Gameboys and and computer in the refrigerator, none of which is a marvel to them. If their elders don’t, they will completely accept and embrace digital arts of all sorts. And, just as with matchsticks, it will be subjective but the wisdom of the many will prevail to determine what is popular and the supposed wisdom of the art cognoscenti will determine, or attempt to determine what is fine art.

In a recent blog post, I suggested artists working in multi-media digital formats use the term, Convergent Media. When an artist takes a digital photograph and works it in any number of software programs and outputs it on a digital printer, it requires a masterful use of a convergence of media. The term is informed by the established use of Mixed Media, which describes how an artist uses various techniques and components of more traditonal art to create a work of visual art. When we see a well rendered mixed media piece we don’t question whether it is art or not, our eyes and wisdom tell us it is. We may not always like the result, be we can see that creative artistic talent was required to imagine and render it. It’s the same with all matter of digital media, in my humble opinion. We just need to get over what ever stigmas and dogmas we cling to that keep us from realizing art rendered digitally is not only here to stay, but here to make a huge impact on the art market going forward. The link to my Convergent Media blog post is:

Thank you very much for your comment, Barney.

After reading your link to “Convergent Media” I am a bit confused regarding the terminus “Giclée” and the context it is used in. I always thought “Giclée” is nothing but a different term for “fine art print”, normally used for limited editions of high quality prints made from original paintings, drawings, other graphic art or digital art. So far my understanding.

Now I read that there is a common understanding of giclée standing for digital art in general and that this terminus should be replaced by “Convergent Media”.

You said yourself in your link (as above):

“The process of creating art using digital means is involved and multi-stepped. There is image capture whether through digital photography or image creation using a Wacom Tablet or other hardware/software. There is a manipulation of the imagery through any number of software programs such as Painter, Photoshop, Illustrator and so on. Then comes the output onto a myriad of substrates including paper, canvas, vinyl, metal, wood and more. To produce a final desired result, the artist must print or collaborate with a printer on calibrating the equipment to get the output desired. Often pieces at this stage are further enhanced to make them yet more unique, one-of-a-kind and original.I don’t see how calling a piece of art so created a giclee makes sense. Giclee has come to mean digital reproduction which is far different than something created from the artist’s imagination and skill in a digital environment and brought to life using digital printing techniques. “

So why should we replace a terminus such as “Digital Art” by another when it already describes exactly what it is and what you said before? For me this simply does not make any sense.

In addition to what you have said I have seen “digital artists” calling their work “giclée” – apparently in the sense of “digital art” instead of just using the term instead of “fine art print” in order to indicate it as reproduction from the original work = original digital file (that is for me the true original digital work). This is doubly irritating and somehow diminishes the value because it is a fruitless effort to enhance something for fear of being not appreciated. A bit more self-esteem would be better!

I have seen this kind of “fight” over definitions in other media such as the fiber arts. Sometimes it is amusing, sometimes annoying and most of the time driven again by prejudices. I wished people would take more time to investigate and really open their eyes before they dump something into the bin they do not understand. I also wished people (artists as well as their critics, gallery owners and anyone involved in art) would stop judging in terms of monetary values only. There is a kind of arrogance involved sometimes which can be extremely demotivating and painful. But this would be an ideal world which does not exist.

The more we should rather educate people to use the terms in the right context, i.e. “Digital Art” is what it is, “Art” produced with digital means via the computer – nothing less and nothing more and a “Giclée” is a fine art print of … – nothing more and nothing less. The introduction of a new terminus in order to simply replace another would be redundant and only add to confusion. But this is only my humble opinion. The marketing and advertising world may not agree as it is their job to create brands that sell. The only problem with this is that this often results in absurdities.

Yet when I go back to the subject whether painting from photos is art or not I can see that creating a new terminus might not be redundant after all. The way f.e. Gottfried Helnwein works describes perfectly how the modern digital media, i.e. painting, photography, digital enhancement and printing are utilized in a manner that combines everything in just one work – there is no way to separate them back into their single elements – this would be truly “convergent media” and not “just” digital art = creating an image on the computer”.


One Response to “Painting from Photos and Digital Art – Art or not? (5)”

  1. jnfaulk Says:

    I don’t see the need to argue or dispute over whether the name is correct. To each his own. Digital art or convergent art both equally describe the work. There should be not discussion on whether or not digital art should be held in the same regard as traditional high art, as both are created to evoke emotion and reactions, which is what art should do.

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