Why is the result of numerous hours spent trying things out on a computer, studying strokes, lines and shades and thinking up new ways of translation to the physical realm, less valuable than creating an image by dipping a tool into a jar and pressing it onto a piece of paper? Is it because of our love of all things ”natural” or is it because there is an element of fear attached to somebody else’s knowledge of technology? Can it possibly be that not knowing how something is made makes us feel uneasy?
Creating something that is ”hand-made” would immediately add value to the creation in question. But how come ”hand-made” almost always means created with old-fashioned tools or no tools at all? Isn’t digital art made using one’s two capable hands also ”hand-made”? Even a hand-painted piece can be part digital if the original sketch emerged digitally. I do this all the time. I plan my paintings on the computer to the point where the sketch is more “original” than the painting. My canvases are usually a painted copy of a complex idea I created digitally.
If an artist draws a line on a piece of paper, that line is labeled ”unique” and priced accordingly. But what if that same artist decides to draw a number of different lines, scan them and examine them on the computer, while thinking of interesting ways to take them back to the physical world? Isn’t that also unique? The solution to the problem may then lie in the decision to make something a one time event and not “mass-produce”. If that is the case then we should be able to move forward and leave the real vs. fake debate behind us.
The problem is that we are not willing. Why is that? Can it possibly be that people in the art industry want things served on a silver platter? Not everyone is like the late art critic Brian Sewell, always asking questions and always probing and learning (I’ve had two long conversations with him and he didn’t let me go until I answered his questions). Lines on a piece of paper are easy to understand, convey and sell. A combination of lines that has traveled from paper to scanned image to collage to print to paint and even more paint and sometimes glazes, is not easy to comprehend, convey and sell. If the person selling it does not have the willingness to learn about it and verbalize around it using the right vocabulary, then that person will not do their job.
People in our contemporary culture want easy answers, some more than others. This is why we have labels for everything… hand-made”, “rare”, ”up-and-coming”, ”groundbreaking”, ”icon”, et cetera. Selling your work is often directly related to two things: how well your work fits into the buyer’s mindset and how much it costs. The first has everything to do with things not being ”lost in translation”. Art that is created using a very complicated, and let’s not forget, very personal, process that only the artist can ”fully” comprehend (I don’t believe fully comprehending it is possible) leaves very much unsaid.
I can’t help but wonder if the art world has lost its way to such extend that only a revolution can save it. Beauty is imperfect and impossible to explain. Easy answers are never true. Obvious art created with the intent to provide easy answers is boring and of very little value in the big scheme of things. Technology is available to those who seek knowledge and see the world differently so… why can’t we embrace that?
The image featured in this post is a part of the Journal series. This is how it’s made:
I drew all of the imagery separately using a layering technique I’ve developed over the years. I start by drawing a rough version of the figures using strong contrasting colors on transparent paper and add the details on another transparent sheet (sometimes two). When I’m happy with the drawings I scan the material and start combining figures in various ways until the first draft emerges. This part of the process is usually much more demanding than creating the drawings. I spend days, nights and sometimes weeks trying to put together a first draft. At this point the process becomes somewhat unpredictable and unique to the specific artwork. Sometimes I would print the first draft onto canvas and paint until I create something totally new (“Like China” series, “Stop Motion”). Sometimes I would use the canvas print to develop the base for an entirely new painting disregarding the drawings entirely (“Never Sleep”). Sometimes I’d throw away the whole thing or only use it as reference for a traditional art piece (“Dancer” series, “Journal” series I and VI, “Lions & Monkeys” series, etc).
In the case of this artwork I used the first draft to create a new painting adding layers of drawings and paintings on the top of the print. I later scanned the piece and put away the original. The finished result is only available as a limited edition plexiglass print. The entire process took about a month.