Thursday, 7 April 2016

Digital Art and the Social Network

2 People Like This, RTomens, 2014

I loathe the 'instant' gratification of so-called 'Digital Art', the medium in which I work, primarily, without shame, believing the mouse to be as valid as the paint brush...and wish, sometimes, especially today, that I had the inclination to paint and therefore the patience required, for it seems to demand a Zen-like attitude toward creation, rather than the speed freak unquenchable thirst for more which may befit this age of info-saturation yet disgusts me all the same.

To apply paint slowly, carefully, with precision, is what I mean; not the abstract expressionist swoosh and splash. To wait whilst a layer dries. To watch an idea form gradually over the days and weeks, possibly even months. Yet I click, cut and paste. I find images easily, having no choice but to use the ready-made since I can neither draw nor paint anything that would be considered 'life-like'. For this reason I was attracted to collage many years ago, before the computer age. Why study life drawing when I can cut out a figure from a magazine or book? All life has been captured by the camera eye, so why, as my art teacher at secondary school recommended, take time to observe the world around me? Besides, I find the most of the current world aesthetically displeasing, from the clothes people wear to the cars they drive and architecture they inhabit. High definition clarifies the ugliness of the modern world. I much prefer the subtle tones, texture and richness of the 50s and 60s.

A Facebook friend recently expressed his pleasure at the amount of reblogs and likes his work on Tumblr received. This is where we are. Instead of the press coverage and trad gallery representation of the olde world, us digital art workers must take pleasure from reblogs, likes and, if we're truly lucky, comments. Thus our relatively fast art (in most cases) is naturally twinned with satisfaction gained from instantaneous approval and possession of our work by strangers, enabling them to put it where they like.

I have joked many times about Facebook being my 'gallery', knowing full well that it is possibly a 'sick' gag made at my own expense. Yet one must be able to laugh at oneself, or at least, one's situation, especially if it is unavoidable. Art posted on the social network soon disappears; gone at the scroll of a mouse. So it becomes part of the modern age by way of not just it's place, but the nature of that place. The art, like everything else on the internet, is transient. But the old alternative, for all it's apparent prestige, offers the same result, only much more slowly. Art work hangs on a wall for a few weeks before being taken down again and given back. If you are lucky, a few pieces may end up in some else's home rather than cluttering up your own.

Having had a show, however, is still seen, by professionals and classically-minded observers, as sign of 'success'. Just as being published professionally is looked upon as superior to a 'vanity' equivalent. Why? Because not only has a business deemed your work worthy of investment, more crucially, it's employees (editors or curators), those supposedly trained to recognise talent, have given their approval. That is surely more valid than simply believing yourself to be talented enough to share work with the world. Any fool can do that today.

Meanwhile, I shall continue to click and share. It's not all I can do, but it is all I can currently apply myself to with any enthusiasm, even if that frequently wanes, as it has today. In another room, however, sit the brushes, paints, glue and bare canvases belonging to someone else. Perhaps I shall utilise them in the near future.


  1. Another astute article, Robin, I enjoy and identify with these observations.

    I've started to see myself as a street artist leaving graffiti on the "streets" of the internet. Most people walk past every day without seeing... but occasionally something gets through and has an impact...

    1. Thanks Leigh. That's a good analogy. Tagging the walls of a city which has no boundaries...

    2. Yes, but you can actually paint and draw quite well and these days high-end work is not required in many instances. In fact many artists seem to like to paint figures etc, badly. I think it's a post-modern thing. With you it's more about the quick fix; one can get into a habit with that whereas the slower processes teach you to have patience and persistence. I think this is one of the reasons that working in different mediums is good, requiring different ways to make your mark.