Digital technology has transformed painting, drawing, sculpture and music/sound art. Net art, digital installation and virtual reality are recognised artistic practices. Geeta Padmanabhan on the growing popularity of digital art

At Forum Art Gallery in Adyar you will see a set of eye-catching works that won't fall into what we know as “paintings”. These have been made using computer graphics and are digitally printed. Their exhibition here is recognition that digital technology can be an “essential part of the creative and/or presentation process”. The digital artist — one who makes use of digital technologies in the production of art — has arrived.

Digital art, says the Digital Fine Arts Society, New Mexico, can be digital photography, photo-painting (image editing+paint software) or digital collage (layering images from even x-rays and radar). It can be integrated or mixed media combining any number of techniques. A digital artist can create 2D images in the virtual environment using painting tools that emulate natural media styles. Or access 3D modelling software to sculpt in virtual space.

Vector drawing software

If you're adventurous, you'll try vector drawing software to create images with a graphic finish, or produce art through mathematical manipulations. In this “computer generated” art, the artist takes advantage of the capabilities of the hardware or invents mathematical formulae for his art — think fractals and algorithm-inspired images. Obviously, the digital environment is much less restricted than conventional mediums for integration and manipulation.

“We have only scratched the surface of what is possible,” says Harsha Biswajit, a digital artist. Music, sound, light, video, anything under the umbrella of technology, every new app, can be part of this art.

Is this “proper” art, you ask. Why would I hang a computer print-out on the wall? The artist's involvement is minimal! “Even when they appreciate my work people ask if it is original,” laments Mukesh Sharma who worked with digital artists in a Mexico City residency programme. After a traditional print-making degree from MS University, Baroda, Sharma says he began experimenting with digital printing but switched to traditional art forms when he couldn't find the right tools. “By 2008 I was bored, hungry for technology.” Photoshop tools were now available, and “I was comfortable with the new media. In 2010, I was ready for a solo show.”

Not a substitute

“See DA as a different genre, not as a substitute for traditional art,” says Harsha, whose digital productions have won international awards. “It doesn't supplement it either. I'm excited to see where it heads as an art form.” Harsha's love affair began at the Basel Art Fair which he has been visiting the last two years. “This year, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of art on digital platform and new media,” he says.

DA does involve drawing/painting by hand, photography, transfer to a digital medium and the additional work on it, he says. The medium here is pixels! Once you have mastered the tools/technologies you create art that reflects your vision of line, form, colour, composition, rhythm. It is a product of knowledge of art and design principles. The emotion and the message in the print are the artist's own. The process of arriving at a piece of work, the final output is generated from within; the computer is just a tool, like a word processor.

“Every reproduction can be different,” says artist Shalini Biswajit. “You can edit, delete or add, endlessly. It is that much more creativity.” For his Art & Money project, Harsha had a video projection divided into two — one playing forward, the other backward. “I stood in the street and asked people to respond to the running video on the print.” DA is not easier or difficult, he says. What you are trying to say in the image counts.

Genre for geeks

For a generation born into technology, digital art is the natural destination, say artists. Art should reflect the challenges of its time, capture the moment, speak about what dominated people. To do it, paintbrush software opens up possibilities you didn't have before. It is amazing how you can integrate art, filmmaking and music — it has no boundaries.

Is DA the future of art? Sharma isn't sticking his neck out for it. “It is contemporary, cutting-edge,” is all he will say. It's a new trend where a lot of experiments are going on. In this current phase, artists are taking advantage of the digital tools to express themselves. “It is a personal choice.” Over the years, the medium (oil/water colours/ photography) has been changing, audiences have welcomed them. Art is now global.

You have to agree that digital technology has transformed painting, drawing, sculpture and music/sound art. Net art, digital installation and virtual reality are recognised artistic practices. And art dealers have welcomed the durability, originality and the number of prints that DA affords.

FOR THE DIGITAL ARTIST

* Use Photoshop, Painter, Vue Infinite, Vue Easel.

* For 2D there are the GIMP, Paint Shop Pro, Corel Painter.

* 3D applications include Maya, used to create Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

* Vue Infinite, Bryce and Cinema 4D also work.

* For a step-by-step tutorial:

http://www.digitalimagemagazine.com/blog/resources/what-is-digital-art/

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At WorkSeptember 24, 2010