In 2015, when painters are just as likely to use a 3D scanner and a team of dancers to make their images as a brush and canvas, how artists use modern technology to channel their creative vision is intriguing, but complex.
Liberatum, the global multidisciplinary cultural organisation, is looking to find some answers to how that works in its latest short film. In Artistry/Technology, directors Pablo Ganguli and Tomas Auksas set out to look at the connected relationship between technology and creativity.
In the piece, presented by Swire, some of the most influential creative figures of our time including David Hockney, Susan Sarandon, Frank Gehry and Francis Ford Coppola, discuss how technology has helped to shape and transform their creations, along with some of the unexpected challenges and epiphanies that come with making art in the 21st century.
David Hockney is one of Britain’s most celebrated painters. A Yorkshireman transplanted to sun-drenched California in the swinging 60s, he rose to acclaim with his bold, playful, free-spirited “Splash” paintings, portraits of influential art world figures, and Cubist-inspired photo collages. Now in his late seventies, recent years have seen Hockney return to his native northern England to capture the beauty of the local landscape by embracing new technology.
Hockney’s 2012 show at the Royal Academy of Arts, entitled A Bigger Picture, included around 50 drawings created on an iPad and then transferred onto paper, revitalising the windswept moors and tree-lined countryside of “home” with a new vitality; Bradford via LA, if you like.
Speaking about the intimate relationship between art and technology as displayed in his later work, Hockney says: “I’m doing photography again but not ordinary photography. I’m finding the digits have released us from perspective. That’s what I see now. I realise perspective was from optics. That’s what its source was, and perspective was the dominant thing in the 20th century because the photograph is a perspective picture.”
He continues: “You can do other things now and that’s very exciting to me. That’s what I’m doing. Pictures are changing again. It’s only a few people who do it but it catches on.“
Hockney’s evangelistic enthusiasm for tech isn’t wholly shared by everyone — including renowned pop artist Ed Ruscha.
Of the same generation as Hockney (indeed, they were born the same year) and also a longtime resident of America’s West Coast, Ruscha rose to prominence with his bold “word paintings”, which cast a slyly satirical look on popular culture of the time, before his work took on a more Surrealist-inspired turn.
These days, Ruscha remains ambivalent about the effect of technology on making art: recognising its radical potential for inspiration whilst preferring to view it as a curious outsider. He says: “Technology is not going to bite us. When I say ‘us’ I mean artists. It has its place in the world. I view it from the outside because I don’t really use technology.“
“I have seen it with millions of artists who use technology and computers for making art. It has more or less revolutionised the field of art. You can’t be afraid of it. It can actually help you. But I think I have almost earned the right to ignore technology.”
The slippery relationship between inspiration and creation will always remain a mystery, and as technology evolves, so too will the way artists work in all media: from novels to dance, fine art to music. Though it provides no ultimate answers, Artistry/Technology offers some thought-provoking insights into exactly how artists interact with their muse in our fast-paced, technology-driven world.