This exhibition showcases the work of a group of influential young New Zealand artists who are pioneering a new relationship between the painted and the digital image. Their perspectives and approaches are varied and distinctive but the artists have in common their investigation of the creative potential of the new digital technologies available to them. They all use of computers in diverse ways to generate their artworks, yet they all continue to use traditional painting methods. Computers are transforming many aspects of their painting practice, opening up a new world of image making.
The invention of photography gave rise to a belief, often restated, that painting is irrelevant. In the late 1960s and early 70s, painting as a whole had supposedly ground to a halt and been replaced by multiple strands of post-Minimalist art – Conceptual, Process, Performance, Earth and video art. A ‘painting-versus-new-media battle’ erupted. In 1964, artists Frank Stella and Donald Judd caused an uproar by proclaiming that painting was dead. However, in spite of the dire warnings, painting has endured and has continued to reinvent itself. At his London gallery last year, influential British ‘super collector’ Charles Saatchi proclaimed the rebirth of painting with a new exhibition, The Triumph of Painting.
The exhibition new painting: digital age shows that contemporary painting practice in New Zealand has entered the digital era, revitalised and updated by a new generation of computer-literate artists who are creating fresh, vibrant works that engage with the issues of our time.
New media, video and net art is ubiquitous in global art practice today. However, the impact of digital technology on the more traditional arts is only beginning to be appreciated. Today it is not just new media artists who are responding to the seemingly endless possibilities offered by the rapidly evolving new technologies, but also painters, sculptors, photographers, architects and musicians.
The young artists in this exhibition make use of the virtual world as well as the traditional painting studio. They are early adaptors of the digital revolution. Computers and scanners are as important to their work as stretched canvas and paint. Sara Hughes says, ‘I work both with computer programmes and paint brushes to create paintings making links between the handmade and the electronic’. Digital technology not only increases the efficiency and output of their work, it also gives these artists the freedom to push the boundaries of painting. Computer programmes allow a technologically enhanced ability to distort and manipulate imagery and to experiment with colour, composition, perspective and scale. As Tim Thatcher says, ‘In some respects the computer has become an extension of my imagination, just as my painting is an extension of reality.’
– Helen Kedgley
Senior Curator of Contemporary Art