Most people, when quizzed, would place science and technology in a category far away from the arts. In reality, however, the arts through the centuries have been heavily influenced by science and technology.
Outdoor water painting was revolutionized in 1835 when the Winsor & Newton company developed the first glycerine-based, moist water colors. Glass syringes became oil color containers in 1840, replacing bladders made from pigs’ membrane tied at the top with string to keep the air out. (Artists would prick the bladder with a tack to get the paint flowing, but had problems plugging it back up.)
Just a year later, an American portrait painter living in London, John Goffe Rand (1801-1873), invented and patented the first collapsible artist’s paint tube. Made of tin or lead, the light, resealable paint tube is still used by artists, who can tote them to remote locations and made Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works producible on location.
As the son of Renoir recalled his father saying, “Paints in tubes allowed us to work in nature . . . Without paint in tubes, there would have been no Cezanne, no Monet, no Sisley or Pissarro, nothing of what the journalists were to call Impressionism.”
Rand’s paint tubes also opened up the world of commercial pigment production, and companies soon offered a great variety of colors — pigments made by the artists themselves of natural materials hadn’t changed much since the Renaissance, but the rise of industrial chemistry brought the appearance of a dazzling spectrum of “chemical colors.”
As art historian Dr. Fred Adelson of Boston and Rowan Universities explained to me back in the 1970s, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism themselves were European reactions to the development of photography. Artists no longer felt the need to paint absolutely realistic images — that was now the province of the photographer.
Many American artists of the 19th century, however, had a totally opposite reaction to the photographic process, leveraging it to help them paint even more realistic works. For example, one of America’s greatest realist painters, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), was as technically oriented as he was artistic, knowledgeable in mathematics, optics and anatomy, and who made extensive use of photography.
Still, aside from such special genres of painting and sculpture as photorealism and hyperrealism, artists have explored realms of greater and greater abstraction, traveling through the worlds of fauvism, cubism, and surrealism, venturing into totally nonrepresentational, “non-objective” art, devoid of any reference to the natural world.
This reached a sort pinnacle in the abstract expressionism of the Post World War II-era, where artists such as Jackson Pollock, armed with oils, metallic pigments and other interesting items, produced energetic “action paintings” of drips and splatters emphasizing spontaneity and randomness, perhaps in tribute to the fundamental indeterminacy of the world posited by science’s newest, most sophisticated theory, quantum physics.
Back in my home state of New Jersey, inner-city artist Anthony E. Boone (Boone Art Life
) continues the artist’s journey through the world of abstract expressionism and mixed-media, but is now able to exploit and commercialize his work with 21st century technology. Self-taught, Boone credits his seamstress mother, Patricia A. Boone, for his artistic instincts and his father, contractor James E. Boone, for his craftsmanship and drive.
Boone, a veteran railroad freight conductor who lives in Rahway, New Jersey, first delved into painting and sculpting in 2005, resulting in 17 paintings displayed at Penn Station in Newark, New Jersey. Boone went on to win first place at the Ft. Lee Music and Arts Festival, was a Guest Artist at the 2010 International Group Exhibition in Florence, Italy and had a 2013 solo exhibition at the Renaissance Newark Hotel.
When asked if he is conscious in any way of technology affecting his work, Boone enthusiastically replies, “Absolutely! Just in my short time that I've been an artist, since 2005, technology has transformed art to the point where anything is possible. Through digital printing, 3-D technology, and digital textiles, there are no limits to the possibility of what you can create.
"This year I just launched my Boone Art Life 2014 Spring Collection by using technology. Through high quality digital printing and digital textile technology I was able to transform my works ‘Brightest of The Stars’ and ‘Urban Faces’ into fabrics for high fashion garments; the quality of the image on the fabric is so accurate, you can vividly see brush strokes and texture on the material! You are wearing the masterpiece! As time moves forward technology with art will continue to develop, and push the boundaries of the work, it's a great time for art!”
Technology itself, of course, can be an artist’s subject as a form of social commentary — but the artist will ironically find himself using high-technology tools, such as Photoshop, to make his statement.
Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential Computer Telephony Encyclopedia (2000), he was the chief technical editor of Harry Newton's Computer Telephony magazine (later retitled Communications Convergence after its acquisition by Miller Freeman/CMP Media) from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis — Click Here Now
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