Option 1: Project 3: Exercise 1.2: The Digital

9 Hours

  1. Use found images on the internet (or physically in books) to make a composite image. Print out a copy and reframe by slicing or misaligning in some way. Work on a series around the sense of a glitch.

2. Select one image and write why it is the strongest.

3. Make a series of A5 studies (minimum of three) from your final image that focuses on the editing process.

You may wish to subtract or combine extra elements… document your thoughts.

1. Composite image sliced or misaligned.

As this Exercise is about the digital, and my Donna Haraway research concerned modern technology/digital/cyborg, I have decided to use digital images and technology. Also, although a glitch on a monitor (a science fiction trope from the 80’s and still used in modern sci-fi films to indicate broken or poor transmission – and common with 70’s TV’s where you had to position the aerial to get a signal) is now extremely rare, and can be mirrored by physical slicing, I think it will be interesting keep this exercise in the realm of the digital as long as possible.

I have been looking at GIMP over the past few weeks and slowly going through a LinkedIn training course. This has shown me just how powerful the technology is and I have glimpsed its possibilities. However, you would need to complete a three year design degree to be fully competent, so my first step has been to find some online apps that will merge (in various ways) images.

Having looked at all the free options for my Mac I have found that they can join photographs and stitch them together but not make a ‘Cut up’ or blend one on top of another. So I went into my App store and bought an App called ‘Photo Mix’ for £4.99

I tested the App out by taking my last two paintings and combining them using the default settings in the app, so these…

… combined to make this:

An odd ‘glitch’ was that the saved file was 212 Mb so I had to resize it.

This gives me some control as I can select by result (and play with the settings) even if I don’t know how to use the App. It’s not a ‘traditional’ glitch with lines which never ‘combined’ images but just distorted a single image; if I were just going to cut up an image with a digital shredder and rejoin the strips that would be a very mechanical and limiting process.

So, now I have to select my images. I have two ideas; one conceptual and one artistic.

Firstly, I am going to find some images of Trump and combine them with images of far right protesters and the Capital Hill riot. If the images are still clear this will be a conceptual image… but it could also be stretched into an aesthetic piece made out of ‘hateful’ images, which might make an interesting conceptual point on its own.

Secondly, I will try taking a famous painting and combine it with my own. This is appropriation art but given my views on copyright I will use an artist that died before 1950. This is fun and I don’t know what to expect.

Blending 3 or four photographs and trying out all the 24 modes…

These are very interesting and quite powerful conceptual images. I especially like the first with Trump and his fist up in victory in front of the violated Capitol Hill, stars fizzing out of his head… I could call it, “Democracy Glitch‘, and the third where you can see Trump and the man behind the desk almost morphing into each other with the Covid hand wash still on the desk from before the riot.

For my second set of digitally manipulated images I’m going to look at Kandinsky (I would have liked to use Pollock but he died in 1956) and combine one or more of his paintings with mine:

Here are a selection of blended images…

2. Select one image and write why it is the strongest.

I’ve selected a painterly image rather than a conceptual one because my Trump images connect with the medium they were first made in, photography, and aren’t suited to being hand made.

My working method in the app was to experiment with the 24 modes and alter the layering of the images and select those that were the most aesthetically pleasing. By most ‘aesthetically pleasing’ I was looking for movement and connection in the canvas. It’s difficult to explain but I was looking for some kind of coherent visual language and meaning; I was not looking for decoration on its own but a marriage of craft and soul that captured my attention.

What I particularly like about this image is the way the colours have been erased, or were almost washes in the first place, and the balance between line and tone. I also like the area that could almost look like an eye, centre left, which draws the attention with its more saturated colours, spirals and line. The colours fade as you travel away from the central focus point. There are movements pulsating across the canvas like waves as well as eddies and explosions bubbling through and up to the surface. The right hand half of the composition is stiller than the left and balances it well; and the white area centre right is a little island in the swirling sea of colour to rest the eye before venturing over the canvas again.

3. Make a series of A5 studies (minimum of three) from your final image that focuses on the editing process.

You may wish to subtract or combine extra elements… document your thoughts.

I gridded up a piece of drawing paper into 15 cm squares.

Then using watercolour I ‘copied’ my glitch image. My glitched image was overlaid, had lots of white paper, and both saturated and unsaturated colours. This was very interesting and produced a partially ‘erased’ image which I liked, so I tried to incorporate all these effects into my paintings.

Obviously, I couldn’t copy my image but I tried to get near it, and practised the technique of thinning the paint to decrease the saturation and layering the watercolour on top of dried paint to give a glazing effect. The paper was fairly shiny so the paint moved around easily, and if I was quick I could put wet on wet and bleed the edges to give some nice effects and movement.

I then decided to try using my new techniques on a larger piece of paper to make a ‘unitary’ (not glitched but using glitch effects) painting, so pushing my new knowledge back towards my practice. I used some thick rough watercolour paper, almost like hand made paper 20 x 52 cm.

Reflection:

  1. Did you work with digital or more traditional methods of cutting and pasting? Explain your reasons?

I worked with digital to create my glitch images.

This was because all my research and the tenor of the Project was digitally based. Haraway’s cyborg was digital and her whole article was based on technology, Bostic also dealt with digital images and Gordon Cheung was positioned in the course materials as basing his work on an electronic glitch.

I also read, ‘Using images found on the internet … to make a composite image…‘ to mean that we had to combine images, rather than a single image glitching as used to happen with old TV’s.

And although its possible to cut up and recombine images you have more possibilities digitally as you can change the hue, saturation, transparency… and combine in different ways. Slicing them and rearranging them also felt like a ‘process’, and although I’m sure I could have been creative, digital manipulation gives me much more imaginative scope.

Plus I have a world of images to pick from on the internet… so could be much more conceptual than being restricted to a few old magazines.

When making my art I love the physicality of materials so I thought I would use this exercise as an opportunity to experiment with some digital technology.

  1. How did you feel when misaligning work?

I didn’t misalign (cut up and rearrange a single/or multiple images) as that felt like it would be much too mechanical and restrictive… and unrepresentative of modern digital technology.

Instead I fused and manipulated digital images.

This felt exciting and gave me new possibilities and new images, and was especially suited to conceptual work. I can look at the new images aesthetically and try and incorporate/replicate some of the effects. These are not anything I would have discovered naturally with physical materials so it was exciting to see them in the finished work and think how I could use them.

I haven’t many skills in this area and wouldn’t normally tackle digital manipulation, so it was great to be given licence to have a go.

  1. What is meant by the obliterated image? Can you find any research around this topic? If so record it here.

I didn’t find anything as useful as a definition but I found a video from The Tate:


Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room | TateShots. 1,058,619 views •14 Mar 2012

Obliteration is the complete removal of something, so in this case it would be the room… with the dots. But here I feel we are transforming, or camouflaging, not obliterating. Transforming because the white room becomes a work of art using the public as the energy source to spread Kusama’s dots in the space (she prepares the canvas in the form of the room and picks the paint in the form of her dots). Camouflaging because the room has not been obliterated, but the objects have been camouflaged… they are still there.

Obliterating the image could mean rubbing it out, erasure, but if that left a mark on the residual image then the original image would still be visible, just not present.

So, true obliteration art would be taking a photograph and putting it in acid to bleach the surface, and we have to imagine that bleach to be uniform so the original image had no effect on the process.

In terms of this exercise I think obliteration art means any art where the integrity of an image is disrupted. This could be by erasing it, camouflaging it, overlaying it or sampling the pixels and randomly rearranging them.

  1. How did you edit and why?

I editing digitally using an app I bought off the internet. You could use any number of photographs but I found that three was the maximum to retain the integrity and meaning of any of the original images. As I was trying to make a conceptual piece I wanted remnants of the original images.

If I had been editing ‘manually’ I would have sampled many more images, it would then be like painting with pixels instead of paint, but I was restricted by my lack of skill.

Sampling two or three images gave radically different results.

Once I had chosen my images (say 3) I could move their order which would change the outcome. For any one set of three images I had 24 modes (preset operations for sampling and combining). This gave me six different orders for my images and 24 modes for each order… so 144 different outcomes.

I found the most important input was connection between the images I chose. This could be compositional, aesthetic, or or for meaning.

For instance for my ‘Democratic Glitch‘ I combined three images to tell a narrative and make a political point. I had Trump firing up the protestors, the protestors laying siege to Capitol Hill, and a protestor sitting in the speaker’s chair… that was the narrative (of the day) and you can see all three in the completed image right down to the hand wash (Covid-19) on the desk. However, the final image makes the point that democracy is weak and this was a glitch… that could so easily have morphed into a populist right wing dictatorship where president on podium turns into a thug in a chair.

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  1. Which painting feels the most successful and why?

I feel two paintings were successful for very different reasons.

  1. ‘Democratic Glitch’ was successful because I used technology new to me and succeeded in making a clean graphic image that combined my images to make a political point.

  2. My final painted image, that I related to my practice in technique and material use is also successful.

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This is successful because I used technology to create a new type of image using obliteration, observed the effects such as layering and the white canvas, and then applied my observations to a painting.

The result is an aesthetically pleasing abstract that I could not have produced without exploring the digital edit.

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