Introduction

I have been teaching art and practicing art for almost 30 years. I love the inquiry, exploration, invention, and transfor-mation in the processes involved in the forming of art. In a word or two, it is the "total experience" that leads to the thing we call art. Please look at the SIGGRAPH 95 Art Gallery in this light. Imagine the inquiry and experience that was involved in producing what you see and what you experience. Read these two essays with the idea that behind the art is an experience and idea that we hope to understand.

James Faure Walker of London has written a very fine personal view of a painter and teacher trying to bridge the gap between painting and the computer. He has taken ideas from his experiences in both forms and presents them for us to consider. It so happens that his work was also selected for the Art Gallery and so you can see, first-hand, his art work on display.

Starla Stensaas, who teaches at Dana College in Nebraska, has written an excellent theoretical essay discussing the shift in thinking from oral and print forms into the electronic digital culture of today. Starla, an artist working in this area between print culture and digital culture, is also represented by her artist's books in the SIGGRAPH 95 Art Gallery.

Ken O'Connell

SIGGRAPH 95

Art Gallery Chair


TEACHING CYBER ART, OR HOW A PAINTER COPES WITH COMPUTERS IN LONDON

by James Faure Walker

Abstract

Walking back from my painting studio on a summer evening, looking up at the electronic flicker of TVs, I do wonder... how can a painting do anything in a living room? Does the future lie in the hands of the cyber artist? Hold on. I am a painter, and I use computers, and that combination makes a lot of sense, though nowhere in England can you study - or teach - the two together. Computer work is a different kind of art because it's cyber-this or cyber-that? Oh. Even when it's flavor-free? At ISEA 5 in Helsinki I wandered out of the interactive show and got absorbed in the early 20th Century Finnish painting next door, self portraits in log cabins, a solitary fir tree losing its snow. Spring. I resolve to give my work more of a lived-in texture, make it connect with what I saw, give it a temperature, make it more reflective.


THE TRANSFORMED AND TRANSFORMING IMAGE IN THE SHIFT FROM PRINT TO DIGITAL CULTURE

by Starla Stensaas

Abstract

This paper investigates issues germane to "reading" images in a digital medium by considering both visual language as it is constrained by hardware and software, and visual culture as it is changed by a medium that pushes us towards a thought idiom that embodies multiplicity and simultaneity.

Images in and of a culture reflect our cultural understandings of ourselves. Images in any culture are constantly changing, and as they change, they transform the culture. Likewise, as a culture undergoes change, the images of the culture are transformed. In this way, image and how we read images are both the trace element of and a visual wake following the shifts in our collective understandings. Image operates both as an integral part of an organic, changing energy system that generates momentum towards a culture shift and as a footprint that references visual metaphors in describing a cultural shift that is taking--or has taken--place.

To understand the transformed and transforming nature of images in culture, we must first understand the components of the image, particularly the

compositional or visual language and the cultural context of the image. What sits between the visual language and the cultural context of the image is the medium in which the image appears. It is not that the medium is the message as Marshall McLuhan has suggested; rather the medium creates both a cultural context and a medium-particular visual language, contributing significantly to the meaning we "read" from an image.

Medium in a larger sense designates the boundaries of our collective understandings - our epistemology - in the ways in which it is integral to both how we "read" the cultural context and visual language of the text and how that constructed "reading" defines our thought idiom. Just as the medium in a fine arts context creates a medium-specific visual grammar and a cultural context

from which the artist is able to

shape an image from his or her own inner vision or knowing, so too does medium in the larger sense define what kinds of "pictures" we collectively create to understand or know

the world. In this way, the digital medium is much more than a new tool or toy used by visual artists. Rather, this paper argues that our tentative steps

towards using this new medium represent a shift as significant as the move from oral culture to print culture - that we are in the midst of a shift from print culture to digital culture.

Through a comparison of images based on Manet's Luncheon on the Grass and the Mona Lisa, this paper lays a foundation for similar comparisons of hypertexts which use visual images. By looking at the characteristics of digital visual language and cultural context and noting the similarities and differences between them and the more familiar print culture visual language and cultural contexts, this paper considers issues germane to reading images in the digital medium.