I recently read the article “Towards a Newer Laocoon” by Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) in which he explores the progression of the avant-garde in painting and development of art for art’s sake. He argues that for too long visual artists were overly concerned with the subject rather than the medium, and only when the subject was released into abstraction did ‘pure art’ emerge. The avant-garde “[guided] themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, by a notion of purity…. Purity in art consists in the acceptance, willing acceptance, of the limitations of the medium of the specific art.” This marks the time when painters stopped trying to mask their brushstrokes, and wanted to “get at the very essence of painting.”
His argument rang true to me as I have been experimenting over the past few weeks with a new medium – digital drawings – a medium I never thought I would venture into. I was given a bamboo tablet for work, so on a whim, I opened up Photoshop and began to doodle.
It was surprisingly natural to draw with the pen, and I liked how uninhibited I was with the drawings. I have always thrived on improvisation, but I often get stuck. Stuck straight into a piece of paper and hang on for dear life. Stuck in an idea and don’t let it come alive on its own. Working in a digital medium frees me from myself because it is so unknown. I’m not afraid to delete lines or just start over; a lesson I desperately need to bring into my non-digital life.
I find myself focusing less on the subject matter and more on figuring out what the medium was all about. What are the limits? How can I push them? Early on I decided that I did not want to mask what I was doing. I am not trying to make digital drawings that didn’t look digital, rather I am playing with the medium as to expose something within it.
Feeling intrigued by this new undertaking, I have been researching other artists who work with digital printing and drawing. Jim Dine combines traditional modes of printing on top of digital ones. In his “Women and Water” he overlays copperplate on top of a digital print.
It makes me wonder what kind of background I could make for the woodcut I posted a few weeks ago…. I am excited to see where these drawings will take me.