Sunday, 20 September 2015

It's a digital world and artists need to get use to it..

Fine artists and Fine Art experts (so called) have been getting their knickers in a twist about "digital art" for a few years now. This culminated recently in my work being pulled without explanation by an art site.

Many "fine" artists will tell you digital art isn't real art or is inferior in some way. In order for it to be real art the artist must have produced it by hand preferably with a brush. Now this really is nonsense.

It's a digital world and some Luddites in the art world need to get used to it.

But first lets talk about rocket engines.

Elon Musk CEO OF SpaceX is a very clever guy and as far as I can see he creates rocket engines by waving his hands around in front of a monitor.

He makes rocket engines using his computer digitally and then guess what he prints them using a 3D printer and titanium. Nobody dare say to Elon.. "these aren't real rocket engines because you didn't personally hammer them into shape". I suspect if they did Elon would laugh in their face and show them out.

Are his rocket engines worse because he designs them and alters them digitally with his computer ? Nope they are likely to be better.

Ok I hear you say.. "there's a difference between rocket engines and art." True.. so lets talk about music.

Does anyone say to musicians they should stop going into studios to produce music.. because the end result is digital and therefore not real music. Real music has to be played live. I like live music.. but it is nonsense to say only live music is real music.

Even live musicians are recording their music, which is a digital process.
So if a musician decides that the crowd was noisier in Pittsburgh than in Delaware but the performance in Delaware was better.. and decides that he will take the crowd noise from Pittsburgh and add it to the performance in Delaware. Is that bad or good ? If you buy a download.. that's a digital download should I complain about it ? Of course not.. nobody cares.

Does anyone even refer to it as "digital music".. no ! Nobody is hung up about it, Which makes the often heated debate amongst fine artists even weirder.

Have you looked at art online ? All of that art is digital to an extent.. even the paintings.
I hear you say.. "Why" ?
Because it has been photographed and that creates a digital image that can be uploaded and viewed online. So when someone labels an artwork as a painting.. this isn't 100% true. I've yet to see painting dripping from inside my monitor. What you are looking at is "a DIGITAL photograph of a painting".  Heaven forbid the artist decides he will alter a color or line in the photograph because with each tweak it is less of a photograph of a painting and more a new digital work. This is the way this new digital world works.. it allows you to carry on being creative when you've finished a painting or drawing or photographing or designing a rocket engine.. whatever.

Supposing a I have two paintings one of the right side of my garden and the other is a painting of the left.. and I decide I will join the two photographs of these painting together digitally to make one picture of the whole garden. Of course if I tell you this work is a painting.. then that is a lie.  But it isn't really digital art either.

Does this somehow mean it isn't valid anymore ? Does it fig,
That's like saying recorded music isn't music ? Of course if you paid for a live concert and all they  played was recorded music that would also be a lie.

In my case I take images.. quite often loads of images and blend them digitally into one new image. Does this make it inferior in some way ?

I like you reader so I'm going to give you an image.. if you like it print it, hang it your wall, have it as my little present to you for putting up with my ramblings on all things digital.

It's a bit wide for this blog but I hope you like it. It's a panorama of Limasoll Bay in Cyprus. I was a bit sad really because Rita Ora jogged past and I missed taking a photo of her because I was too busy asking my wife who that woman was.. because she looked familiar. I thought it was Rihanna.  But I digress.

"It's a photograph".. I hear you mutter.  Well sort of.. its about ten different photographs.
In the days before you could easily do a panorama on your Iphone I created this image by merging these images together digitally (not that well, to be honest). So it is more a digital work than an actual photograph of the place. On the left hand side you can see the same couple both in the water and out of it. I'm not in the habit of painting my toe nails either so I admit my wife took a couple of the shots.. so the work becomes a digital photographic montage collaboration between myself and my wife. I'm also in the photograph doing an Alfred Hitchcock I'm the guy with the straw hat.. so I am included in a work I created digitally. "What a fraud" I hear you say "how can that be art if you didn't take the picture yourself ?" Why not ? It was my idea

When Ansel Adams (the famous photographer) was asked which equipment he used to make his photographs he replied "his eye".  I'm quite sure Ansel wouldn't be worrying about whether digital works are art.

That photograph (see how easy it is to still refer to it as a photograph) may be a good example of how "digital" is everywhere in art but it isn't really typical of what i do. In my case my creative process continues when I scan in drawings, paintings, photographs etc. Instead of finishing there I continue to work on them (digitally) until you can hardly recognise the original images.

At one end of the spectrum you have genuine 100% digital art where none of the image exists outside the computer and these images can even be generated using mathematic formulae. (Fractals), and at the other you have very slight alterations to say a photograph. All of the images produced from one end of the spectrum to the other are "digital" to an extent.  But some retain almost all of their original non digital imagery and at the other end of the spectrum you have 100% digital imagery.. should all these images be classed as digital ?

I think this is where the whole debate about digital v traditional art becomes a nonsense. Because we can safely say that almost all the people viewing "art" are seeing it as a digital image most of the time, via monitors etc nobody worries one iota about it.  Even the paintings of the most traditionalist painters who spend their time attacking digital art are most likely seen by most as a digital image (photograph). The distinction between traditional and digital art exists only in the minds of a few artists.. its ALL just art. The ART is the creative part not the way it is produced.

In my case I tend to start with real drawings and scan them. I might also add in bits of photographs some digital some not, I then get to work on these bit using image manipulation software. The software can't make a bad image good.. that it is still down to the skill of the artist.

Here's an example of my art. You may or may not like it.. that's your choice. But in what way does the digital process of its creation make it not art ? You can see quite a lot of the image is drawn.. they are scanned drawings. But other parts are taken from photographs.. and other bits are scanned bits of text. The red sun is a red sticker taken from a jar of jam. When folks order this work I look for a sticker in the kitchen I can stick on the print I send them. What I like abut working this way is the ability it gives me to produce a different kind of imagery and to be flexible.  I can alter almost every print I produce.

Here's an another..

Now is this a drawing or a digital work because it isn't the same as the original drawing it is based on ?  I moved the sausages so does that mean it is now digital art ? The whole debate is very silly when you think about. It doesn't really matter to me what it is called but for the record I would label this a "print taken from a drawing" for a customer. 

In no other area of human endeavour does the use of digital technology cause a similar debate.. its a digital world and visual artists need to get used to it.

Right thanks.. I got that off my chest and can go to sleep now.

Andy Mercer's website

Monday, 6 July 2015

Andy Mercer - Older works

I decided it would be a good idea to let folks see some of my older works. 

Triple Kings II 

Triple Kings II 

I created this work for a competition to design a Christmas card back in the 1990's. It was selected as a finalist and exhibited at Bonhams auction house in London. 

It's a combination of a pastel and pen drawing with extra drawn elements laid over the top. So its a sort of collage. 

It's quite interesting because it pre dates my digital works but has quite a few similarities. 

It has sold regularly since as a Christmas card

As an image I think I prefer the one below but it is maybe a bit dark for a Christmas card. 
Triple Kings III

Andy Mercer's website

Sunday, 17 August 2014

City Lines

Latest version of my CITY LINES animation

Had a lot of fun and hit a lot of snags along the way with this. It sort of seemed logical as I like line drawings to string them together. Personally I like images that are rough at the edges so I'm happy with it, I know it will probably drive serious animators round the twist.

I'm indebted to the very talented Dorothea Baker of Melbourne Australia for allowing me to use her music.

 Andy Mercer's website

Saturday, 29 March 2014

A busy week..


There have been a number of interesting developments over the last week. 

Zatista is a US based website selling original art and limited edition prints. I've not heard of it myself but OneKingsLane is a premier US home decor site. 

"We are thrilled to announce that Zatista will be doing a curated event with One King's Lane, the premier e-commerce site for home decor, fashion and accessories.

A special collection from Zatista has been selected to be offered for sale on One King's Lane from 30th March to Aprilt 15th For the duration of the event we will be placing the selected works on hold on Zatista so that they are exclusively offered to the One King's Lane audience.

The even better news is that your work has been chosen by the board of curators to be part of the collection! This opportunity provides incredible exposure to millions of potential buyers." 

So I have got to be pleased that three of my works have been selected from among many thousands on the Zatista website. 

Alice James Books
A couple of days ago I was approached by Alice James Books, a nonprofit poetry press based in the US, to inquire about using one of your pieces on the cover of one of their forthcoming books. The piece they are interested in is:

"Urbanización 3"

They want to use it as a color picture for the cover of a book of poems, entitled Refuge/es by Michael Broek with a publication dates of May 2015. I hope to post pics of the final cover when I get a copy. 

New Mills Art Festival 2014
"Congratulations! We are delighted to inform you that your work has been selected for New Mills ArtsFEST 2014 Town Trail." 

I'm always pleased to find new and different locations to show my art, and the New Mills Art Festival appealed to me. From 17th May – 1st June more than 30 artists, from across the UK, display their work in unusual places and spaces, windows and pop-up venues across New Mills, as part of the annual festival. Turning the town into a gallery, the trail can be viewed at any time, and creates opportunities for residents and visitors going about their daily business to encounter a wide range of contemporary art

New Mills Arts, founded in 2012, is an artist-led initiative passionate about the promotion of contemporary art and raising the profile of New Mills.


Dean Gibson School, Kendal

I'm also pleased to announce the installation of the artwork below which was produced as a collaboration with Yr 5 at Dean Gibson Primary School Kendal. The work has been installed in their learning lab. (Site pictures to follow) 

The kids created the majority individual elements and I brought them all together into one digital work. I love the way kids don't have any boundaries.. they just do it ! The work is printed onto acrylic and the colours really zing. Well done kids ! 

And last but not least this week my work has been featured in the Artfinder "City Life" newsletter.

Many thanks to all the above for supporting for my work. I can't wait for next week ;)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Miro at the train station

On holiday (vacation) in Puerto Pollensa on the island of Majorca, we decided after a few days relaxing in the sun to take a trip through the mountains to the north coast of this beautiful island. We stopped at the wonderful Lluc Monastery the spiritual heart of the island. It always amazes that people without any faith who never step foot in a church will happily pile into churches and religious sites while on holiday, but thats another story.

After a couple of short stops we reached Port Soller, a delightful coastal town on the north coast of the island. The town is known for its charming position surrounded by high mountains, orange groves and its delightful harbour. Majorca has been a favorite destination for Brits since the 1960's and flights to the sun first became affordable to the masses. This is the less developed part of Majorca with none of the large hotels and apartment blocks.

Harbour side Restaurant in Port Soller 

Port Soller is linked by an old tram with the town of the same name a mile or two inland. The plan was to transfer from the tram onto the scenic railway that would take us back through the mountains towards the city of Palma. The tram clattered and wobbled it's way through the orange and lemon groves into the town of Soller and the journey ended at the railway station, where we were informed we would have to wait an hour for the train to depart. So finding we had an hour to kill in the Soller we started to walk back down into the centre of town in the 30C heat. It was then I spotted a poster showing unmistakable Miro work outside the station.

The town of Soller surrounded by high mountains

I thought "surely not".. an exhibition of Miro works in the train station ? But there they were inside the train station in what was probably once a waiting room. And not only that there was a separate exhibition of Picasso ceramics in another room. (I have to admit I'm not a massive fan of Picasso) Either of these collections would warrant a major show in London with security, massive queues and big big publicity but here they were almost unnoticed by the majority of folks waiting for the train in this small sleepy town in northern Majorca.

Miro's work is almost synonymous with modern Spain and he is unique in being an artist whose work has somehow taken on a life of its own. It doesn't appear dated. Miro and Gaudi are the two artists who we have come to be identifiedwith modern Spain, and especially the great city of Barcelona.

He created the "Espana" logo widely copied adapted for Spanish tourist brochures around  the world.  

Could you imagine an important exhibition of art works at some small town rail station in Britain or the States ? I love exhibitions in random non art locations, I tried to arrange an exhibition this year at Preston Bus Station but the powers that be seem intent on knocking it down.. the fools. (But that is also another story) So these show's ticked boxes for me. 

So if you are in Majorca and want to get away from the holiday crowds its definitely worth a visit to Soller station.

The trip back via the mountain railway is also spectacular.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Marc Chagall at Liverpool Tate.

Twenty years ago I had to travel to London to see Chagall’s work exhibited now he has moved nearer and come to Liverpool. In another twenty years maybe he'll be showing next door ?

Having spent most of my life in the 20th century, 21st century orientated folks will have to excuse my going on about Chagall. For reasons I barely understand I never tire of his work. It's hard to say anything new, for me it's like visiting an old friend..

There's a nice quote on the wall in the gallery attributed to Picasso
 "When Matisse dies Chagall will be the only artist who knows what colour is."  

He was "dead" right. I always feel the need to get in close to Chagall's work... and get my head round the logic of the illogical. From a distance things looks like a church, a person, a house, but up close they often make little sense visually. The eye is led a merry dance. Why should a guy who mainly painted Russian Jewish peasant life have such a hold on my/our imagination ? Not many Jewish Russian peasants at the show.

Some folks have a song or music as the anthem to their lives, but for us this role is probably played by Chagall. The artist with his love flying above his head while holding her hand was made for us, but in reverse. Chagall doesn't care if the line is scratched, the forms don't make sense and the colour isn't flat and neither do I, so maybe that's a part if it. It seems an insult to analyse his work by any conventional artistic standard.

Chagall is to Russia what Warhol is to the USA. At first it’s like looking at the pieces of a unmade jigsaw but magically over time the whole thing comes together. The sum is greater than the individual parts. Don't look too long, Chagall gets under your skin. Months later you will see a pic and know instantly he painted it. Go and have a look !

He doesn't preach, he isn't overtly political, arrogant or sentimental.  His works goes against the current prevailing tyranny of photographic realism that cries out from all directions from every advertising hoarding and TV commercial. Chagall just is. I would happily hang a Chagall pic on my wall.

Which brings me on nicely to.. I'm not sure what the rest of Liverpool Tate is about. On the ground floor there was something about “Hangmen” I looked into for 30 seconds. I didn't see any Hangmen but maybe I didn't look hard enough.

How have visual art venues been hijacked by this stuff ? I'm all for experiments but I’ve been seeing similar obscure visual experiments in the majority of galleries for 40-50 yrs now. In what way is this still breaking boundaries or experimental ?

I suspect Duchamp understood he was on a road to nowhere and decided to do other things.

How did this “Cult of Obscurism” take over almost every gallery ? And why not theatres, cinema's, science labs or music venues ? Did Karl Heinz Stockhausen take over the Royal Albert Hall to the almost complete exclusion of all other forms of music? Did Beckett and his followers take over all the West End theatres ? No.. so why has this stuff taken over so many galleries ? IMO it's plain weird.

I get the impression if grant funding was withdrawn (austerity could have an upside) the whole lot would vanish overnight. It feels like the Soviet Union of Art, appearing big and all encompassing but hiding its bankruptcy, then without warning “pop” it’s all gone. A very nice lady first brought me here when it opened, (apart from Mark Dion's ship disappearing down the gallery plug hole).. I hated the whole thing and remember being quite vocal about it. I think she was shocked. But for me art will be always have to incorporate colour and line.. I really don't understand anything else. I’m unashamedly partisan. I really don't care if some guy sticks old plates on a wall and calls it art.. I'm not interested.

I like the gaudy plastic chandelier in the foyer though.. it doesn't take itself that seriously.

Anyway still enjoyed the exhibition. Great to see Liverpool on a lovely sunny day bursting with international visitors and looking every inch the major European city it deserves to be. But that is a whole different story.

Liverpool Tate Café 12.50 11th July 2013

Andy Mercer's website

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pixelation.. is it always bad ?

Quite a lot of my artworks incorporate pixelation.. and I quite often get comments from photographers and printers about it.

>In my experience many photographers and printers judge image acceptability according to photographic criteria.. and they use the same standards to judge artwork as they do photographs. They look at the work through a magnifying glass to check for clarity and that pixels are not blown. I often deliberately blow the colours and incorporate pixelation, I'm not really interested in good photographic quality, it's not what my work is about. I want  to stretch the digital medium to its limits.. I like to think this "rough unfinished look" is in part what attracts clients and buyers to my work and I do have plenty of buyers.

I look on it this way.. if someone is painting you wouldn't reject the painting because the  brush strokes are visible. So why is it a problem if pixelation (which is an inherent characteristic of digital art work) is visible or deliberately incorporated ? I want my images to have unplanned elements and rough edges I wonder if in 100 years from now.. the ever more detailed and clean digital photographic images will be of any more interest than the old grainy black and white photos of the pre-digital era ?  Personally I doubt it. If a printer/client/photographer is going to judge my work by photographic standards my work is always going to fail. 
For me the above detail has lots of interesting contrasts and nuances going on.. 
I'm not ashamed of the fact that I am using the digital medium.

Constructive comments welcome

Andy Merer
Andy Mercer's website