Art News & Views

Digital Art


Directions from the New Media

The tendency to move away from received wisdom, in all spheres of life, especially in the practice of art, has been operant for generations. The stamp of a truly creative mind is the constant pursuit for newer modes of expression guided forth by an indomitable, indefatigable spirit. To search, to research, to experiment, and to constantly challenge traditionally delineated limits-have forever been the unmistakable markers of an inventive genius. “Art”, as Wittgenstein therefore surmised, “is a concept with open boundaries.”

Chhatrapati Dutta
The possibilities of digital art began to be explored in right earnest from the middle of the last century, in a bid to interrogate patterns and practices that began to get increasingly closed and stifling. In India, the effects of globalization and the infiltration of a host of multinational companies followed by the boom in the IT sector, made the artists search for newer methods, outside-the-box, to deftly convey their ideas. The changing socio-economic matrices inspired them to broaden their horizons.

Today the acceptance and appreciation for digital art has reached an altogether different level of high, and Indian artists are marching ahead with innovative and thought-provoking works of art with an amazing range of messages and meanings, some in-your-face, and some waiting to be decoded and deconstructed.

Gigi Scaria
 Gigi Scaria
The works of Chhatrapati Dutta, Gigi Scaria, Sumedh Rajendran and Tushar Joag have constantly re-invented themselves by pushing the boundaries of this digital medium, and have always managed to surprise, shock and awe their audience with the vividness of their visuals as well their stunning clarity of their meanings. One is inevitably moved to reflect and ruminate on the works long after the immediacy of the observing ritual is over.

None of these artists, however, work exclusively on the digital medium, and refuse to be slotted in any one particular bracket. Even then, the digital medium holds special place for them. Why, one may wonder. As expressed by Chhatrapati Dutta, “Every medium has its limitations, as well as immense possibilities. My practice has always revolved around finding extensions to these possibilities, and bringing several media together, but always retaining 'content' as its fulcrum. Though medium does not directly feature in the debate between 'form' and 'content', it is most often than not - resolved through the medium.”

Sumedh Rajendran
It is therefore the content, the subject matter that bothers, affects or inspires the artist which forms the basis of choice for a particular medium, instead of the use of medium for medium's sake. “I don't think digital medium gives any particular advantage over other mediums in terms of creative freedom” says Gigi Scaria. “Creative effort of an artist goes through lots of hurdles while creating a work. Whether it is painting, sculpture, photography, video or performance there has to be a thinking process and the conceptual clarity of that thinking are essential parts of the creative process. I don't think any medium will give you a short cut to transfer your thought into an art work.”

It is a fairly common practice to use photographs as the base, the starting point for many of these digital works, which are then subsequently altered or doctored to create an entirely new image. Staged or performance photography is doubly intriguing because it offers, “the possibility” says Dutta, “of obliterating time and space and facilitates interpolations, which in turn creates ambiguities as well as multiple interpretations, something I seek in performance-photo-works.” With newer, state-of-the-art software and devices that enable to create or distort an image to the heart's content, allowing for unbelievable concoctions, the digital medium is slowly, but surely catching on with those who do not shy of rustling up stunningly imaginative fare! Further, the trajectory of the humble camera to its present-day, easily-accessible avatar, has taken away from it the 'aura' of exclusivity, making an artist, or atleast a wannabe, of a layman. It has, without a shade of doubt, blurred the distance between artist and viewer, and has infact, loosened the very rigidity of the term 'artist'. “Anyone who can 'click' sensibly can be an artist”, opines Scaria.

Tushar Joag
Does this medium then, at some level, help reflect contemporary socio-political issues that plague our post-modern times? Is it then the ideal tool to address contemporary predicaments? It is, in the opinion of Scaria, “used by millions of people to articulate their views and ideate certain positions and most importantly use as a weapon to resist manipulations and political power. I think I too am trying to use these possibilities of digital medium with the sensibility of an artist.”

Sometimes the language of such critique or commentary is more tacit, and tends to, as it does with Dutta's works, “investigate/cut-through the social dynamics that a given political situation presents.”

The increasing popularity of digital art owes much to the changing attitudes of art galleries, who are far more open to, and enthusiastic about these novel modes and methods, hence providing the much needed moral (and material) fillip to the furtherance and continued exploration of works in this medium. It creates the promise of a present and future that is pregnant with the possibilities of a far more egalitarian, involved and democratic art-form; something that should alleviate as much as showcase contemporary issues that range from terrorism to gender discrimination to those of corporatization and the erosion of human qualities.

- Paroma Maiti


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