top of page

I worked in Silicon Valley for nearly two decades and at the conclusion of that part of my life I was successfully running a software and chip engineering group with 200 employees. And then I went to art school …

At one point during art school I had notions of presenting photographs using back-lit film from an ink-jet printer using light boxes. The color range of light boxes is great and at that time I was admiring Jeff Wall's and Andreas Gursky's large photography work. I soon realized that light boxes were expensive and could only serve just one image. In contrast a computer screen (flat LCD screens were available) was also back lit but could serve many images. In fact a whole series of photographs could be presented in a single frame. Much of photography I saw at art school involved series of prints and it struck me that rather than the viewer moving from print to print why not have the prints display themselves one after another.

So from these practical circumstances I started to explore computer screens as a medium. I quickly realized that the medium was far, far richer than the issue of avoiding costs or other practical considerations. I could do things not at all possible with traditional photography — at one moment I was almost intimidated by the possiblities.

There, of course, have been people using computers for art making for a long while but I saw it largely as a field still untouched. I started my work using Macromedia's Director tool (now part of Adobe) and found it had its own custom programming language which I learned and used. It had limitations because it wasn't designed for art making but I found many workarounds. After a few years it was evident that Director was not a path forward. It was an orphan product at Adobe, rarely updated, and worst, was complicated to deploy to various computers. I had no choice but to write my own system, which I did.

I returned to my kinetic photography, as one critic described it, with good results. I could do everything I had been able to do with Director and a whole lot more. In fact anything I could imagine became possible if I wrote the code.

Aesthetically my influences are Hockney, Bacon, and, if I can ever get flesh to look like that, Freud. My recent studies of Matisse has significantly changed the impasto I use. Then there are things, for the future, that haven't been dreamt of.

I had the idea to try painting in October 2010. I had read various technical papers from people who had approached the subject but they were all computer scientists so they were not pursing the medium as artists. They did have good ideas and I borrowed many of them from the published literature.

Imagine a painting whose appearance shifts continuously over time, so much so that millions of years would have to pass before for your first glimpse of it returned. This may sound, to some, like a gimmick, but I assure you it's not. The San Francisco based engineer/artist Clive McCarthy has achieved it. McCarthy's grounding in art history is as solid as the algorithms that control his "paintings". His works, projected on small flat-panel screens, randomly recompose before your eyes. Each is derived from thousands of photographs that neither reveal their identity as such nor recall photorealism. They serially dissolve and reconstitute with periodic screen "wipes," as if Hans Hofmann had applied a lethargic version of the "Ken Burns effect" to post Impressionist paintings. Works like these show that the much-hyped fusion of science and art is finally starting to bear fruit.

bottom of page