Brain and Machine as One Artist
- Painting infiltrated by algorithms

Rodney Pygoya Chang    May 25, 2009


Prof. Simon Erohim of Moscow University wrote in email:
I forgot to write and ask about other  information in your article:
It is very important to me (as I am not a specialist in fine arts but in philosophy)  that  you clarify what you mean when  you wrote that you  visualized "feces pictures", "as a digital artist," by "mentally cutting & pasting."  It's probably a new type of art mental act - which was not inherent for artists before computers? What is your opinion as both digital and non-digital artist? Does "mental acts" of digital and non-digital artists  differ, or are they the same?


     I am certain, after 25 years of using digital as my art media, that I think very different from traditional media artists.  I have an intuitive understanding on how software works.  By this I mean on how graphic programming breaks down visual graphic effects into a sequential order of tasks.  Cumulative commands via the electronic mouse or graphic digital pen result in the final appearance (goal) of the image.  Working with concrete chronological commands, like mathematics, breaks down the artistic process into concrete chunks during the creating of an artwork "in process."  By developing a personal relationship with the software, I start to understand the programmer, the unseen people that develop the software, or my "digital art tools."  I gain some  idea of how developers perceive of the character of working artists and how we think and process thought, then put it into action to make graphic effects. As programmers attempt to simulate fine art graphic effects (with the added difficulty of using glowing light to represent opaque art material marks), I observe how engineers and computer scientists interpret what they think fine art looks like, or "is."  They attempt to capture the traditional appearance, the traditional methodology for artists to utilize in order to create conventional traditional appearing imagery.  But for me, a "rebel artist," one who doesn't (anymore) care if my digital art imitates traditional media (like my long ago Picasso series), there is the attempt to not follow the rules of proper use as directed in program manuals.  I seek instead to create "results" unforeseen by the developers of the program.  I want to visualize what they never intended the program to do.  I once had the opportunity to shock a famous graphic programmer (1980s, Jeff Dunn, Lumena software, California).  He would shake his head, not knowing how (the hell) I made certain imagery with his programming, even after reviewing the data "behind" my graphic monitor images.  Back then, in this way, I felt I was truly an independent artist, my digital art not merely product of the  software with its limiting boundaries of the developer's intent (or programming ability).

One way to judge quality of digital art is to go to shows and listen if viewers ask the artist, "What program did you use?"  If the image is complex enough or speaks to the human spirit, the audience knows better than to ask such an irreverent question - that borders on demeaning both artist and work.   At this point in time, I can use any graphic program and my own vision overrides the software, resulting in the developed "style" of my artwork. In other words, I use the computer, like other artists using traditional art media, to create my own visual statements.  Art is art; it's personal and not medium driven.

I attempt to use software to discover new vision, new art (from a new cyber culture) that projects to the spectator's mind a new experience of seeing, and therefore, via fine art, new feelings or understanding of the world and life- a bit of enlightenment.  I attempt to make virtual art for a new online virtual world - for a global village consiting of only one species. 

In short, yes, I, as long time digital artist, not only think differently, but incorporate the process of graphic software into my own brain's process of thinking, seeing, and doing.  I am, in a sense, cognitively part computer.  I am living proof to other artists not to use computers, if afraid to lose complete autonomy of artistic control, sensitivity and identity.  When I go back and use the palette knife and deliciously spread paint over canvas like butter on toast,  I note that unconsciously, or conditioned (brain washed?) over time, I am most satisfied when the real paint captures, by accident, the software look!  Consequently, the real paintings have a somewhat digital appearance.  In other words, I have an ingrained bias for imagery with an intrinsic digital feel, a new edgy aesthetic sensibility, sadly not yet developed by most current art jurors and critics (that rule what is valuable to culture).  Once, when painting with a traditional portrait painter in his country studio, my friend took a break from his own canvas, looked at my freshly completed work, and said, "Hey, that looks like your computer art!"  I realized, in effect, I had eliminated the algorithms, the machine, and functioned as a computer when using the traditional art media (which I planned to next scan and further manipulate with software)!  It wasn't a moment of fear as artist but of elation.  I, as digital artist using traditional paint and canvas, had come "full circle."

Integration - traditional material, brain, software - delivers a more developed digital art that goes beyond mere use of the computer.  Here is an article I once wrote on how, using computers as an artist, I was actually operating under the influence of the theory of chaos!!

So within the realm of chaos instead of the order that programmers hope to thrust upon the working artist, with a brain now linked with the software,  with a long term relationship - make that love affair- with the computer as art material, and with decades of trial and error resulting in success and failure in artistic experimental results (some art, some garbage), I continue to work in a mental space few other artists, including most other digital users (especially of the new generation), ever inhabit.  With such a mature perspective as artist, then it is possible to be comfortable in permitting  traditional painters to render one's digital images on canvas, and then recapturing one's own aesthetic essence by editing such "cyberpaintings" (oils on canvas reproducing digital graphic files) via scanning.  Full circle again.

 Life in the cyber-studio is blissful!  Life is good.


 Wall Street 2008  (painting infiltrated by algorithms)   
2009 copyright Rodney Chang

Pallete knife acrylic painting by Pygoya, edited with software, then repainted
     by a commissioned craftsman, then scanned and edited again in software, all
to produce the final fine arts  Giclee print on-canvas signed edition

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