A Tradigital Survey

A Tradigital Survey Curators: Kirsten Rann, Gina Kalabishis Level 17 Artspace, 300 Flinders St, Victoria University, Melbourne 29 June – 16 July 2010

Alex Gibson Study of Joanne Sharkey from The Drawing Machine 2010, software installation, image dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

'A Tradigital Survey' provides a platform for speculation in new media artworks. The exhibition includes eight practitioners whose methodology is informed by time-honoured fine arts practices. The curatorial emphasis is on the overlap between the artists' training, knowledge and skills in the mediums of pencil, paint, charcoal and analogue photography and digital technologies thus facilitating the opening and movement of historic and contemporary currents.

Following the vein of technological innovation the photographic images of David Rosetzky and longtime collaborators Lyndell Brown/Charles Green evoke elements of the work of Leonardo da Vinci. In the case of Rosetzky this is evidenced through his eerie portraits of 'Kiah' (2008) and 'Caroline' (2008). If 'Kiah' infers an abstraction of da Vinci’s 'Lady with the Ermine' then Rosetzky’s use of digital manipulation recasts the subject of the feminine via the digital compositing of different women’s bodies: hair, jewels, and cloth thus clearly advancing photo-derived 'portraits’ into the era of genetic cloning and technical hybrids. Brown/Green’s focus, although documentary, is politically charged. Their image 'Hoist, Propeller Change on Frontline at Night, Military Installation, Gulf' (2007-9) produced during their posting as official war artists for the Australian War Memorial speaks to da Vinci’s experimentation with flight and rotating machines: think, for example, of his 'Drawings for a Flying Machine' (1488). However, printed on rag paper, upon their return, the precision of linear mathematical equations instead rest in the optics and gradients of digital integers.

Drawing, and its rendering, gathers new meaning in the works of both Alex Gibson and David Harley. Adopting the software code of computer programming in combination with a real-time webcam Gibson’s 'The Drawing Machine' (2010) literally draws the viewer who is also the subject of the image via the screen interface. ‘Life-drawing’ as we may come to know it in the 21st century projects the contours and shadows of the viewer-subject’s digital reproduction. The illusions that digital perceptibility plays on our understanding of the visual are reproduced with subtlety in Harley’s 'File_2005y2' (2005-10). Furthering his training and practice as an abstract painter with the tools of Photoshop, Harley’s images give the impression of an airbrushed and stencil-like format. The polished print, however, results from Harley’s meticulous process of layering colour frame by frame.

Irene Hanenbergh and Brie Trennery put new media technologies up for scientific investigation in their creations. The irruption of protruding stalactites into the picture plane of Trennery’s 'Pathogen Status II' (2010) conjures foreboding microcosms. The mutation of these genetic structures replicate across the surface of a copy of The Australian Ugliness by Robin Boyd which Trennery has scanned and ‘re-drawn’ as the base for the structure of this image’s DNA. Hanenbergh fuses the idea of the fur skins of animals with cell-like structures almost reminiscent of sono and radiographic imaging. Her titles provide even greater ambiguity through names like 'Monaco, Miami (Flexibility)' (2007). The visceral effects of the fragmentation and receding of spatial depth and focus of pixel files is part of Hanenbergh’s deliberate strategy of confusing the viewer’s interpretation of the work.

The immersive strategies of computer gaming practices are explored in Stephen Haley’s 'GameOverGame' (2006). The ‘entertainment’ capacity of this work resides in the 3D navigation of urban space that blends the cityscapes of Eastern and Western perspectives. The expansion of corporate logistics and their advertising campaigns, via computer simulated animations such as the Nike, Kodak and Microsoft logos flicker like the pulsating lightfaces of Times Square. Simultaneously, the viewer occupies interior dwelling spaces as the picture frame tilts and rotates from one image ‘scape’ to another, thus questioning contemporary forms of the quotidian.

Overall 'A Tradigital Survey' examines important artistic investigations between what we now call ‘traditional’ fine arts practice and new media technologies. It yields a bridging space in the transition from analogue to digital imaging practices, with reference to both conceptual and technical frameworks.