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					The College Voice - Archive: Volume 2 Issue 2

 Volume 2, Issue 2

 The Role of Digital Media in Contemporary Art
 March 2004

 Suzie Haddock is a multidisciplinary artist exploring printmaking, sculpture and digital art. She

 teaches Graphic Design at Sydney Institute. Suzie has just completed a Master of Print Media at

 COFA, and is now studying a Master of Fine Arts.

 All my artwork ends up being digital to a point. I do etchings and paintings, but the work that I

 have been developing is taking etchings through to sculpture and then through to a digital form.

 So I’m working in a multi-disciplinary area.

 I belong to an international online group called Print Australia. Quite often a debate arises about

 whether digital art has any importance, whether it should be even considered by traditional

 artists. It’s quite amusing, reading the emails, that they are using the internet to communicate

 with each other, but basically saying that digital art is not an art form and there is no particular

 expertise needed by the artist concerned. I posted a page and a half on the site on why I feel

 this is an archaic way of thinking, because it is only another tool. Every artist needs to find the

 medium that helps them to explore what they are trying to say. This need not, and should not,

 create a hierarchy in the use of media, it should just be about the end result.

 Initially, students and practitioners in the first stage of the digital era were charmed by the fact

 that you could produce something that looked polished with what seemed like little or no effort.

 However, the same elements of composition, shape and colour that hold the viewer’s interest

 still apply, whether it’s a digital file, a painting or whatever it may be. And I think this is why

 many artists ridiculed the whole idea of digital art, because for them it’s no longer maintaining

 the beauty and the subtlety you could obtain from doing handcrafted work.

 But I think we’re in a second stage now, where the initial lure of the digital realm has passed

 and people are starting to look at it from a different point of view -that it is only a tool. And

 certainly, that is what I teach: that the computer is only another tool and it’s one that can take

 quite a while to master. As a graphic designer, I might use six different software programs in a

 day to complete my designs, and so, in that respect, it becomes complex.

 The wonderful thing is that, with digital media, collaborations between artists can become very

 exciting, because you can send digital files across the world and other artists can participate and

 send it back and you can end up with these amazing images. With handcrafted work this is

 much more difficult.

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There was an exhibition last year called The Semi-Permanent Exhibition held in Sydney and

Melbourne, where there were many graffiti artists who spoke. They have found a niche in the

digital realm of fine art and design, whether it’s commercial or alternative. Semi-permanence

and digital media have close links in art.

Artists use digital work simply because it’s the way they feel they can achieve the required end

result. It doesn’t mean there isn’t another way, it’s just another tool. Hence you have students

like Shannon Collis*, an international student from Canada, who was working in the printmaking

department last year, in the Masters Program. Shannon’s work combines collographs with digital

images, purely because that is how she could obtain the required end result. That’s what it was

about. It doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done another way, but the way that she has developed her

art practice made use of digital media.

In the past, some traditional artists and buyers thought that a digital print was less valuable

than a handcrafted piece, but I think that whole way of thinking is gradually changing. There’s

been a surge in the public’s interest in prints – whether they are photographic, digital, or

traditional etchings and that’s really important in the way we perceive digital art.

Finally, digital media allows artists, through a strategic use of photography, to delve into a

surrealist approach to their work. I find it interesting, considering the Man Ray poster around at

the moment (with the cello resonance sign on the woman’s back), that there is a resurgence of

interest in the exploration of composite images. An artist doesn’t need to be a photographer.

These kinds of images have a fascination for us because they are real, and yet not real. Digital

art allows us to explore this with renewed enthusiasm.

*See Interview with Shannon Collis in College Voice, Volume 2 Issue 1.

Article by Suzie Haddock

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