Digital art vs classical art: a creative upheaval?

In the face of the rise of digital art and its notable success, the legitimate question arises as to the position of classical art, whose place of prominence may be challenged.

Digital art Vs classical art: friends or enemies?

Do these two entities constitute two separate sectors or do they feed off each other? Is there a competition between digital art and classical art, the great art?

Artalistic offers you a brief overview of digital art and classical art, as well as the movements and interactions that drive them.

Digital art is not new

Digital art has been in the spotlight for the past ten years, especially with the boom in NFT and crypto-art, but its roots go back to the last century.

If the term digital art has obviously evolved over the decades, its birth is anchored in the 1960s, in correlation with the advent and gradual rise of computer science and the binary language.

Very confidential despite the presence of artists such as Frieder Nake, a German mathematician and pioneer of computer art, digital art gained consistency over time, for example in the field of video art with the experiments of the French television man Jean-Christophe Averty, in the 1980s.

It was at this time that the term digital art was used for the first time, distinguishing it from classical art (painting, drawing, sculpture), which has a rich history of creation.

With the explosion of the World Wide Web from the 2000s onwards, digital art became more democratic in its practice and uses.

An art form in its own right?

Compared to the history of classical art, the history of digital art remains limited, however, to the point of questioning its legitimacy and raising the question that regularly comes to the forefront: is digital art really an art?

Although it differs fundamentally from the notion of classical, material and concrete art, digital art produces works that cannot be excluded from the field of creation. This undoubted fact can be illustrated by the record sales observed in the field of cyber art, notably those of the unavoidable American artist Beeple.

Its abstraction, however, would be an obstacle for many critics who reproach it with being solely virtual or immaterial, unlike classical art and its physical or manual basis.

Bridges between digital art and classical art

Yet artists have long intermingled the different tools at their disposal in the creative process, using various media or technological means to give free rein to their inspiration to invent and reinvent.

In the case of digital art, this assertion takes on its full meaning, furthermore sublimated by Marshall McLuhan’s maxim: “The message is the medium” (Understanding the Media, 1964).

This statement by the Canadian media philosopher and sociologist deserves consideration in the modern era marked by the progress of information and communication techniques within which digital art is fully developed.

Why would binary computer language be an inappropriate tool for artistic expression? Especially since many contemporary artists, and not the least, as we shall see, confirm this irrefutable trend through their recent practices.

Classical art: modification and reinvention of practices

Technology has always been closely linked to the artistic creation of classical art: the use of oil paint dating from the 15th century, the possibility of moving to paint outdoors and thus taking advantage of variations in light for the Impressionists, the invention of the camera for capturing reality, or, closer to us, the birth of digital art.

The advent of digital artists

Today, many artists are considered solely “digital“. They innovate in a sphere that did not exist until a few years ago. The democratisation of access offers them increasing visibility and allows them to make a living from their activity, which appears to be eminently positive.

This is a logical evolution of our time and of the modes of transmission adopted by the new generations born in the age of the Internet.

Hockney and Koons too!

The digital revolution has not only brought these new artists to the fore, as recent works by key figures in contemporary classical art illustrate. More and more of them are incorporating the innovative tools offered by digital technology, from 3D modelling to virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

This is the case with the British artist David Hockney, whose latest exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris was a great success (from 13 October 2021 to 14 February 2022).

This icon of pop art and hyperrealism has created a large painted frieze illustrating his life in Normandy. A monumental work 90 metres long, first conceived on iPad, without brushes or paint!

Another telling example is that of the American neo-pop artist and visual artist Jeff Koons.

For several years now, he has been using new digital technologies, particularly 3D modelling and augmented reality, in close collaboration with computer scientists and modellers specialising in algorithms. From classical art to digital art, the frontier seems very thin!

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