Alex Livingston’s Flowers, a new series of floral digital paintings, is now hanging on the walls of Studio 21. It’s been 10 years since Alex put down his paint brush because of a developing sensitivity to paint. Since then he has been developing expertise using computer tools to make “digital paintings”. As he said at the opening last Friday evening, he has put in his 10,000 hours. And we believe him.
As a result, Alex’s new digital works are extraordinarily sophisticated, coming from someone with major confidence in the history of making art. They combine naturalism and faux; historical motifs, contemporary technology and a “post- contemporary” point of view. At first you might think they are silly, goofy, childlike; and after a bit of thinking you will still think that they are witty, but you will be inside the joke with him.
They are difficult to figure out in terms of medium, especially if you don’t know Alex. Are they painted? Are they photos of some strange plasticine sculpture? Very intriguing.
In honour of his new series, we are sharing exerts from an essay written about his Digital work by Gary Michael Dault in 2014:
EXTRACTS FROM a catalogue essay,
ALEX LIVINGSTON: Chromophilia Digitalis, by
Gary Michael Dault (2014)
Livingston wages new art with old armaments: colour, shape, configuration, texture, manipulations of presentness (albeit a faux-presentness), depth (albeit a faux-depth) and movement (albeit a faux-movement), accessing these time-honoured realms of visuality in inventive ways and with new tools.
Anybody working digitally lives in an always provisional world of italics and quotation marks and (sometimes) walks hand-in-hand with an odd sort of special pleading (see, for example, the handful of faux-conditions added to the last paragraph and, eventually, settling in everywhere in this essay). Setting up a practice in the instant, no-time, reflexive, self-conscious digital outpost is to be in a constant state of trying and testing, working in a cool frenzy, finding out—weekly, daily, hourly—what such a still endlessly evolving resource can provide.
People who gaze earnestly, wonderingly, quizzically, tremblingly upon the always developing visual world (and that is all of us, surely?) are both bedazzled by and often suspicious of that which is generated in the digital forge.
What, we are sometimes tempted to ask, became of the old verities: the chthonic gumminess of paint, the autobiographical, dead-giveaway dragging of a heavily-laden brush (the followable trail) the comfortable illusions of a cubistic, see-through-the-window fictive space we have hitherto been privileged to collaborate optically with the artist in creating?
The fact is, these aesthetic comfort zones are, of course, not lost (nothing is ever lost in art). They have simply, inevitably, been increasingly displaced into an electronic, Hydra-headed, dial-up realm where the artist now makes all the same decisions he made before—but at a certain physically objectified and therefore critical remove. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what often makes people restive about digital procedures: they invariably seem more private, more onanistic than before.
A word about Digital colour. Back when colour TV was new, Marshall McLuhan used to point out that colour TV was not just black-and-white TV dyed red and green and all the other hues. Colour TV, he maintained, was, rather, a whole new medium. Similarly, in extension, e-colour is not just some ethereal equivalent to or surrogate for painted colour, but offers an entirely new colour resource. Digital colour is see-through colour. It is the colour out of space, to slightly distort novelist H.P. Lovecraft’s famous title.
Digital colour hovers on—or near—the retina, like mist on a lake.
A painter might normally have used an arsenal of maybe a dozen squeezings of pigment on his palette, from which he could then mix hundreds of hues and tints.
Just for fun, the other day, I queried the computer about how many digital colours there could actually be…
Millions of colors are pretty much what’s accepted for a monitor’s colors to look “true” to the human eye….
So, we have a general idea of how many “colors” we can distinguish or at least see in a computer screen.
This runaway abundance of colour… is the vastest palette in the world, and you can imagine Alex Livingston seated at his computer (the screen is just another window), dialing up instead of mixing, pursuing, selecting, modifying, amplifying, mediating his choices of shape and hue and density and saturation—it’s all rather Jackson Pollock-esque, is it not?
Alex Livingston’s exhibition is available for viewing at Studio 21 until 29 MAR. A couple of his pieces from his series will also be hanging at Papier 2017. Otherwise his exhibition is available online.