If you look art history and how it is dealing with paintings, you can perceive that the main topic is always the subject painted on canvas: From Giotto to today. Paintings has dealt with physical subject, dealt with sometimes narration or no narration, and has interacted with other media like photography or with just its materiality and iconology...
For artist from my generation, we grew up with video games and computers. The first iconology I perceived were icons from interface and software. The screen has defined a new window and has killed the camera obscura. The screen is not reflecting and difracting the light like pigment but is generating electronic light. So today how to paint something ? The skill doesn't matter. The main topic is to paint something that nobody painted before you (Miltos Manetas (1)). And in my case, I would like to add: to paint something by defining a new iconoly (painting semiology)...
Some peoples from my art public were surprised on 1998 to see that a conceptual artist like me who was one of the first to use internet media on 1994, 4 years later during the time when Net Art was really the most successfull art practice, is taking brush to produce images on canvas !
I would say that I always perceived internet as a dynamic process, a network space where nothing may be freezed. Internet is dealing with new concept of time and space, and is defining on another way human identity and phenomenolgy. Net art is a process.This media has evolved from 1998 until today to a huge market where we cannot find any TAZ (Hakim Bey (2)) like on 1994 when net art was conceived! The web and internet is today a space where branding icons are bringing a new kind of consumerism (the hyperconsumerism) where also language may be commercialized ("google adwords", C. Bruno (3)) , a new kind of 'pop' with its visual signs, logo, VIP and so on, so on...
Like Vuk Cosik (the father of net art) is saying, NET ART IS DEAD ! (4) it is dead because the context where net art was produced doesn't exist anymore...
But on the other I still think that some art form would and will be produced in interactions with Internet, but we cannot call it 'net art' anymore ! I do and I will also...
But at the same time I decided to jump into the most 'prestigious', 'serious', 'outdated' and 'unpolitically correct' media on an ironical way: 'Paintings' ! Many artist came from paintings to net art by using on the screen the paintings iconology and metaphor (5), in my case I felt clearly that the only thing to do was to reverse the process:
How should be paintings during internet time ? How to use computer iconology in paintings ?
I think quite differently than some painters of my generation: I said that we should paint something which was never painted before... that is true... but painting is also a language and is not dealing with just images and subject and that's why I'm talking about iconology. I deeply think that the only way to paint a painting in our internet time should not be to paint computers objects (still life) but what computers has brought in our reality theater, to paint what computer technology has changed in our way of seeing. That's why I choosed to paint website screen, computer screen, computer codes. By doing this, I try to show that the computer iconology is changing all the time and paintings are perfect Flat Dead Things which are freezing the topics painted. The result is that the paintings produced are always reflecting dead icons: The design of the website are changing all the time, the software are changing also, and this is the same for the codes...
Otherwise, I would say that the internet screen are little bit like landscape and still life. These pictures are osbsolete, and were used so much that we cannot define anything specific, but at the same we are always fascinated by them. This is like a sunset, this is a stupid and very kitsch 'cliché', but all the time by facing this natural phenomenon we are always fascinated because a specific and undefined detail inside this phenomenon is catching us: Miltos Manetas is calling it "Neen"(6).
I will finish by saying that this is the first time in history that human is consuming language and iconology like daily products:
I defined my own way of seeing by being confronted to my generation computer iconology, but my son will get another way of seeing by being confronted to other technologies iconology.
We jumped from the 'nature' phenomenology based on nature perception to cyber-phenomenology based on technologies interactions with our perception !
We cannot talk about the interaction in between language concept and visual art without thinking about the early conceptual artist. The idea of using language concept as a visual art material was largely explorered by artist like Bernar Venet (mathematic equation), Lawrence Weiner who used in his installation sentences, Art and language who were mixing painting and language concept and so on, so on...
On the other hand at the same time, some artist have more focused about the media omnipresence in daily life in their productions : Warhol, Johns, Beuys and many others.
Also Nam June Paik was dealing with these concept in his very early video pieces. We have to know that later some of them were teaching and some student will define the next step:
Rainer Ganahl was a student of Paik and Peter Weibel...
Miltos Manetas, even he's not dealing directly with 70's concept, has focused to the early artist of this decade:
"I soon realized that I preferred watch my paintings on the web instead than look at the real thing and influenced by an Internet term, the word "mirror site", I decided that I should start doing the same thing in many different plateaux: a multipersona, that illustrates different realities and not an exceptional identity such as Andy Warhol and Beuys weres. This is not a new discovery, Borges already previewed it, and I just decided to apply it. In Borges terms, I am a "viewer" more than an "artist" (he also consider himself more than a writer a reader)." (Stefani Chiodi interview)
1- Prehistory of webpaintings:
On early 80's and 90's some artist has dealt with computer concept and screen both on visual level and conceptual level. They did it at least ten years before internet age !
First we have to think about Peter Halley who was inspired by the chipset and electronic stuff like mother board for his neo-geo abstract paintings produced at the end of the eighties.
Rainer Ganahl and Miltos Manetas have started very soon to deal with computer iconology and environment. Miltos has more dealt with the video game, the computer entertainment revolution and its iconology. Rainer Ganahl has more focused on language concept regarding computer by using the interface metaphor:
Rainer has used the guidelines metaphor* He has dealt with it at the age when France was connected to network through minitel !!! (early 80's)
For sure rainer Ganahl is according to me a crazy genius who has opened this door in visual art.
Surf on these links to see how terrific are these pieces !
-http://www.ganahl.info/magers1990.html on 1990 with catalog and reviews
1993: An important text by Rainer Ganahl: "INTERFACIAL PASSAGES 1993"
1992 view of an installation at Dalllas Art museum:
You may check also his first ever one person show only on the web at thing.net:
1992 NY - trash can and other computer items
1996: "les ateliers" in Marseille, France
Kwangju Biennial, Korea, 1997 commissioned by Harald Szeemann
Without Rainer Ganahl, the idea of using computer iconology directly in visual art would never emerge !
On 1995 another artist called Philip Pocock has printed out a whole website for 'photography after photography' show. On 1996 he did an email reading performance in Berlin with email slide show.
At this time, the web interface has not emerged. We can see that these previous work were so closed to webpaintings concept for one simple reason: both of them are dealing with interface iconology. But the web interface is just the son of the computer operating system interface. I have to say if you are just focusing about this point,you are missing another point. Because webpaintings are also dealing with painting iconology and not only computer interface...
- J.C Licklider 1905 -1990 was one of the founder of the internet ancestor called arpanet. He has invented the concept of visual interface for computers. Engelbart has conceived on 1964 the first computer mouse to interact with the computer, Licklider got the idea to use it to interact with his visual interface. He did this great job on early seventies. At the Begining of the eighties he got in the Xerox parc the visit of two major personalities in computer industry: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. We can say today that without Licklider 'windows' software would never exist, and the mac interface would never exist also. By conceiving this kind of interaction with computer on visual level with visual interface and mouse he has defined the concept of "HMI": Human and machine interaction. The visual interface conceived by Licklider to interact with computer program has brought the concept of what we call today 'guidelines':
For example the main guidelines in Apple system is the apple icon.
The icons abd menu in windows software are also guidelines. They help the computer interactor to navigate in the software.
Webpaintings project has started on 1998. It is copied worldwilde. It has influenced various international artist !
I am very pleased to see that this idea and concept are starting a new kind of revolution in artworld worldwilde:
First I was directly influenced by the great german artist Blank and Jeron who did 'dumb your trash" on 1997:
They are making sculptures on marble from webpages:
Second I was influenced by the great greek artist Miltos Manetas with his computer and wires paintings:
1997, Alexeï Shulgin, a russian artist conceived a project called "desktop": everybody has to make a snapshot of their desktop on their personnal computer and sent it to to this website as a photo. I like this project because this is not painting, this is not off line art, but it is defining computer iconolgy as a personnal landscape:
So I started on december 1997 - january 1998 the "Pump your page" project in Paris:
and the same year I initiated the "webpaintings" project in Japan and California (San Francisco):
George Pusenkoff, since 1998 has made also webpaintings (carylic on canvas):
He's showing in the same gallery than Philip Pockok in Cologne: galerie Brigitte Schenk...
On 1999 Carlo Zanni sent me an email to show me his great paintings dealing with famous software logo, icons (adobe, mp3...). He started to produce them at the begining of 1999:
On 1999 Ola Pehrson did a terrific installation, one of my favourite called "Desktop":
This installation is confronting computer icons as sculptures, the screen backgroung as a wall painting. Physical space and virtuality are confronted by streaming on real time through a webcam a view of this installtion: on the screen a new windows 95 screen is appearing !
In Russia a painter and stage designer friend of Olia Lialina called Masha Boriskina painted http://www.rhizome.org screen on paper with pencil and gouache (2000): A terrific drawing.
Then on 2001 after the big and crazy emergence of google, I perceived it as the perfect new internet icon and I produced in Miltos Manetas place (electronic orphanage) in Los Angeles the "google painting" (september 2001):
Shown in Paris France then in Artsonje center in Seoul and Gwangjyu ("less ordinary" show) on 2002 in south Korea.
On 2003, this painting was shown in paris and then on may 2004 was sold in a prestigious auction house in Paris France called Tajan to a private collector at a very good price (not cheap but expensive !)
On 2002 the british artist Thomson and Craighead produced an e-bizness:
dealing with 'off line' net art pieces: one of them is "google tea towels" which is a best seller:
I have bought all the four for my personnal collection, this is really one of the best webpaintings I have ever seen !!!
Still on 2002 Miltos Manetas has done a great and amazing project called "internet paintings":
On 2003 exonemo (japanese group based in Tokyo) has produced a project called "Natural process flow" by mixing and copying two pieces of two artist:
"Desktop" 1999 by Ola Pehrson, and "Google paintings" by me:
"Natural process flow": http://www.exonemo.com/NP/indexE.html
shown on begining 2004 at Mori Art Museum and sold to google on May 2004 very cheap and they are proud of it.
On 2004 i initiated the "nomemory bazaar" project:
A new pop has emerged with famous website screens and logos. They are today painted on canvas: So I decided to produce common objects dealing with this iconography (unlimited edition).
We can see that through this time line a great revolution is starting and may be subject of a terrific collective show including all of these artists with a great catalog !
Valéry Grancher July 2004