Contemporary Art Issues: Digital Art in Malaysia Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:06:56
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Digital art started around 1952 in US when Ben F. Laposky produced Oscillon Number Four. Artist always eager to produce something that beyond limitation of technology and mostly, artist at that time is computer programmer because no graphic software was available at that time. Herbert W. Franke, John Withney Sr. and Ben F. Laposky are one of the pioneers in digital art. Ben Laposky has created first graphic image generated by an analog machine. A mathematician and artist from Iowa, he produced this image by using manipulated electronic beam display across the fluorescent face of an oscilloscopes cathode-ray tube and then recorded onto high-speed film.

Malaysia Era of Digital Art

Digital art in Malaysia started in 1980s when Dr. Kamarudzaman Md Isa produce a self potrait artwork tittled Self potrait (1984) using BASIC Language programming. Then Ismail Zain appeared with Al Rumi, Happy Birthday, Mr Parameswara and Alkesah. He used to be recognized by his composition drawing example DOT: Detribalization of Tam binti Che Tom (1986).

The first exhibition of electronic art were held in National Art Gallery in 1997 curated by Hasnol J Saidin and Niranjan Rajah to introduced digital art which create public awareness about digital art development and impact towards art in this revolution and information era. Today, digital art is not only for programmer but also for illustrator, graphic designer and multimedia, thanks to development of graphic softwares.

Issue Discussed

Issues of discussion here is about perception of society towards digital art which is the art of computer; is digital art, art? This is a very interesting subject as society still underestimates of digital art as easy to produce and have less authentic and aesthetic value. As people always think that Figure 1 is a painting, hence it is produce using computer software and added a hand touch as finishing. It is clearly stated that value of art would be more appreciate by its audience if it been produced using the traditional method which is hand-painting.

Digital art or computer art been question due to originality, authentication, ownership, tangibility and longevity of the artwork. Do these factors make a big difference towards art that produce by computer? Cited from Davis; 341, We still bid wildly at auctions and employ armies of scholars to find the original, the authentic masterpiece.[1] But Beardsley; 232 proposed that artwork is something produced with intention of giving it the capacity to satisfy the aesthetic interest. This statement proves that every artwork that contains aesthetic interest is art.

The only difference is computer act as tools to ease artist in produce their artwork. Popper; 78 says that For some artists the computer is only a design tool. For other it is means of fabrication; and for yet others, the computer is used because it possesses capabilities analogous to human intellectual processes and may even be considered as a creative entity in its own right.[2] Still, audience uplifts the romanticism value towards giving art appreciation in produced artworks. As computer actually could preserve the artwork, authentic value been question by audience shows that rejection of the idea to modernize the art culture.

Focus of Discussion

We are discussing about digital art which carry futuristic and high technology characteristic in design. Combination of photography and art in digital art produce surrealism and realistic identity. Image manipulation was popular back in early of digital art begin and very graphic. Hence, it develops to become more artistic in order to challenge computer program in creating something new.

The acceptance of digital artwork is very invaluable on Malaysia due to our audience which more towards conventional art. Dr. Kamarudzaman propose that romantic value syndrome still appears in local audience perspective. Would you buy a projected image on the wall? The answer would be no and this show that we still need frame in order to appreciate artwork value.

How does computer art works? The formula would be input, computer system as tools and output as final artwork. Digital art also being define as art in which information is translated for use by computer. Computer art not only broaden the border of art by reach over limitation, but cited from Molnar it also can encourage the mind to work in new ways (Popper: 80). Thus, it is up to audience to decide does digital art contain the same value as conventional art. Even though the difference is only usage of tools, but impact and acceptance of digital art in Malaysia is still far away from society acceptance.

Area of Interest

First digital artwork which produces by Dr. Kamarudzaman shows that digital art is very interesting in creating and manipulate ordinary images and make it as work of art. Limitation of computer ability is a challenge for artist to create something beyond. For example commodore 64 only available with 64k memory, and attach to television for image display. Some of artist like Ismail Zain, Hasnul J Saidon and Niranjan Rajah are mostly interested in digital art. Hasnul J Saidon still active giving lectures and doing research in new media art scene in South East Asia region. But mostly artist in US are more advance in usage of computer to generate artwork.

Example, artist like Boreham (1974) has made use of electronic media in creating synthesized sound for his electro-acoustic composition, as well as computer technology in his graphic work, in such way that the audience is stimulated to go beyond the simple results exhibited and imagines new possibilities, both technical and artistic. The work like Roger Coquart, Jeremy Gardiner, Kammerer-Luka, Joan Truckenbrod, Margot Lovejoy, Jean-Pierre Yvaral and John Pearson also fits into fixed computer works on traditional supports.

Analysis of Artwork

Artwork of Hasnul J Saidon Kdek! Kdek! Ong display an image of frog and tempurung is one of sinical idea to tell audience that information and tecnology should not be abandone. Even though art is about originality, digital art also have the same identity that not differenciate digital and conventional art. Combination of computer and conventional artwork is very attractive yet delivers the message very clearly. Usage of mixing red, green and blue colour in this artwork shows the feeling of anxiety and unclearly thoughts which is very primary and leads to rejection of new idea and technology. Tempurung were design as a platform to represent the society and their idea still on the bottom, no progress happen where as the frog in the screen (which already accepting the new idea) is already out of tempurung and stay on the top of the rest.


Conclusion can be made through observation and it show that lack of knowledge, rejection of new idea and romantic value are still the main point of audience in Malaysia did not accepting digital art as an art with value. We still insist the conservative way of art in order to give value of an artwork. Hence photography and video is accepted as an art, digital art is still create their succes in another platform like broadcasting or film but not in art community itself.

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