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Research: Artists who leave a trace of digital

With my interest in analogue art outcomes that give a trace of a digital source it was valuable to bring together artists who have previously done this. This research focussed on finding artists that achieve this in different mediums.

Timur Zagirov created the wooden sculpture below. The crudeness of this analogue ‘bitmap’ is appealing as it gives just enough detail to give away the original image source but not enough for detail to be discernible. The angular wood cuts and shadows cleverly offer infinite colour variety within a limited palette. I find myself searching for Van Gogh’s face in the image more so than when looking at the original painting. For me this work epitomises the artist’s aim of stripping away detail to make what remains more significant. There is a combination of harsh edges and soft colours which I think contrast very effectively. We can see the palette of the artist laid out in a grid before us. I enjoy this work as it confuses me as to why I can fill in the gaps of a crude analogue bitmap to make a realistic image of the painter.

Van Gogh portrait by Timur Zagirov, 2019

Nick Smith painstakingly creates hand made classic works from colour swatches and text. In a similar way to Zagirov above but in 2D, these works replicate famous paintings in a contemporary fashion.

When we look at the art of Zagirov and Smith we have to ask why their art works in our contemporary world? Is it the retro digital aesthetic they both use? Is it that the viewer has to ‘do some work’? I think it is both of these, plus the fact that what they create is strikingly beautiful. They both play with colour in its simplest form and create something new from squares of pigment.

Mona Lisa portrait by Nick Smith

Ana Martins (also known as Aheneah) explores the combination of digital and analogue processes to create her art, including cross-stitch street art. Martins creates her own unique work, not referencing classic paintings, and they are large figurative depictions out in the urban environment. I enjoy how the view from a distance is soft and details blend together but close up reveals harsh screws and tied thread and all detail is lost.

Ana Martins


All of these artists require us to stand at a distance to appreciate the work and see the embedded forms. Close up viewing reveals something very different – the nuts and bolts of construction, the colour swatches or the grain of wood. This is a parallel to viewing a crude digital image, in that as we zoom in to a screen we get the same experience of a deterioration in resolution until all definition is lost.

This concept has made me think whether I have the opportunity to create different levels of meaning using the technique these artists are showing us. Close inspection of my work might show one thing but a distant view may reveal something very different. I could play with different periods of time, different sides of a relationship or different emotions. To combine these two competing elements into a single outcome would be very interesting to explore.

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