Technology is driving changes in artmaking and imagery

Words: Crush

Today’s artists are reaching for 3D printers, drones and VR headsets, in the same way they reach for paint brushes or clay. Technology is helping artists realise their creations and express their ideas in ways that weren’t previously possible. The majority of artworks that will show at the upcoming Investec Cape Town Art Fair, which will take place from 17-19 February at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), will appear to be made from traditional art materials – paint on canvas, and bronze-cast sculptures. However, the increasing tentacles of technology have crept into all forms of art production. Many painters and sculptors mimic digital aesthetics in their works, while others employ technology to add a digital quality to their paintings.

Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Mathias Hornung (Anna Laudel), Palm 2019, printing block offset ink construction board, 234x250x2cm

Artists Nandipha Mntambo, Zanele Muholi and Natalie Paneng (a rising digital artist), have all employed 3D printing technology in their sculptural or installation works. In pursuit of generating works with a flawless digital aesthetic, painters such as Thenjiwe Nkosi, Andrzej Urbanski and Jozua Gerrard are finding ways of mimicking digitised imagery. The 2023 Investec Cape Town Art Fair, produced by Fiera Milano Exhibitions Africa, will also exhibit works by German-based artists, Mathius Hornung, and Martin Gross – both artists create art with a digital veneer using a traditional wood-cut printing process.

“We are keen on presenting a diversity of perspectives at the Art Fair. It is interesting to observe how artists from South Africa and other parts of the world are responding to digital tools and influences in their art making. This makes for a fair that is in tune with the times that we live in,” says Laura Vincenti, director of Investec Cape Town Art Fair.

Sculpting a new way forward

The capabilities of 3D printing technology are evolving the production of sculptures, reducing the time it takes to produce them, replicating any desired form faithfully and allowing artists to increase the scale of their works in unprecedented ways. South African artist, Nandipha Mntambo, represented by Everard Read, has embraced 3D printing in the production of her sculpture works.

Investec Cape Town Art Fair
Everard Read, Nandipha Mntambo, La Luna I, 2022, mixed Media on canvas, 220 x 125 cm, photo by Michael Hal

“What would have taken me eight months to do I can now do in two,” says Mntambo. Creating sculptures in her likeness demanded approximately a day of scanning her body with a tool dubbed a ‘wand’. Her body is scanned in sections before being ‘pieced together’ digitally by a technician. The result is an accurate duplication of the intended subject. “You are making a copy in the most exact way. This allows you to bridge the gap between what you see and how it is captured,” says Mntambo.

The technology has also allowed her to create much larger sculptures as she can scale-up the composition. “For the first time I could create a work the size of a house,” says Mntambo.

Zanele Muholi – represented by Stevenson and recently hailed as one of the world’s most influential art players in Art Review Power 100 list – has also incorporated 3D printing technology in the production of sculptures in their likeness; one of which featured at the Art Basel Miami.

Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Natalie Paneng, represented by Gallerie EIGEN + ART, who will present the installation work dubbed ‘Ke Thlogo h’ at Investec Cape Town Art Fair, pegs herself as a digital artist.

Not surprisingly, she has also employed 3D printing in the creation of many of the domestic kitchen elements that define her installation work. One of the objects in her tableau will include perspex clocks created via digital collage and digital fabrication processes.

New AI software and programmes have made it possible for anyone to generate digital images using text prompts. The technology is in its infancy, the results are mixed and rely on existing images generated by artists and illustrators. No doubt, professional artists could use it to test ideas before they put paint to canvas.

A different coat of paint

The production of paintings have also been impacted by technology. South African-born American-based painter, Thenjiwe Nkosi, represented by Stevenson, is known for her clean minimalist paintings in which she distils the characteristics of the black gymnasts and the settings they inhabit. This aesthetic relies on digital interventions. She has openly spoken about the way she uses Photoshop in her artmaking by scanning paintings reworking them and then reproducing the result on the canvas.

Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Jozua Gerrard’s works for Southern Guild are made using enamel on glass to lend his works a digital aesthetic. This is further reinforced via the internet as his source of inspiration, but also due to him viewing his ‘iPad as his studio’. “I use the programme Procreate. I like my works to look flat like screens.”

Investec Cape Town Art Fair
Investec Cape Town Art Fair
Left: Jozua Gerrard, Jazz Lounging, 2022, for Southern Guild | Right: Jozua Gerrard, ComingDown, 2022 for Southern Guild

Represented by Everard Read, the Polish-born and Cape Town based artist, Andrzej Urbanski says, “I want to make something that is 100% man-made but looks 100% machine made”. The complex and intricate geometry of the compositions of Urbanski’s paintings, which appear to deny the intervention of a human hand, are created using spray-paint. This unexpected medium assists in creating the flawless surfaces of his paintings.

Digital art made with wood

Berlin based-Mathias Hornung, represented by Anna Laudel from Turkey, works with wood but from afar, his sculptural works appear to be digitally generated. This is due to the patterns Hornung cuts into the surfaces of the planks he fuses together. Remarkably, Hornung doesn’t plot these compositions digitally – he works intuitively and gradually builds the design day-by-day.

3D Printing technology in art
3D Printing technology in art
Left: Mathias Hornung (Anna Laudel), Digital Deep Blue 3, 2022, wooden relief offset ink, birch layer board, 150x150x10cm | Right: Mathias Hornung (Anna Laudel), Pyramide, 2017, sculpture disp paint construction board, 240 x 100 x 100 cm

“People can’t believe they are made from wood or by hand when I tell them. They are convinced that a machine has made the works and that they are made from artificial materials like plastic or steel,” says Hornung. Having worked with woodcuts in the printing process was a natural evolution of his practice as an artist.

3D Printing technology in art
Left: Martin Groß, Crackling Air, 2022, oil pastel on paper, 60 x 50 cm, Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin, photo: | Right: Martin Groß, Giddy All Over, 2022, oil pastel on paper, 60 x 50 cm, Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin, photo:

The same could be said of Martin Gross, another German-based artist with an affinity for woodcut printing, who will show his digital inspired works at the Art Fair. Represented by Eigen + Art Gallery, he employs this traditional technique to create what are dubbed ‘contemporary Rorschachs’ – organic images that appear to be digitally derived.

“Gross makes us constantly recalibrate our perspective, like looking at the viewfinder of a military drone through a smashed smartphone screen.”

Unlike Hornung, he marries traditional drawing and wood-cut printing techniques with digital tools to arrive at his distinctive imagery, which is often translated into large-scale wallpaper installations, allowing viewers to step into an immersive digital experience.

Investec Cape Town Art Fair details:

  • The 10th Investec Cape Town Art Fair will run from 17-19 February at the Cape Town International Conference Centre from 11h00 to 19h00.
  • Tickets can be purchased via Webtickets.

For more information about the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, visit the links below. | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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