The following essay was adapted from a dissertation written, and graciously made available to MOCA, by Mamta B. Herland. It has been slightly edited and abridged by MOCA. The writer is also a serious digital artist, and her work may be viewed on the MOCA site at:
The Impact of Giclée
A shift towards digital print in future art
Mamata B. Herland
BA (Hons) Fine Art
February 3, 2003
The intention in this dissertation is to investigate the impact of Giclée and the emerging inkjet print technology. The impact it has made on number of artists worldwide is discussed based on direct responses from artists, museums and other relevant sources. Adaptation of digital technology by artists challenges conventional conceptions and assumptions about work of art, re-questions the qualities of art, the concept of originality and acceptance in the art world.
From the technical and theoretical research on these issues, this dissertation further investigates and discusses the shift that is taking place, not only from conventional print techniques to digital methods, being able to create prints of technical quality at least comparable to traditional prints, but also to the future of art in a digital world, with particular references to the Internet. The digitised image can be 'synthesised' with other images created by use of traditional methods. Artists are collaborating with other geographically separated artists and artworks are presented and sold on the World Wide Web. Use of digital technology to create art can influence the artist's ideas, attitude and perception, resulting in possibilities for a change of the content, form and context of the artwork.
Internationally known artists like David Hockney and Richard Hamilton use digital print technology, and digital prints are exhibited at well-reputed museums.
Giclée and digital ink jet is a relatively new subject with little relevant literature available. Much of the content of this dissertation has therefore been developed based on responses to numerous letters, emails and questionnaires that were sent during summer and autumn 2002. I would therefore like to thank all the artists, curators, print studios, authors, magazine editors, commercial companies, art school lecturers and professors who took the time to respond and show interest. Without their invaluable contributions this dissertation would not have been possible.
I would also like to thank my husband, Geir Herland, for all his support and encouragement.
Mamata B. Herland
Giclée and digital ink jet is little more than a decade old as a Fine Art print technology. The increasing number of applications made by artists in the last few years clearly demonstrates an impact on printmaking, photography and painting, resulting in an evolution of new ideas. As a consequence, there is a shift from the conventional techniques towards creation of concept-led digital art.
To be able to establish a discussion on the shift towards digital print, it was necessary to research whether this process has been accepted by leading museums and galleries. To witness such development, I made number of visits to leading galleries and museums in London exhibiting works using inkjet print technology. Based on the knowledge I gathered sets of questionnaires were prepared. One type of questions were sent to selected artists, another set of questions to museums and galleries and a third set to printing studios and suppliers. Other sources responded, including authors, professors, lecturers and magazine editors, mainly in UK and USA, sending useful information and referring to further supporting study materials. Around two hundred and eighty letters and emails were sent during summer/autumn 2002, and around eighty of them responded. Without theInternet and the World Wide Web I could not have done extensive research on this particular subject area.
In chapter 2 the Giclée process is described with a proposed definition of Giclée and Digital ink jet. How to ensure permanence and longevity of digital prints are also discussed.
It is stated that digital technology has led to a blurring of the conventionally accepted distinctions within printmaking. Creating art of 'synthesis' is possible by integrating print, painting and photography, as well as other art forms. Such creative impact of digital print and technology is discussed in chapter 3. Whether a digital ink jet on canvas should be regarded as a painting is also included in the discussion.
In chapter 4 issues regarding originality and authenticity are discussed in relation to Walter Benjamin's essay 'The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction'. It is argued that with digital art there is no physical original. Digital artworks might be seen as the ultimate reproducible art on the threshold of real democratised art. Internet and the World Wide Web are also having an impact on these issues.
Digital technology offers artists broader possibilities and greater control and freedom to create, output, exhibit and market their works. Indicators of a shift towards digital print in future art are discussed in chapter 5, and the scepticism regarding Giclée and digital ink jet has gradually diminished.
Chapter 6 concludes that Giclée and digital ink jet have a significant impact on Fine Art. The content, form and context of an artwork can now be broadened and diversified by the new creative possibilities offered by digital technology.
2. Giclée and Digital ink jet
A Giclée or a Digital ink jet is an artwork created by the use of a computer and a high-quality digital inkjet printer. Images created on, or copied to, a computer, are sent as data information to an electronic printer. The printer software translates the data into electrical impulses that are fed through the printer heads, releasing tiny amounts of ink onto a variety of media, resulting in images with a rich and vibrant colour.
Artists have been employing computers to generate and manipulate images since the early 1980's. Computers were used by several artists, among others Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Sidney Nolan, who experimented with the 'Quantel Paintbox' for a 1987 BBC 2 TV series entitled Painting with Light. In 1998 Richard Hamilton wrote:
Computers appear to offer as dramatic a challenge as that issued by photography 100 years ago. … It became evident very soon after their introduction that there was a hard-copy problem.
Commercial print companies saw an interesting market within the art segment. Entrepreneurial artists and print studios like Cone Editions, USA, were involved in the development, and the Iris printer was the first digital printer introduced for Fine Art, thereof the term 'Iris print'. Paul Jackson, being one of the first artists who employed Iris print technology states his reason:
I was in search of a better quality of print for my watercolour than offset printing. The Iris printer offered richer print quality, more lightfast inks, and the ability to print low quantity on demand.
The Iris printer was an answer to Hamilton's hard copy problem. The vibrant rich colours were appealing, but the dye-based ink of the Iris printer had no long-lasting, archival quality and therefore led to scepticism towards work of art produced by the digital process. In 1996 David Hockney wrote:
It seems to me to be the most beautiful printing of photography I have seen. The colour on the paper seems almost physical. The surface of the paper itself is beautiful. My reply therefore to how permanent the colour is; is that colour is fugitive in life, like it is in pictures, indeed colour is the most fugitive element in all pictures, a great deal more than line. Dimming down the light immediately alters colour. It does not alter line. Enjoy the moment. The piece of paper is beautiful it will slowly change like everything else. What's the point of an ugly piece of paper that will last forever?
Dorothy Simpson Krause has the computer as her primary art-making tool, and she has used inkjet, thermal, laser, lightjet, dye sublimation and dot matrix printing techniques to take her images from the screen to a fixed form, and she states:
The inkjet printer is currently the most versatile, cost-effective method of outputting digital prints.
2.2 Digital Printing
A personal computer, either on an IBM compatible platform or an Apple Mac, including a monitor and a mouse or pencil is required in the digital printing process. Software applications like Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter are used to work with the images, another set of software controls the printing process and the RIP (Raster Image Processor) is used to organise the images. The image input devices are a scanner, digital camera or a Photo-CD. Normally the user would also be connected to the Internet and the World Wide Web.The scanned image can be digitally manipulated and in many cases the artist co-operates with the printmaker to crop, size, adjust or manipulate all or selective parts of an image. To ensure quality, the image resolution, measured in dots per inch (d.p.i.), needs to be considered, since it affects the system's ability to create fine details. File size is important when it comes to calculating how large the final print can be.
Before printing an image, the hardware devices need to be calibrated to ensure colour matching. When data is transferred between different hardware devices, software application and printers, colour change is inevitable since they use different colour ranges. The monitor uses RGB (Red, Green and Blue) as the primary colours and is an 'additive' system. Printers, however, use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) that subtracts certain frequencies of light and reflects others. The conversion from RGB to CMYK is extremely difficult since CMYK has a smaller colour gamut. If the image is transferred from one platform to another, as when the artist is transferring the image to a print studio, the problem increases. There are software programs helping to reduce the colour management problem, but still manually evaluating and correcting proofs by the artist is crucial before accepting the BAT (Bon à Tirer) proof and printing the edition.
Artists' choice of substrates depends on their idea and intention for the final output. Substrates that are commonly available are different types of papers e.g. photo-glossy, matte or many types of watercolour papers and different types of canvas. Paper and canvas can also be found coated and uncoated, and more or less waterproof. Other substrates available are vinyl, leather, film, banners, plastic and etched aluminium plates. However, not all substrates can be used with any kind of ink. The ink reacts to various coatings and chemicals. For example, dye-based ink works best on glossy and uncoated substrates, while pigment-based inks work best on coated substrates. Dye based inks have bright vivid colours, but are likely to fade and are not waterproof. Pigment based inks are less vivid, though rich and earthy, and are often more waterproof and more permanent. The Iris printer, for example, can only use dye-based inks in contrast to the ColorSpan Displaymaker Mach 12, which can have both dye and pigment based inks. Today there are number of manufacturers like Epson, Hewlett Packard, Roland, Mimaki, and ColorSpan with Giclée print quality. They all have, however, their benefits and drawbacks, e.g. ColorSpan Mach 12 can have 12 different inks including the original 4 CMYK colours. Other printers have 6 or 8 colours, and some have 4 different variations of black. Different printers more or less have problems with banding (a horizontal path on the image), metamerism (when colours change relative to one another under different light sources) and continuous tone (smooth tonal transitions).
To achieve the artist's intentions it is crucial to understand the possibilities and limitations of substrates, inks and printers, not least how they all interact with each other. The interaction of these factors are even more important regarding the longevity of the prints with a ratio of 20:1, meaning that the difference in light fading between the longest lasting ink-substrate combination and the least stable combination is 20 years. Testing the combination of ink, substrate and printer using the 'Blue Wool Scale' method, accredited British Standard (BS1006) and adopted as International Standard (ISO), the Fine Art Trade Guild reports that the latest test results show life expectancy rates of 100 to 200 years for some Giclée prints. When printed on good quality heavyweight art paper the print should possess archival standards of permanence or better than other collectable artwork. Protecting the print from UV-light, humidity and acid-free materials helps to preserve the print. However, artwork deteriorates over time. When questioned if Tate Modern experienced any problems with colour fading or effects of moisture and temperature, they replied:
Yes - all these things but no more than happens with other media - both printed and painted/drawn. As with any process or technique if the materials are carefully chosen for durability then this can be achieved. Of course some artists do not always wish durability.
Conservation plays an important role in preserving digital prints. The Museum of Modern Art, NY, explains that:
At the Museum, we have not experienced any conservation problems with ink jet prints, but this is because we store all of our works in climate controlled areas and we do not generally keep works on paper on view for more than a few months at a time.
The word Giclée (pronounced 'zhee-clay') was coined in 1991 by Jack Duganne, then working at Nash Editions. The word is derived from the French word 'gicleur' meaning 'nozzle' and 'gicler' which is the verb 'to spray', meaning spraying nozzle or the spraying of ink. The main intention was to distinguish Fine Art prints form those created for commercial purposes, very much the same reason as 'serigraph' was coined earlier. Today different terminology is used to address work printed by digital technology. In Summer Exhibition 2002, at Royal Academy of Art, Jennifer Dickson used the term 'Giclée print' on her Petal Screen, Milton Lodge. However, using the same technology, William Alsop, Goldsmiths Two and Edward Cullinan, Plan of Turner Gallery, Margate both used the term 'Digital print'.
Dorothy Simpson Krause defines Giclée
as reproductions of work done originally in another medium. I make inkjet prints of original digital art.
Mr. Maklansky, assistant director at New Orleans Museum of Modern Art urges that the term Giclée should not be used, and Stephen Goddard informs us that 'the curatorial world is likely to use the term 'inkjet print''.
Nash Editions states that:
We do not support the use of the term 'Giclée' to represent anything other than reproductions created for the 'decorative' art market. Most credible museums utilise the term 'digital ink-jet'.
To have a consistent terminology I suggest that the term 'Giclée' should be applied to reproductions of artwork originally created by the use of another medium, and 'Digital ink jet' for artworks intended for, and finally created by the use of a computer and digital print technology.
Giclée and digital ink jet is a high quality inkjet print technology that requires the use of a computer, and demands new skills and knowledge on the part of artists and print studios. The process is less labour intensive then traditional techniques allowing more time for the artist to be creative, and make images that are as visually and aesthetically stunning as those produced by any other medium.
The quality of the final print depends on the artist's ability to combine the interactive elements where the
final result is a combination of the original file or scan, printing machine, ink, substrate and protective top-coat. There are multiple combinations that give good results, but also many that do not work. To get the best results, one must experiment and test many combinations. A failure in any one area will cause the final product to likewise fail.
The Fine Art Trade Guild confirms archival standard when using the right combination.
3. The impact of Giclée
This chapter will discuss the digital impact on printmaking, photography and painting, as well as show how computers and inkjet adds to the artist's possibilities, not replacing old methods.
For artists willing to experiment outside traditional printmaking techniques, digital printmaking is another possibility for creative expression. 'As a relatively new printmaking process its still very exciting in terms of experimentation.'
Printmaking has always been closely linked to technological development, since it is between the hand-made and mechanical reproduction, between the creative and the technical process, between art for its own sake and commercial possibilities. With digital printmaking the link to technology has become even stronger. Professional printmaking studios like Cone Editions Press and Nash Editions have collaborated with internationally well-known artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine and Helena Chappelin Wilson. The artist's physical presence at the print studio is, however, no longer required since it is now possible to e-mail the image, discuss with the printmaker using Internett and posting the proofs to be evaluated and approved.
The emerging practices in digital print technology are leading to a 'synthesis' of art, making it possible to include a painting, drawing or photography into a print and allowing for further manipulation. The cultural shift this represents may blur, remove, or even reinforce boundaries commonly associated with the activity of printmaking. Digital printmaking offers the possibility of generating radically new physical, aesthetic and conceptual frameworks and process routes within printmaking.
It can be argued that the appeal of the traditional prints is partly based on the techniques themselves, and with digital technology there are no physical objects manipulated by the actual hand of the artist or printmaker. According to this argument a Giclée or digital ink jet cannot therefore be called a 'fine art print'. The definition of 'original' print, as defined in the 1960's, also emphasis the importance of the manual involvement in making the print. Digital technology however, does not only give exciting new possibilities, but it is also less labour intensive then traditional techniques, giving the artist more time for creative work. I would therefore argue that digital technology allows for a transfer, 'from the artist's hand to the artist's mind', and that it is the artist's vision and quality of the art work that would define it as Fine Art.
Photography and the subsequent development of the halftone, as developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, enabled the development of cheaper printing through photomechanical processes. Fine Art printmaking became more diversified as new techniques were introduced and accepted, and this development has continued with inkjet.
Ink jet certainly has re-inforced the link between traditional fine art printmaking and art photography to a point where the two blend.
The photographic origin of many of the digital prints reflects the high level of interest amongst photographers in Giclée processes being used to work in the darkroom and manipulate their images. In the early 1960's Jerry N. Uelsmann created techniques for seamlessly blending photographic images in the darkroom, and the same effects can now be achieved by using Photoshop. However, the extraordinary control digital methods offers far surpass traditional darkroom techniques for negative and print manipulation. Scanned photographs can be edited, partly masked, transformed, collaged, layered or otherwise combined.
Another advantage with digital technique is the possibility of enlarging photo negatives, eliminating problems with dust spots, loss of information in translation through two generations of film images or difficulty in controlling the contrast and density range of the final negative.
With inkjet printing, the image forming process and the paper it is printed on are, for the first time, functionally separated. Photographers are now able to make prints on virtually any absorbent material in variable sizes that can be fed through the printer.
Some viewers expect a photograph to be a direct representation of an object or event. Is it still a photograph when it is manipulated, either in the darkroom or by the use of a computer? John Isaac claims:
It is a photograph and some times it is manipulated to look like a water colour or an oil painting. But it is photography. I also do not like to label everything as to journalistic, art, or any other name for my work. It is basically photography and whether someone likes it or not, that's what matters. No need to label it into categories.
In my view the artist's intention is the major issue to whether an artwork is a photograph or not. As Stephen Shore says: 'I regard what I do as 'art', and don't draw a distinction between photography and painting.
Digital painting applications, for example Corel Painter and Pixel Paint Pro make it possible to use a mouse or a stylus for freehand drawing and painting. A program like Painter is designed to reproduce, in great detail, effects associated with natural media such as watercolour, pastels, pencil and charcoal. With the proper surface treatment, it is possible to paint with oil or acrylic on top of the printed image to produce a new individual 'mixed media' piece - a digital painting as Dorothy Simpson Krause calls it. Helen Golden often alters the printed surface with traditional media like acrylic paint or coloured pencils, and calls her 'hybrid creative product mixed media 'tradigital' work'.
A painting, formerly unique and one of a kind, can now be reproduced by using digital print and then the digitised painting can be exhibited on a virtual web-gallery, opening up a broader audience and market for the artist.
In his coming book 'Painting and the Digital Adventure' James Faure-Walker describes the immense possibilities of digital technology:
This marvellous technology must change the way we think about painting. So much more becomes possible in the control of colour, in the manipulation of forms, the incorporation of photos, and so on….. Unlike its physical counterpart the digital image can be corrected, duplicated, stored, remastered in a different colour scheme, at a different scale, blended in with a photograph. Year by year the quality of printed output improves and the gap between 'real' colour, that is to say brushed on pigment, and 'virtual' colour (which is also pigment on watercolour paper or on canvas) narrows. So if the question was simply can this technology simulate and perhaps eventually replace 'traditional' paint media then the answer is a hesitant yes.
He further argues about
the convenience of digital painting: the hours spent preparing canvases, mixing paint, washing brushes, waiting for paint layers to dry, could be spent on the essential creative matters.
The question arises whether digital painting on canvas can be regarded as a painting?
Works by artists who employed untraditional tools, materials and methods, are still addressed as 'paintings'. If it is a painting when John Hoyland splash the paint on a canvas, Peter Blake use gloss house painting, Roy Lichtenstein use Ben Day dots and Andy Warhol use stencils, then it can be argued that artwork 'painted with pixels' using digital print technology also can be considered a 'painting'. The Museum of Modern Art would regard an inkjet print as a painting 'in the same sense that a Warhol screenprint on canvas is considered a painting'. According to Lambert, inkjet prints are also defined as a stencil process, supporting this view.
Gerard Hemsworth's opinion is:
Why not ? It would be addressed within the context of painting. Your question does not seem to me to be very important. I seem to remember a lot of fuss being made about Andy Warhol's work in the 60's being prints and not paintings. Who cares ? As long as it's an interesting work of art.
ePic Digital Technology argues that ink jet is not a painting in the traditional sense, but
is painting in the sense that the artists establishes a vision, a thought, executes the thought either manually or digitally and then that thought is transferred to canvas (digital painting if you will) and will redefine the word paint.
Kenneth A. Kerslake argues, however, that:
I could not regard just inkjet on canvas as a painting. Painting is first and foremost about paint and the painted surface. The surface of a painting has a physical presence (thick and thin paint) that lays on the surface of the canvas in a way that one feels and can enjoy or be moved by. Forms emerge from the paint in other words. I think each medium has its own characteristics that should be recognised and used, even when mixing many mediums together.
Victoria & Albert Museum seems to have a supportive view, stating that 'the process is more defining than the support', Tate Britain view is that 'painting is a human action as well as an activity' and Manchester Art Gallery 'would not accept Giclée on canvas as painting although the effect can be similar'.
When asked if John Hilliard's digital prints on canvas are about painting, Ian McKeever replied: ‘no, not really’ and that it lacks clarity of medium. John Hilliard's response is:
If he was asked whether my prints on canvas were painting, then Ian McKeever would be right in saying 'no'. If he was asked whether they
were about painting, then he would be wrong, because much of my work references painting, even though it doesn't actually use the medium. If by 'clarity of the medium' Ian means physical presence, then I would agree
with him that as a rule painting seems more presently 'there' as a medium than photography.
John Hilliard also states that 'there's no hierarchy as far as I'm concerned - just different specificity'.
In spite of variations of opinions in the discussion above, I would argue that an original digital print on canvas does not lack any more clarity of medium than screenprints or other accepted methods, and should therefore be regarded as a painting in the same manner.
Just as screenprinting became an accepted art medium in the 1960s after years of use in commercial printing, so too is digital ink jet and Giclée entering the mainstream of art. Digital technology will not replace the old media but encourage new ways of thinking and working, creating a synergy and 'synthesis' between old and new processes, opening up new areas of freedom and diversity. The challenge is to move on from the legacy of traditional process-led art to concept-led digital art creation with a broader definition of its possibilities.
Art is about ideas, not about technology. Technology gives, however, new possibilities for ideas and the medium has always been closely linked to the idea and intention of the work, never its reason for being. With digital print the link to technology has become even closer. It is less labour-intensive, allowing more time for creative art making. Photographers are now able to make prints on a greater variety of substrates, and Photoshop is replacing traditional darkroom techniques.
James Faure-Walker, in a discussion with his German gallery representative, states that:
just because an image was on canvas that didn't mean it was a painting. He asked why so, and I was shocked and dismayed to find I couldn't answer.
Painters have always used traditional and untraditional methods and tools, and their artworks are referred to as paintings. Artworks produced and presented by the new digital technology should therefore be referred to as paintings as well, in the same way as when Andy Warhol used the new screen print technique to create his paintings.
4. Original Reproductions
In the light of technological development and global communication, this chapter re-questions originality, authenticity, ownership and the concept of limited editions.
4.1 Originality and Authenticity
Debating originality is not a new discussion in the art world; copies were made by hand in early days, legitimately or as a forgery. With the advent of print making techniques using blocks, plates and stones, copying became easier. Historically, prints were a reproductive medium and not until later seen as an artistic means of expression. The development of photomechanical processes in the nineteenth century made it possible to mechanically copy works of art.
Originality and authenticity were, in the twentieth century, debated also based on other issues. Pablo Picasso copied African masks, and appropriation artist Mike Bidlo copied Picasso, with e.g. Not Picasso 1988 - originally Mother and Child (1921). Bidlo’s paintings are, however, always presented as Bidlo’s, and he argues that everything has been done and all that is left for an artist now is recycling the art of the past. Andy Warhol was also indifferent to originality in art, and his soup cans and Marchel Duchamp’s Mr. Mutt are examples of ‘ready-made’ art.
Digital technology has, however, raised the question of originality in a totally different way, since it is art designed for reproducibility. In a computer everything is represented as numbers, binary digits (zeros and ones). It can therefore be argued that the original of a digital image is the binary code, intangible and cannot be perceived until reproduced by some electronical means - like on a monitor or as a digital print.
In the essay, 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' (1936), Walter Benjamin states that 'aura' of art, based on uniqueness, scarcity and ritual, is eliminated by mechanical reproduction and mass production. Instead of being based on ritual, art begins to be based on another practice - politics. Art will become more accessible and in short, be more democratic. The 'aura' and value have, in recent years, been replaced by another ritual, the exhibition value.
Art produced by mechanical reproduction also lacks the ‘presence’ of the original work according to Benjamin. A lack of presence, it can be argued, that can partly be made up by the ability to be perceived in many places.
The Internet and the World Wide Web are blurring the concept of ‘authenticity’ and ownership. The Internet has also given geographically separated artists new ways to collaborate, e.g. Exploding Cell where a visitor to the web site could create an 'original' image by manipulating the initial image, place their own signature alongside the artist's signature and print the result. Generation/Mutation is another example, where artists all over the world were invited to choose an image, download it to their own computer, modify it as they want and return it.
The digital opportunities combined with the increasing use of Internet and the web brings art even closer to people and is even less authoritarian and more democratic than Benjamin could anticipate. Can art created by use of digital technology then be unique and keep the 'aura'? It is possible, in my view, by having the digital image transferred to a single canvas and thereafter deleting the digital file, then the art perceived on the canvas will be the only and unique object of that art work.
4.2 Limited Editions
With today's digital printing, an image with the same colour and quality can be printed on-demand, in as many 'originals' as wanted, with different size and on different substrates. Artists now have an artistic and political choice, either making the art really available to a broader audience, or make a limited edition for commercial reasons.
Digital ink jet can be used to print both single images (monoprints), editions of multiple 'originals' or open editions, without loss of quality. The 'rules' of traditional printmaking can be applied including a print documentation record containing information about the artist, the printmaker, the technique, the edition size, the file cancellation method, paper and ink used and so on. A 'Certificate of Authenticity' can accompany every print with this information. The digital print is signed by the artist, and numbering can follow the traditional rules with a 'trial proof' (TP), Bon à Tirer (BAT) proof, 'presentation proof' and a 'cancellation proof'.
Some critics argue that there is nothing stopping a digital artist and/or printmaker from making more copies before deleting the digital file. Although there are methods to prevent such misuse, like paper watermarks and digital watermarks, the only real guarantee within new as well as traditional print techniques, is the artist's and printmaker's honesty and integrity.
In spite of the connections with the reproductive trade the limited edition has become associated with the original end of the market. The value of a print depends on, amongst other things, whether it is a unique mono print, a limited edition, multiple prints or if it perceived as mass-produced copies.
4.3 The Art Market
Having the possibility to produce high-quality images on-demand, the edition size can solely be decided based on an evaluation of the potential sale. Every digital ink jet is digitised, with the possibilities to create and market specific type of prints towards different sectors of the society, marketing globally on the World Wide Web and thereby increasing the potential market. It can then be argued that the reduced exclusiveness of digitised artwork made available to the 'masses' through the Internet and reproduced by inkjet technology will be followed by a reduction in price. An interesting question is whether a price reduction increase sales in such a way that it will result in a higher income for the artist. As Ellen Rice states:
Giclée enables those who can't afford originals to still have beautiful, lasting art in their homes. It helps me also to support my work.
James Faure-Walker's gallery representative points out, however, 'how a small limited edition of Giclée prints was more appetising to the client'.
Digital technology also makes it possible for artists to test the market by printing a few images before deciding on a full edition. The probable consequence is that more prints, with a variable quality, will be available at the marketplace, and probably lower the prices even more.
The value of an artwork depends, however, not only on the availability, but also above all on the quality of the artwork and the marketing skills of the artist and his/her representatives.
Giclée and digital ink jet is the ultimate 'reproducible art' since it does not truly even begin to exist until it has been 'reproduced'. Walter Benjamin points out that the lack of 'presence' in reproducible art is made up somewhat by the reproduction’s ability to be in several places at different times. Reproducible art can be energised by wide distribution and affordable prices. Based on the increasing use of computers, Internet and the World Wide Web art is now even closer to the people, artists and art works have the possibility to come into people's home. I would argue that we are now on the threshold of real democratised art.
An image being digitised, composed by the use of a computer, sent by Internet to another artist who works further on the image, raises questions regarding which image is the original and who owns the output.
Digital ink jet gives new possibilities to the existing art market as well as opening new markets, and digital ink jet can be a monoprint, a limited edition or an open edition. The potential for large numbers of people to collect and appreciate artwork created with a computer cannot be overlooked as a significant breakthrough for artists and the art market.
5. A shift towards digital print in future art
Digital printmaking, not unlike photography and silkscreen in their infancy, has been the target of scepticism. In this chapter it is examined if the scepticism is still extensive, with the intention to evaluate if there is a shift towards digital print in Fine Art. A shift is defined as a 'move or change or cause to move or change from one position to another' or 'change of direction.
5.1 Artists and Digital ink jet
Historically artists have adopted or rejected new technology and new processes according to their vision, ideas and expressive needs. Already in 1968 Jasia Reichardt curated an exhibition called Cybernetic Serendipity at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (I.C.A.), which explored and developed the relationship between technology and creativity, forecasting the prospect of outputting prints from a computer. Harold Cohen was another early entrepreneur when he displayed a plotter creating non-representational line drawings at the Tate Gallery in 1983, based on his mini-computer program called Aaron.
In the USA, Giclée and digital ink jet have developed at a faster pace than in Europe. Major print studios are dealing exclusively in the creation of digital prints, like Muse [X] Editions, established in 1995 'to meet the creative needs of the expanding synergy between the worlds of contemporary fine art and digital technology'. To get an indicator if a shift is occurring, digital print studios were asked who their clients are, and the replies shows that both nationally as well as internationally well-known artists use their digital print service.
David Hockney, Roni Horn, Vinca Petersen, Stephen Shore, James Faure-Walker, Catherine Yass, Sarah Lucas, Uta Barth, John Hilliard, Richard Hamilton, Matt Collishaw, Julian Opie, Catherine Opie, Robert Rauschenberg and Peter Haley were among the artists mentioned when museums and galleries were asked if they could name some internationally well-known artists using the inkjet technology.
Artists and museums were also asked if they had received any negative reactions or criticisms against Giclée or inkjet print. None of the museums responded that they had received any negative reaction, but one third of the artists had. As Pedro Meyer says: 'Very much so. Any change always creates a lot of negative reaction at first. It goes with the territory.' Paul Jackson's view is that:
15 years ago, nobody knew what they were, …. Many galleries loved the look, but were slow to catch on to the true qualities.
John Isaac experienced:
Many of the old school photography critics have told me that they are not for inkjet. But there are lots of new thinkers who love the inkjet media.
Gerard Hemsworth 'have not received any criticism regarding the use of ink-jet, it was the right medium for the job.'
James Faure-Walker argues:
printmakers and gallery need to protect their territory. Ten years ago the objection was usually that it was machine rather than hand made, i.e. computer generated. Then it was about paper quality and permanence. Actually this is a boring issue now, because mainstream artists have been using Giclée for a while now.
Even though there has been scepticism towards the use of digital technology among artists and curators, an increasing number of internationally well-known artists are using this technology to create and print art. As Stephen Shore says: 'Artists use what works for them'.
In the early 1990s, there were few exhibitions showing art created by digital technology. Some entrepreneurs like Martin Reiser, who curated the The Electronic Print exhibition in 1989 at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol, were active. More recently Sue Gollifer has originated and curated ArCade I in 1995, the first open International Exhibition of Electronic Fine Art Prints in Britain, and subsequently ArCades II in 1998 and ArCades III in 2001. In the USA, Diana Michener's Solitaire was exhibited at Pace MacGill Gallery in 1997, and at The Corcoran Gallery of Art Gordon Parks retrospective Half Past Autumn was shown in 1998. At the 21st International Biennial, at Ljubljana in Slovenia some computer prints were represented in the exhibition, and they were given equal status to etchings, lithographs and other original prints.From May 2002 till March 2003 the Design Now space in the 20th Century Gallery at the Victoria & Albert Museum is turned into a digital laboratory. Eighteen artists have been invited, and an on-line interactive exhibition called digital>responses will show new works every month to mirror the changes in the actual exhibition. The project is curated by Professor Paul Coldwell and is a contribution to a joint research project, The Integration of Computers within Fine Art Practice, between Camberwell College of Arts and Chelsea College of Art and Design. Artists working throughout Britain at other centres of research including Goldsmiths, Gray's School of Art, University of Lancashire, Wimbledon School of Art, University of Plymouth and Norwich School of Art are included.
Since the beginning of the 1990's there has been an increase in exhibitions focusing on digital art and print technology. Some galleries like Colville Place Gallery in London specialise in exhibiting digital prints. There are also a growing number of web galleries like moca.virtual.museum, www.londonart.co.uk, www.podgallery.com and www.dam.org.
In summer 2002 Tate Gallery had around 50 Giclée or ink jet works, Victoria & Albert Museum around 12 with more acquisitions likely and Museum of Modern Art in New York about 55 works - so far most of the art works are on paper. The Summer Exhibition 2002 at Royal Academy of Art in London had 17 Giclée and digital print works on display. While artists are gaining acceptance in certain museums, others still resist digital prints. B. Allen Bayard, argues:
I thought I would see the most resistance from the general public. This is not the case, however. The galleries that previously carried my paintings and mixed media work are unwilling to carry my digitally composed and printed work. I also met resistance with a curator of a museum exhibition I was chosen to be in. Until she saw the work in person, she was biased against it. There have also been a few artist associates who tried to convince me that painting is better than images using a computer. I can report that, with the exception of the galleries mentioned, the others have changed their minds once they saw my work in person.
There is still a tendency for many collectors and printmakers to be cynical about digital processes. The Museum of Modern Art states however, that:
digital processes and ink jet printing are becoming increasingly utilised by artists and increasingly accepted within the art world.
and many US curators today will say:
Yes, I would purchase a digital print for our collection, but not because it is a digital print.
Tate Britain has a policy on display or purchase that is not process led.
If a work is considered worthy of our attention then it is considered regardless of media.
Instead of a question of media and technique, it is more a question about the appropriateness of the technique, the quality of idea and materials chosen to support the artist's vision. According to The Museum of Modern Art
Ink jet printing is by now fairly well accepted as just another tool or medium available for artists to use.
This opinion is shared by Helena Chapellin Wilson who is a member of the Committee on Photography at The Art Institute of Chicago, and on the acquisition committee for the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago.
My experience has been that the digital work from all media have been accessioned into museum collections.
Southampton City Art Gallery informs that among others the Guggenheim, Museum of Fine Arts, the Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts, the National Museum of Mexico, the San Jose Museum and The British Museum have mounted exhibitions or purchased Giclée/digital ink jet for their permanent collections.
5.4 Other shift indicators
Recently, the British Standards Institute (BSI), in collaboration with groups such as the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, has included digital ink jet in its categories of prints in section A.8. New Technology Processes. The Fine Art Trade Guild Court approved a new print standard on 22nd of March 2001, incorporating Giclée standards for the first time. The International Association of Fine Art Digital Printmakers (IAFADP) offers information and working on standards for digital ink jet. Originating in the States, it now has become a worldwide organisation and the IAFADP Euro chapter was inaugurated in 1998.
The EU, through the European Commission's Culture 2000 initiative, supports a year long project, 'The Digital Surface within Fine Art Practice', and Tate Britain will host an international conference in summer 2003 to disseminate the results.
Another element in evaluating how well digital ink jet and Giclée is accepted is how the market accepts these works. According to Hunter Editions, USA, the Giclée market is growing at more than 60 percent annually. In a $2.8 billion print market dominated by lithographs and serigraphs, Giclée sales now total $160 million annually. Brad Faine at Coriander studio in London says that the
future will be digital; already in our case, about twenty per cent of our turnover is created by inkjets.
Sources report that, in the USA, approximately 80 % of new images are now being produced by digital print technology with stagnation of traditional print methods, especially lithographs and screen prints.
PODGallery, however, predicts a different digital future and believes that:
digital prints are an interim solution to the formal problem of reproducibility which has hindered visual art in the last century or two. Ultimately, I believe that wall-mounted flat panel displays ("digital frames") will prove to be the real future of "prints".
More then 70 years ago French poet Paul Valéry (1871 - 1945) predicted that:
In all arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.
Digital technology is such a great innovation, and digital ink jet is used by an increasing number of internationally well-known artists exhibiting and selling their works. Even though there is still some scepticism among curators, it is evident that internationally well-reputed museums and galleries accept and buy digital ink jet on the same basis as other works of art. Furthermore, there are an increasing number of digital exhibitions involving many artists as well as universities and other art institutions. Organisations like British Standards Institute and Fine Art Trade Guild have included standards for Giclée and digital ink jet prints.
As John Hilliard states:
in one form or another this imaging technology is very much with us, and visual artists will inevitably continue to make use of it.
and Pedro Meyer asserts that 'IT is going to be the way Fine Art is going to be printed.'
Based on the discussion in this chapter it can be concluded that there has been a change in direction during the last few years proving a shift towards digital print in future art.
It is evident from the discussions in the previous chapters that Giclée and digital ink jet have had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on Fine Art. Digital technology can be used to produce Giclée as a reproduction of art originally created by traditional methods. The term 'digital ink jet' should be used for original artworks created by the use of a computer and digital print technology.
Art is about ideas, and technology gives new possibilities for ideas. The medium has always been closely linked to the idea and intention of the work. Digital technology requires, however, another set of skills than those traditionally associated with being an artist. Managing these skills opens up new process routes and enables new ways of thinking, increasing the scope of art and contributing to its diversity.
An artwork is basically defined by its content, form and context. By use of digital technology the content can be broaden by 'synthesising', hybridisation and global collaboration between artists. The form of the image can be altered by new printing possibilities and substrates, and the context widened by the use of global electronic media.
The computer technique significantly speed up the process of moving an image from the artist's mind to presentation. Digital technology offers the opportunity to manipulate, control and re-digitise for further creative development. Digital images have the potential to become 'indefinite images' open to revision, evolution, collaborative manipulation and cross-disciplinary utilisation via the Internet. Images can exist as both printed and electronic data. Virtual museums and galleries open new opportunities for exhibiting, marketing and selling digital ink jet and Giclée.
The challenge now is to move on from the legacy of traditional art to a broader definition of its possibilities, creating a synergy between old and new processes, opening new areas of freedom and diversity. Instead of replacing traditional media, it seems that digital technologies are giving some of these media new life and encourages new process routes.
Giclée and digital ink jet can be regarded as a print, a photograph or as a painting depending on the artist’s vision and intention. In the evolving development of digital technology, artworks can now be duplicated, distributed, and transformed quickly and easily. Rules and regulations cannot fully resolve the complex issue of originality, authenticity and ownership that digital art raise.
Walter Benjamin's essay 'The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' is essential when discussing the consequences of reproducible art. It can be argued that with digital print there is no physical original, and digital print might be seen as the ultimate reproducible art, having a 'presence' both as a physical object and on the World Wide Web as a virtual object. The 'aura' has diminished, and with the Internet and the World Wide Web there is a possibility of real democratised art. The concept of limited editions and the art market are also influenced by the ability to print unlimited numbers with the same high quality.
Digital ink jet is being used by many internationally known artists, exhibited and bought by internationally well reputed museums and galleries, accepted by international standards and taught at many art schools all over the world. Based on these facts it is evident that there is a shift towards digital print in future Fine Art.