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Mousing about for the sake of creativity
- two uk artists and the computer

Computers leave Indian artists cold. They are plagued by the lurking fear that new technology will kill creativity. They refuse to come to terms with the fact that something as basic as the pencil, too, is the product of what was at the time of its creation, cutting-edge technology, and that this phobia and hostility stem from our instinctive antipathy to and suspicion of the unknown. The only Indian artist of repute who has used the mouse and has exhibited works thus created is Akbar Padamsee.

Paul Coldwell and his wife Charlotte Hodes are two artists from the UK who teach at the Camberwell College of Arts. Both use the computer to push their creativity and their traditional skills in painting and printmaking to untested grounds. Coldwell’s computer-generated prints that appear coldly detached and Hodes’ lush and exuberant paintings and vases are on display in a show jointly mounted by the British Council and Galerie 88.

Coldwell first scans photographs. He creates a sense of distance by overlaying it with a pixelated surface, suggestive of the half-tone dots once used to build up photographic images in newspapers. On this, he executes a drawing using a mouse. If he chooses to do so, he uses the traditional printmaking processes to create another skin of texture.

The end product is a multi-layered image that allows the viewer's eye to traverse from one stratum to another, and to reach wider areas and associations way beyond the individual histories suggested by the personal objects often depicted in the prints. Coldwell does this very effectively in his stark and grey books With the Melting of the Snows, and the other fascinating volume built around Freud's coat in the eponymous museum and his fascinating personal collection of objets d'art. Personal memories lead us to the realm of collective memory, the image pool shared by humanity.

When she employs the computer for printmaking, Hodes turns it into a personal collective memory by feeding innumerable scanned images of patterns into it. She “deconstructs and reconstructs” these to create a rich and colourful collage whose layers resemble "overlaid sheets of tracing paper." Amidst this feminine profusion, akin to a patchwork quilt where plaid and designs apparently created by Inigo Jones for masques and William Morris wallpapers coexist, she introduces Rubenesque figures of women and vessels that echo their voluptuous shapes. Hodes describes the outcome as a “cacophony of colour”. She does the same in her paintings. Only here, layers of paint create a sensuous surface that cannot yet be replicated by computer technology.

After the opening last Friday, the couple gave illuminating talks on the integration of computers in fine art practice and how they facilitate the creative process. That should partially dispel the unreasonable fears of new media inherent in artists. The only problem is that few if any practitioners here have access to the same.

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