A Historian’s Perspective
In 1959, Jean Tinguely (Swiss, born 1925 designed a painting machine which he called “Metamatic-Automobile-Odorante et Sonore.” This machine, in the artist’s perception, was a statement about the ultimate status of the artist as Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting dominated the art world in the 1940s and 1950s. Although created as a spoof, Tinguely’s art/invention/manifesto as received at the lst Biennal of Paris, where it produced over 40,000 “Abstract Expressionistic” paintings, made a strong statement where art stood at the middle of the 20th Century, that is: the ultimate elimination of the painter.
Twentieth century art has been dominated by the concept of “isms”. As artists issued their manifestoes, proposed their panaceas and formulated their schisms, a Pandora’s box of gospels have issued forth from the artists’ studios, such as constructivism, dynamism, intimism, orphism, parallelism, purism, suprematism, synthetism and vorticism. It became evident in the 20th Century that the act of creating and the printed word/manifesto, as issued by the artist to explain his creation or rendering, replaced the importance of the object created. The visual and verbal statement by the artist (prophet? became an ideologue of unilateral existentialism.
The temple of change was such that the span of time between artistic innovations and their understandings and popular acceptance is often referred to as “cultural lag.” Thus, Tinguely’s 1959 machine, although a spoof about the status of the artist, nevertheless, was insightful and challenged the perception of the artist and Abstract Expressionism for that time period, especially the direction of the visual art culture. The technological advances have led to even greater artistic potential innovations. One has to ask oneself, “What is the role of the artist with the advancement of technology along with the universal use of the computer, the advanced software and of course the world wide web?” Tinguely made his statement and interpretation in 1959. Is that statement still appropriate? Has the artistic, world audience and consumer accepted Tinguely’s manifesto or does this audience, more attuned to modern technological breakthroughs and bridging the ‘cultural gap’, embrace the artist and bravely follow the pursuit of innovation?
Christian Seidler (American, born 1951) with his manifesto of Matricism and the invention of the “Randall Plotter” machine, along with advanced computer software has continued within the developing pools of innovation of the 20th and 21st Centuries. But in contrast to Tinguely, who showed his concern for the status of art and the role of the artist as a creative force, Seidler uses the “Randall Plotter” to take his art and theory to a new level. It is a fulfillment and completion of advanced color theory, heretofore only conceptualized and dreamed about. It allows for innovation, conceptualization and creativity only dreamed about with past and contemporary masters.
The color theories and ideas from Aristotle, through the Renaissance to Isaac Newton’s experiments, through the color theories of the 19th Century theorists including Goethe to the Neo-Impressionist Seurat, artists, philosophers, scientists and theorists attempted to forge a union between scientific analysis and poetic insight. It was Seurat who simplified his quest: “Art is harmony.” This simplified definition of what art is and should be, allows for the debunking of manifesto. Instead, the viewer, audience and/or collector, with his/her limited or expanded understanding of art and technology can now contribute appreciation of contemporary art because of this expanded comprehension. In other words, contemporary culture embraces innovation, but innovation cannot just be verbal statement. It has to employ technique; it must be innovative; and it has to be harmonious. The artistic audience of the present day is more attuned to what art is about, and does not rely strictly on artistic statement (manifesto).
Over a hundred years ago, France was at the threshold of the modern era. The effects of the industrial revolution were unmistakable, as factories rose on the outskirts of Paris and a new urban working class developed. Technological progress brought obvious symbols like the Eiffel Tower, but it also put many laborers and craftsmen out of work. The same era that bred a new confidence in the achievements of science left many citizens disillusioned with the established order and the position of the working man. Artists responded to their modern age with contemporary subject matter and a search for new pictorial modes. Academic values and the Impressionist sensibility persisted, but many painters were exploring new methods—and fresh rationales—for their art. From this milieu, Georges Seurat built the framework of the Neo-Impressionist aesthetic.
Today, in the early years of the 21st Century, a new confidence has been projected in modern man. This confidence is not unlike France at the fin de siecle. But it is the computer that is leading the charge. There is an exploratory confidence as the computer and the internet bring people, ideas and ideologies closer together. The disillusionment portrayed by Tinguely’s painting machine of 1959, and the relationship of the artist to the machine driven has been reversed, for example, with Christian Siedler’s Matricism and the invention of the “Randall Technologies.”
Seidler’s Matricism brings to fruition, Seurat’s edicts plus the discipline of methodically composing a painting. Coupled with the precision of execution of the artist’s design as demonstrated by the “Randall Plotter”, an artist can explore and execute to a precise degree the principles of color theory. Never before has the opportunity been available for an artist to explore minute color application without the debilitating effects of execution. Furthermore, the possibility for multiple designs or matrixes presents itself without exhausting the creative energies of the artist. A new world of expression has been opened!
Lastly, the artist Christian Seidler, his theory (Matricism) and the “Randall Technologies” (Computer program and paint applicator) now became an integrated unit. There is no disparity but instead an emergence of common purpose. Unlike Tinguely’s machine which made spoof of Abstract Expression and questioned the role of the artist in the 20th century, Seidler, Matricism and the Randall Technologies establish a new level of artistic advancement for the 21st Century. He the artist and the machine (plotter and computer along with statement, have opened a wide avenue of exploratory possibilities. In addition, the artist and his creative psyche have and will enhance the visual artist as he advances through the early years of the 21st century. The artist is no longer conceived as an action figure that has to be explained. Instead, he has an entity that is identified by his technique, style and innovation….not unlike the Old Masters. The role of the artist is defined again within the craft of his art and its execution.
Art Historian | Advisor | One Time Paint Mixer