The term ‘digital art’ was first coined in the early 1980s, when the British-born artist Harold Cohen began creating work using a computer program. His robotic machine became known as AARON, and was designed to make large drawings on sheets of paper placed on the floor.
With rapid advances in technology over the past 30 or 40 years, digital art can now encompass computer-generated or scanned artwork as well as those produced via tablet, smartphone or mouse. Artists may create moving visual collages, digital installations and interactive pieces, allowing the audience to participate in the creative process.
Along with Cohen, one of the key pioneers of the medium has been David Hockney, who creates his work with Brushes, an App built by former Apple software engineer Steve Sprang. Hockney has long been fascinated by new media, buying one of the first colour photocopying machines in the mid-1980s to create a series of works entitled Hand-Made Prints.
Today, he works on iPhone and iPad, waxing lyrical about the “marvellous flow” of the medium: “So much variety is possible. You can’t overwork this, because it’s not a real surface. In watercolour, for instance, about three layers are the maximum. Beyond that it starts to get muddy. Here you can put anything on anything. You can put a bright, bright blue on top of an intense yellow.”
He insists: “Picasso would have gone mad with this. So would Van Gogh. I don’t know an artist who wouldn’t.”