[ISEA96] Paper: Samia Halaby – RHYTHMS, The Aesthetics of Electronic Painting


Long Paper

This paper focuses on kinetic abstraction as a painting expression appropriate to computing. It begins by describing the futuristic ambitions of early twentieth-century painters to create movement. The way in which the forms of computing fulfills those ambitions is substantiated by comparing the two kinds of art. The third section presents some of the artists who program paintings.


During the early part of the twentieth century abstract painters created a form which departed from the illusionism developed during the Renaissance. With this new form abstract painters abandoned chiaroscuro and proclaimed self luminous color; they abandoned recognizable objects proclaiming a non-objective space – a space empty of objects as seen from one point of view; they proclaimed relative scale and distance as they abandoned measurable space along with foreshortening and the diminishing size. They abandoned the use of perspective. Cubist, Futurists, and Constructivist painters talked of a new, better, more complete illusionism as they made fun of Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. They sometimes mentioned motion and the fourth dimension when talking about their work. Twentieth century abstraction was further developed by the Abstract Expressionists and Minimalists in New York. Since the development of relative space in painting seems to have ended. Has the computer made the further realization of such relative space and motion possible? It presents the painter with the possibility of shapes in motion not as filmed motion but rather as shape in abstract motion. This abstract motion does not rely on optics nor on the geometric relationship of the viewing eye to a perpendicular picture plane. It is distinct from that motion created by a movie camera or camcorder. Furthermore, electronic media is more technology suitable to the form of self-luminous color than is pigments on canvas. The Monitor is a luminous surface with a magical memory and with color variations greater than the eye can differentiate. Can the computer with its potential for motion, self-luminous color, memory, and programming be used to push twentieth century abstraction into newer formal realms not possible in static painting? Can abstraction, thereby, become as useful a way of imaging the world as Renaissance illusion? Furthermore, is the computer a new medium in painting or is it merely a technology. What are the theoretical differences between a medium and a technology and what are the implications of such differences? And, has software which is tailored for the Designer hidden from the painter the potential of the computer?

  • Samia Halaby, USA, Independent artist

Full text p.24-27