The expressive power of light in digital art. Dario Lanza interview.

Computers are going to alter the aesthetics of the coming decades; they offer an infinite set of new tools.

Digital Art | Artist Dario Lanza - Interview at Art Gallery Plastiké

More than a year ago now, Dario Lanza began experimenting with light, using it as a method of expression within digital art. A passionate relationship culminating in “Visions of the Infinity”: A work in which there is more than enough magnetism to spare and which plays with coming close to the transcendental.

Lanza is a trend-setter, almost, for the XXI century, with a clear mission: “to train the computer in terms of beauty”. He shows us through his work that the expressive power of light has no limits.

Let us talk about light. Light is the protagonist of “Visions of the Infinity”, fundamentally a collection of digital art. Broadly speaking, what is the collection made up of?

I am interested in exploring the way light bends when it passes through a transparent material. The light we are used to goes in a straight light and this is how we always imagine it. Nevertheless, when light passes through a transparent material it twists, bends, folds… It produces what we call “caustics”, the technical term used to refer to the shimmering light patterns that appear, for example, in the bottom of a swimming pool. These shimmers are in themselves aesthetically beautiful and emotionally interesting. This is a phenomenon that we can only perceive if we interpose a surface, but we can imagine the complete curve of light that has been produced from when the light leaves the object until it reaches the intersection with the surface.

Digital Art: Artist Dario Lanza - Vision number 2

We are talking about an artificial image, created digitally with a 3D program…

Yes, the 3D program generates a reproduction of the conditions produced in real life, right down to the last detail. You have to create a light emitter identical to the one you would use in reality, and you simulate a wall with all its imperfection, scratches… Then you suspend an object in the air and deform it. You fill it with digital water so that when the light passes through it, it reproduces the same process which we see real life. Technically, with the computer you reproduce the same process but with the advantage that here you can completely control it, as is typical in digital art.

It is a concrete light effect that you are pursuing or searching for, one which takes us on that journey approaching the transcendental. But finding it… doesn’t seem easy….

Certainly. Initially you create the wall, place the light, place the object and begin to deform it,… most of the time the caustics produced are random shiny spots that are of no interest artistically speaking. Only after numerous attempts, do you move very slightly some vertices, deform something, twist the mesh, alter the light, change the substance of which the object is made and see that something is beginning to be generated. Only after numerous attempts do you achieve something that truly interests you. It is a very delicate process, you modify something believing you are going to improve it and it actually makes it worse. Digital art is not simple… You decide to return to the former and you start following the trail. Then after some alterations, with luck and many attempts, you suddenly achieve something that really works. At that moment the image shines and speaks for itself.

How long does it take to find this image?

In a few hours you can create the basic shape of the scene. You create the wall, the light, and an object made of water, and produce therefore caustics… But you can work on it for days or even weeks before the pattern of light is beautiful, has an interesting personality, and produces the effect that you want when you look at it.

Digital Art: Artist Dario Lanza - Vision number 5And what do you look to transmit with this effect.  Because what you offer is an unknown world for many of us…

For me when I really obtain something which interests me is when those objects that are present in the scene transmit that solitude in exposure of a mystic revelation. When I achieve the effect I am interested in is when I see appear that mystic light, that amazing intensity and at the same time all the subtlety of detail. It has these two sides.

You use a concrete set of tools.  What is the secret?

Digital art now offers a very interesting set of tools. I use Photoshop to touch up the textures and adjust the image, and 3D modelling software, in this case Maya, which is widely used in film and animation. Later, in order to produce a photorealistic image, I use a piece of software called Maxwell, which was designed by the company I work for. Its speciality is the physical simulation of light in a virtual environment. Using these three programs I obtain these images half way between the real and the abstract. Nonetheless I have had to modify the way in which the software normally works and develop a customised process in order to achieve the results I am looking for. Results, which could not be obtained using the tools in the usual way.

For the majority of us the computer is a tool, which we use on a daily basis, even so this machine contains a whole world just waiting to be discovered…

I believe that too often we use computers to do things in the way they were done analogically. For example, we use a brush in Photoshop to simulate the finish we get using charcoal… This is all good and well, and shows that we can imitate the tools we know of, but this is only the first step. With digital art it is time to take a step forward and advance towards things as yet unknown. There are people who use computers to simulate analogical processes, but the important thing is to be able to advance towards, as yet undiscovered, new aesthetic territories. Without a doubt computers are going to alter the aesthetics of the coming decades. I see the computer not just as a new tool, but rather as an infinite set of new tools, which open up aesthetic horizons which it would be virtually impossible for other artistic techniques to offer. Our artistic zest remains the same, only the route, digital art, which we use to express it changes.

We are talking about digital art, something which moves away from the more conventional way of seeing artistic creation.  Is this the future?

I imagine that from now on there will be no alternative, art will have to develop in some degree with the support of digital tools. I don’t mean that traditional forms will be abandoned, that would not make sense, but computers offer so many creative tools for use that it would be an error not to use them and digital art is a reality now, a reality with interesting results. This is, for example, a moment similar to that of the birth of photography. For a time it was seen merely as a “technological curiosity”, until little by little it has become an artistic form in its own right. In reality we use all of the artistic background inherited from traditional mediums: to be able to create 3D images you need to know about photography, illumination, composition… You also need to know how to mould objects, meaning you must be a sculptor to some extent too. In fact they are not mutually exclusive territories, I see it rather as a prolongation.

But… is it the future?

Digital Art: Artist Dario Lanza - Vision number 1

I can’t say whether or not in the future people will do similar things to those I am doing now, but I am sure that coming generations will use digital tools for artistic creation and digital art will obviously evolve into new territories.

In the middle of the digital era, certain sectors of the art world reject new technologies.  Is this perhaps a setback?

Throughout the history of art there have always been artists who use the newest technology of their times. Leonardo da Vinci used the latest advances made in perspective, exploring the technique of sfumato and investigating the use of the recently invented oil paint. Van Gogh and the impressionists acquired commercialised tubes of oil paint, which were something totally new at the time, while traditional painters of the same time criticised this resource, as they believed that artists should produce their own pigments. Warhol made use of Polaroids and silk-screen printing, the latest technology in the 60’s… What I mean to say is that the use of technology has always been a continual presence throughout the history of art. Now we only see as art that which is created through traditional methods and even consider the use of technology as rather “geeky”, but the truth is that technology has always been present. There have always been people who have looked to the latest tools in search of new ways to create art and today that means digital art.

If there is something that all artists have in common it is the hunt for the “perfect” idea.

Not only the search for the perfect idea but also the search for a different aesthetic. And a point in favour of the digital is that when you produce a piece it is important, for me, to create something different, something new. To follow in another’s footsteps is a lot easier. There are a lot of artists nowadays doing the same as Warhol did, while he himself looked to do something aesthetically original. We should always look to do something aesthetically different and at times it is complicated, using traditional methods, to do something others have not already done before. The digital medium, however, offers a new aesthetic horizon, which we can mould to our own taste to obtain something different.

Where is the limit of the concept of “art”?

Sometimes people question whether with a particular tool, for example the computer, you can create art or not. That’s to say is digital art really art? Just as when people asked whether photography was really art. Photography and photographic paper are the medium, the tools. The result will or will not be art depending upon what you do with them: if you take photos to show the development of a surgical lesion, you don’t perhaps create art but if you use the same camera to capture a person or a landscape, then it may have artistic value. The secret is in your intentions not the tools you use. Oil painting is art? Rather it is a medium. The canvas is a medium. A computer is the same, if you use it with the same aim or intention as you use a photographic camera or a canvas you can also achieve an artistic creation.

Changing the topic, what about the issue of new online art galleries…Watch Modern Art Exhibitions - Art Gallery Plastike -  Dario Lanza Digital Art

I think that the model of online art galleries is far better adapted to our time, in 5 or 10 years time we will be talking more about online art galleries than physical ones.

Perhaps backing the internationalization of the art market is a good way of promoting the sector…

Definitely, now would, for example, be a difficult moment to have an art gallery in Madrid, but if your gallery can sell throughout the world, you have the opportunity of attending collectors in other places where the crisis is not, perhaps, hitting quite so hard. This is one of the benefits in the present art market.

Is it also possible to use art in the fight to get out of the crisis?

Totally. It is extremely profitable for a society to invest in art. Think of Florence, which has received millions of tourists since a number of centuries ago and they never stop visiting. The main source of revenue in the region is tourism. Why? Because during the Renaissance they invested in art. Art is an economic motor, which provides continual long-term profits. Not only is art a cultural asset, which it is necessary to preserve, but also to invest in art is to invest in benefits.

Are we at a point where we are able to permit backing passion and vocation?

I believe that everything we do, we should do as a vocation and with passion. When you do something without passion it is obvious in the result. Quality results are those reached with passion. Young people are more passionate in their work and it’s a section of the population where art develops with greater creativity

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