displaying work online

It is sometimes a frustrating and disappointing exercise to display my artworks online because the original does not reproduce well. My prints have a lot of texture and subtle details that are often lost. The sense of the size of the piece is lacking. Colours in particular are difficult to reproduce accurately and change from monitor to monitor. In catalogues, too, I see problems with accurate colour reproduction. I do notice though that if my work is a digital print, then that reproduces reasonably well if I use the original digital file. But, if the image comes from a slide taken of the work then scanned, I often have problems. So, the more steps away from the original, then more the problems.

Today’s electric skin has an article about this issue: Challenges of Digital Reproduction by Olga Chemokhud Doty.

In the present day environments of virtual galleries, digital imaging, and communication via e-mail a whole new set of challenges arise for the artists working in traditional two-dimensional mediums of painting or drawing. “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be,” Walter Benjamin wrote in his essay, “The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. Though the statement was written more then seventy years ago, the rise in volume in visual communications is making its more of an issue then ever.

Read more…, then she finishes: I am sure that there are no means to reproduce an original without losing some of its indented qualities, but there are some ways to think about the best possible way to reference the work without warping its meaning. (I wonder what those ways might be besides using installation shots?)

The author talks about digital reproduction, but even older methods of reproduction in books, catalogues and even slides can be misleading. Yet we know they were often the only way we got to see a lot of art works. I recall the many hours spent in Art History classes looking at slides. Years later I would see some of these masterpieces in European museums and be quite amazed and enthralled at the difference. The internet has opened the world even more, but in all of this, seeing the original is still the only true experience of the work.

June 19, 2004 in Being an Artist by Marja-Leena