This month's degree show confirms the University of Brighton's far-travelling reputation for digital art, says Sue Gollifer.
At the University of Brighton the third-year fine art printmakers are mounting a crucial exhibition, the grand finale of their BA degree course. Like most final-year art and design students in the United Kingdom, they are busy transforming their cluttered studio spaces into pristine white galleries to exhibit their best work.
Alongside traditional forms of printmaking - etching, lithography, relief and screen printing - computer-generated imagery has progressively established its own place in these shows. Not that it always proclaims itself as such: printmaking students at Brighton are encouraged to see the potential benefits of mixing digital and traditional media.
In the past few years, significant improvements have been made in the technology of output: converting the image on the computer screen to a tangible object, retaining or enhancing its richness of colour, detail and texture. The best direct printing devices still command a high price, however, and cheaper but effective results can be gained by using the computer to originate or manipulate images, and then using the output, in proof or stencil form, as a basis for more conventional printing methods. A generation earlier, similar ingenuity was employed to adapt the commercial screen-printing process to fine art purposes. Used with skill and imagination, computers can offer the artist-printmaker an unprecedented variety of techniques, approaches, and working methods.
The University of Brighton has for some time been regarded as a centre of excellence in electronic imagery. ArCade, the first British Open International Exhibition of computer-generated fine art prints, was organised in 1995 at Brighton, to coincide with the Computing in Art & Design conference, CADE '95: Digital Creativity. More than 100 artists from nine countries participated in ArCade, revealing the profusion and variety of computer imagery being made. The show, curated by me, was very well received, and has become a biennial event. ArCade II shifted the emphasis from a celebration of the digital process, and a survey of the available spectrum of styles, to the technical and aesthetic progress within a discipline continuous with the traditions of printmaking. The selectors drew a distinction between computer graphics, an area which by its nature is readily reproducible and highly visible to the public, and the less frequently-seen digital fine art print, which has presence, texture and status as a physical art work. Work by artists in Japan, India and Taiwan was included, and the exhibition's scope was widened to embrace installations and even "live" fax transmissions. ArCade II, again launched in Brighton, went on to accompany the second CADE conference at the University of Derby, and is currently touring Russia from Novosibirsk in Siberia to Kaliningrad. ArCade III will appear in 1999. The web site is at http://188.8.131.52/ arcade/frontpage.html CADE and ArCade demonstrated the strength of interest in the use of computers in art and design education, in teaching and research. The higher education funding councils recognised the need to establish a CTI (Computers in Teaching Initiative) centre to serve these disciplines, and in June 1996 CTI - Art and Design was established in Brighton's Faculty of Art, Design and Humanities - the 24th CTI centre, and the first to be located in a new university. The CTIAD's purpose is to keep the higher education sector informed of ways that computers can enhance teaching and learning in art and design, by drawing on and disseminating the work of individuals and organisations developing ideas, theories and projects, within teaching departments, or as part of their professional art and design practice. Subjects include fashion and textile design, film, video, photography, fine art, graphic design, three-dimensional design and typography.
l The faculty of art, design & humanities BA Degree Shows at the University of Brighton, Grand Parade, Brighton, is open from June -July 2 (sponsored by Burt Brill & Cardens, Solicitors). The third CADE conference is at the University of Teesside, April 7-9 1999.
Sue Gollifer is the Centre Manager of CTIAD. More centre information is on the web at www.bton.ac.uk/ctiad/