Instant imaging

Mark Davies, Hiram To, Edite Videns, John Waller, Pat Hoffie, Adam Wolter, Malcolm Enright
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane

Seven Brisbane artists, each using new technologies, shared the exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery which was, misleadingly, called Instant Imaging. For although at the heart of each work there lay an instantaneous creative event, the generation of a digitised image, the completed works were just as carefully considered and laboriously crafted as anything on gallery walls today.

Indeed, part of the debate within the photocopy and computer art circle is concerned with how to create enduring works from processes designed for ephemeral mass culture. Computer artists, for example, often see their completed work as the final flickering image on the VDU. This brings them into conflict with gallery management who are often uncomfortable without a physical object to hang or install. Thus the unhappy compromise of this exhibition was the displaying of computer imagery as laminated prints. The results were disappointing. Despite ever-improving copying  technology, the precise colours and electronic luminosity of the computer 'original' was lost. And it was made worse by the low resolution graphics of the personal computers used. The rigid alignment of pixels, gave the final images the stolid look of coarse tapestry or designer knitwear.

Adam Wolter's untitled series of prints suffered from these problems and yet, in a sense, was an answer to them. He explored the expansive field of digitised squares to rearrange, enlarge, and revalue them. The dappled image of a bespectacled man in one print was recodified into a multicoloured gridwork of pixel-lines, revealing, and reveling in, the computer elements which constitute the representation without losing representation itself.

Edite Videns' Latvian background was explored in her series of computer-generated prints in which family snapshots and postcard pictures of Riga had been variously edited, augmented, colourised, and collaged. In Universal Plot the necessarily grainy quality of the prints, enhanced by Videns, suited such nostalgic subject matter, suggesting in their haziness both low-tech, box-brownie photography and faded memory.

Part of Pat Hoffie's Thanks for the Memories… was an illustrated infant's primer on good, evil, and the abuse of communication technology which succeeded neither as a parody upon the tales we tell our children nor as vital revelation. That new technology can be abused has worried everyone since gunpowder.

While Wolter, Videns and Hoffie strained their computer's capacities to the last byte, John Wailer barely warmed up his display screen. His large, white-on-black assemblage Study for Unfitted Landscape set extracts from two seemingly incongruent texts - Digges' sixteenth century description of the heavens and Eyre's account of crossing central Australia-on either side of a faint, scattered trail of white, digital squares, read as the simplest representation of a starry, desert night.

The most important challenge for artists using photocopiers is how to find fresh and interesting ways of re -presenting the appropriated image. One can, as Mark Davies did in Slaves in Paradise, I & II, alter the event for the spectator. Davies concealed his kaleidoscopic, erotic images behind tight, black synthetic-leather, inviting the gallery patron to pull down a zip to reveal the print. It was a kinky act for a public place-one of the things we least like to expose in public is our curiosity.

Hiram To used photocopied magazine advertisements to create delirious visions. In his Knowledge of Beauty and Vistavision 20120 series modern objects of desire, such as the Armani suit or the Omega watch of upmarket glossies, were coloured and distorted by the copying process and an overlay of blue patterned glass. Vague, blurred and elusive, To's precious icons were figuratively, and almost literally, viewed through the bottom of a wine bottle, as unfocussed, unresolved and intoxicated as consumer desire itself.

Bringing together quirky images from the past and quirky quotes from the present, Malcolm Enright recreated, in his groupings of enpanelled laser-copies, a dadaist's sense of fun. But funsters tend ultimately to become tedious, and after the fourth arrangement of anti-deluvian pornography, fifties kitsch, trick fun-pies from Picture Post, and old palmistry diagrams I felt the pull of more challenging art elsewhere.

At the present time we can see the entire range of high-tech art beginning to open before us. While it would be unwise to predict that, with the inevitable improvements in technology, computer and photocopy art can only get better, what can be assured is that it will become ever more diverse.