"Lights exerts a magic power of attraction on artists. Many of them would turn their backs upon paint if only they could work with light. Several striking examples of experiments in this direction have been discussed in The Announcer, for example, Nicolas Schoffer who in Paris began to project his 'live paintings' on walls and Livinus van der Bunt who, in an old mansion near the Hague, let luminous pins glide across the projection screen.
'This is only the beginning', says Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski of his 'electronic images' exhibition held at Melbourne's Argus Gallery. 'Such techniques,' he added, 'will lead to an art which depends on nothing, no construction no knobs. The artist will simply place a helmet on his head and automatically transform images into plastic realities.' Ostoja does not seek to smear art with science, as most of his critics claim, but to free the imagination from the impediment of means. Electronic methods of creating images can lead to a more immediate articulation of ideas and to an art which takes place within the world of tomorrow rather than at variance with it. At the moment the means of electronic image making are hard to manipulate and costly, impossible without the assistance of a fully equipped laboratory — in his case that of Philips Electrical Industries. But Ostoja maintains that in time the techniques will become as much second nature as a piano or typewriter keyboard. To sceptics and romantics alike he has one retort: 'When motorcars were first developed no-one believed that they would replace the horse drawn vehicles as a major means of transport.' The rest does not need saying.
Painter, Muralist, Industrial, theatrical and graphic designer Ostoja has been in the vanguard of art experimentation since his arrival in Australia. His excitingly successful 'Sound and Image' at the recent Adelaide Festival of Arts.
In the 'Chromasonic' sound and image systems of the recent show he attempts to provide a similar experience without the advantages of a theatre. Tapes of electronic music operate a series of globes arranged in symmetrical pattern Low notes activate a series of blue and purple globes, middle register reds and orange and high notes yellow and white. The frequencies of the notes control brilliance of light glow. There is less development of the visual pattern in this system - the slides in the theatre were manually operated and forms grew in and out of each other - but the integration of aural and visual elements is complete: united by a common pulse, Toshiro Mayazumi's 'Nirvana Symphony' was an experience soberly celebrant, breathing awe. Varese's 'Poeme Electronique' made the same visuals dance with cheeky ingratiating wit.
Some people of advancing years shook their heads at the show. But the large number of Schoolchildren found nothing alien in their visit, were prepared to accept the system with real joy and that sense of inexplicable familiarity with which we encounter all true art.
The 44 'electronic paintings' in the show look like photographs. The are, in fact, images made by disconnecting the normal synchronising circuit in a cathode ray gun and controlling the random pattern on the screen by means of a specially erected control panel. The final image is chance wedded to the artist’s skill in organizing the random intervals which make the patterns. The final image is photographed and then printed on photographic paper. It is not a photograph because it is not of anything.
Most of the prints bear forms resembling those of Mann Ray's 'Rayograms'. The difference lies in the organic nature of Ostoja's motifs. Ray's motifs were mechanically produced and looked like time exposures of things. Ostoja's give no hint of their means of production. But the very form, because of its means of production, is perfectly attuned to the space age and at their best, recall the contained quiescent formology of Tanguay, vistas of a world on the other side of silence, perpetually, though stilly, marvellous.
The on 'polarchromatic' image exhibited is fixed on a screen in a TV set like box. A fixed image of intertwined circular shapes changes colour and form as sensitised material blocks off areas of light on a rota system. The slow change of the rota has a soft mesmeric effect, and a set has been ordered by a hypno-therapist for the purpose of mesmerising patients.
These three forms of image can serve a function outside their own existence. The 'Chromosonic' has obvious uses in the theatre, particularly in opera and ballet. But equally in modern drama. Development to the existing systems are possible and could open up even more generals uses. The polarchromatic, apart from a number of therapeutic uses could no doubt serve in waiting rooms, hotel lobbies and elsewhere. The paintings are perfectly suited for wall decoration in contemporary buildings.
It is in this possibility of new functions that these artefacts have their greatest importance. For the art world into which Ostoja-Kotkowski introduces them is fraught with inconsistencies, and the question of function is central to the dilemma of Artists' alienation from the general public.
Nearly all the old functions of a picture are served by photography, of course and the artists were first to sense this. Impressionism began an assault on old materials and forms which culminated in the glowing destruction of 'art' of Marcel Duchamp. In 1914 when he first showed his first 'ready made he put an end to easel painting'. In fact he performed Ostoja's ideal of an artefact making helmet by taking an object, a bottle drier, alienating it from its erstwhile proper context and re-establishing it as art in a gallery simply because he chose to do so. The laws which govern easel painting had no hold over Duchamp's object, yet the existence of the object as art beyond laws of selection practised by the cave painters of Lascauz. The one thing Duchamp's implicit new aesthetic hierarchy did not do was serve a function outside its own being.
Yet the ideals of a new function motivated Henry van der Velde to establish Ateliers d'Art Industriels in Brussels in 1892. And it was the self-same sense of function which motivated Gropius and the Bauhaus group, with the ideal of embracing form world rather than as independent categories dominated by individual genius. In one way, the painting after Duchamp, particularly the Surrealists, was a throwback to the romanticism of Gustabe Moreaux, the creation of wall paintings which really didn't fit on walls and tried to do things which wall decorations could no longer do. Painting as such had been declared outlaw even before Duchamp produced his 'ready-made'. In 1913 Casimir Malevich said, 'Painting has long been obsolete because it pleased those holding the prejudice to continue it.' The 'public’wanted to maintain an even more obsolete notion of the artist.
And yet it was
Surrealist, Andre Masson, who used the laws of chance in such a ways to produce
pictures which did not belong in the category of easel painting. And it was
his automatism which provided Pollack with the method to invent abstract impressionism.
His notion of painting as that point when being and becoming are one corresponds
to the unwritten aesthetic of Jazz improvisation. Because of this somehow right
feel about it, abstract expressionism is art as decoration for this age but
it serves only the connoisseurs and the professional designers. It still stands
apart from the temper of contemporary civilisations, Adolph Gottlieb has even
gone so far as to suggest that in his art as in his life the abstract expressionist
said to the public, 'You’re stupid. We despise you. We don't want you to like
us -or our art.'
By freeing his art from the unmistakable stamp of the man who made it (his 'electro images' exist without any reference to who or what made them) and by moving into a polychromatic world parallel to the polychromatic world of movies, and industrial design Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski begins to explore the new synthesis of art and technology which is perfectly in tune with today - and tomorrow.