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Review: The Lumen Prize

(December 03, 2014)

Review: The Lumen Prize
Cellular Forms, Andy Lomas - Lumen Prize
Cellular Forms, Andy Lomas
Winner - gold

Carla Rapoport, founder of The Lumen Prize, quoted art historian, E H Gombrich, at the prize winners' event of the Lumen Prize at Cardiff School of Art and Design, LLandaf: "There is no art, only artists".

Stories of daubs made by elephants with their trunks aside, making art is human and a feature of humanity throughout our history. Digital art is, in this timeframe, very much in its infancy. Artists use the materials that exist in their age and place, reserving the right to both utilise, pay homage to, revere or adapt what has come before and, at the same time, push the boundaries of what is possible, acceptable and credible.

Mumur, Studio Chevalvert- Lumen Prize 2014Mumur, Studio Chevalvert
winner - silver

Digital art has developed over the last four decades; technologies have advanced, been superseded and become mainstream. In our pockets we have access to games, animation, cameras and more visual media than our ancestors could ever have dreamed of. Creation by hobbyists who now have access to affordable tools means Sunday painters can now be Sunday programmers. The possibility to manipulate images is the commonplace action of the holiday snapper and office spoofer.

Artists choosing to work digitally may do this as only part of their practice. David Hockney, an artist who has always included the use of new technologies, makes art pieces with Ipad and also makes preliminary sketches for analogue work, finding capturing colour and composition this way quicker than traditional sketching.

Lumen - AlexandraHandal_Dream HoDream Homes, Alexandra Handa - Lumen Prize 2014mesDream Homes, Alexandra Handa
people's choice - gold

Artistic training in solely digital art has not yet, and may never, occur. There is no established canon of digital art as yet. The Lumen Prize, since its formation in early 2012, may just be creating that. It’s an exciting time for the art historian to see how this part of art’s story unfolds. Potentially, it is equally exciting for the general public. And in Wales, where The Treberfydd Foundation with logistical support from the City of Cardiff, launched The Lumen Prize, it is a sign of how we are connected to the World - sharing the world's digital riches with an international tour and an on line exhibition. The Lumen Prize is at the forefront of the creation of a culture of celebration of digital art in all its forms and attracts entries from all parts of the world. At the ceremony, exhibition and seminar at Cardiff School of Art and Design (CSAD)'s new building, I met artists from accross the world, as well as some from closer to home - Welsh artists included Stephen Madoc Pierce, a recent CSAD graduate.

5 robots named Paul, Patrick Tresset - Lumen Prize 2014 WMYY, Sally Sheinman - Lumen Prize 2014
5 robots named Paul, Patrick Tresset
winner - bronze
WMYY, Sally Sheinman
 founder's prize

Digital art in some forms makes collaborations attractive for artists and so artists meeting at this event made face to face connections that invariably led to networking and exciting new ideas for future work. I was struck how the event was overwhelmingly positive and supportive, this may be the new outsider art and the artists seemed to come together in the comfort of an audience that were already warm to their cause. We heard from We Are Muesli, who create games as art, as they explained gaming is not one thing for one audience. Comparing gaming with film here is the art-house gaming world, sometimes for aesthetic, sometimes political interactions. Their 'Bosch Art Game' uses open source images from Hieronymus Bosch's work, De verzoeking van de heilige Antonius (Triptych of the Temptation of Saint Anthony), subtracting from the dense and colourful image they created a visual novel that the audience interact with and help create.

Edward Bateman from Utah spoke of how he was inspired by 1870's spirit photography for one series of works, he recreated furniture from the found still images using 3D scanning and printing and then created new imagined technologies and, adding them to the scene, retaking the image. We are left with an essence of truth with confusion and disbelief in the viewer, reflecting modern day accepted truth about spiritualism. Another series of his work are digitally created images that use close up organic shapes that are repeated and manipulated mathematically. These are reminiscent of both botanical sketches and early pictorial representations of music that PCs would generate for you late last century.

Re----Sitruuna ja meduusa - Still, Merja Nieminen and James Andean - Lumen Prize 2014Re----Sitruuna ja meduusa - Still, Merja Nieminen and James Andean
creative coding award

Peter J Williams and Sala Wong are truly global citizens, travelling the world together they capture their impressions of a place and create art in response to what they find. When I met them they had been in Cardiff for five hours and had already visited all of the arcades, got to grips with the pub and student culture, the museums and galleries, grasped the basics of the city’s seafaring and industrial history and understood the joys of chip shop alley. They create "conglomerate distortions" using a danopic camera they take multiple images and produce using 3d rendering and mapping these on a spherical form, they create a dynamic image that condenses the timeframe and allows the viewer to see more than 360 degrees of an image in one view, sometimes seeing a person enter and leave the scene in the same glimpse. You feel included in the image, more than even 3d cinema will allow you feel like a person in a lively crowd or a pulsating dancefloor … overwhelmed and excited.

Carla Rapoport was passionate about the cause, as she says "I love artists" and this was a clear motivator for her to start the prize. Each winner was awarded their prize with a critique from the esteemed judges, for those that follow eisteddfodau it was like a chairing of the bard.

On Loop, Christine Hooper - Lumen Prize 2014On Loop, Christine Hooper
animate award

The overall prize winner was Andy Lomas, he of Avatar fame, with his Morphogenetic Creations Cellular Forms. He was inspired by the work of Alan Turing, Ernst Haeckel and D'Arcy Thompson. Cellular Forms uses a simplified biological model of morphogenesis to explore the self-generation of complex three dimensional structures. This is a symphony of programming, leading to aesthetic forms that can only be created and envisioned through digital means. The surface and structure of the resulting shapes are designed to appear lit softly giving these images a feeling of actual existence. As digital imagery has developed and is experienced by us in movies, games and tools in our pockets, this quality can, and will, soon be taken entirely for granted. But, be in no doubt, this is a maestro at work.

The Lumen Exhibition is currently travelling the globe and will be back in Wales next summer. Until then, enjoy the 2014 Lumen online gallery here.

Jennifer Pearce, December 2014

Jennifer Pearce is the founder of Art Club and can be followed on Twitter

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