Bridging Dimensions: Thomas Lisle on the New Frontiers of Digital Time-Based Painting

Bridging Dimensions: Thomas Lisle on the New Frontiers of Digital Time-Based Painting

In a captivating conversation with Vlad from Sedition, acclaimed artist Thomas Lisle discusses his latest groundbreaking collection, Time and Paint Wait for None. This series marks a significant evolution in the art world, blending the timeless beauty of traditional painting with the dynamic potential of digital media. Lisle's innovative approach challenges conventional boundaries and pioneers a fusion where digital art meets contemporary painting, creating a compelling narrative that evolves with time and space. As the dialogue unfolds, Lisle shares insights into his artistic journey, the complexities of digital creation, and his thoughts on the future of painting in an increasingly digital landscape.

Spillage, Thomas Lisle

Vlad: Thomas, it's great to have your new collection, Time and Paint, Wait for None, on Sedition. I'm impressed that you have taken what seems like a quantum leap in bringing contemporary painting and digital art closer together and forward into new realms.

Thomas Lisle: Thanks; it's been my dream for 40 years to make some time-based digital painting; I never realized it was so tricky! These new works are all paint simulations, painted and programmed by the artist. I haven't written the paint simulation code itself! That is beyond me, but I have programmed how the paint behaves after it leaves the virtual brush, how the virtual brush behaves, and hundreds of other parameters to get the paintings looking as I want them.

Untitled, 2018, Christopher Wool

Vlad: I love paintings by Christopher Wool, Lucy Bull, and Oscar Murillo. Your work captures the dynamism and bold colors of these artists and yet brings two whole new dimensions to play that painting has not really captured until now: those of time and three-dimensionality. It seems to me you are really breaking boundaries that painting has long wished to overcome.

Thomas Lisle: Yes, I love those painters, too, and artists like Albert Oehlens. I loved his recent show at Gagosian London; it was a real treat. Time-based painting means that compositions, interactions, and color relationships change and evolve. Nothing is frozen in time; it's all controlled dynamism.

Vlad: Why do you think it's essential that painting embraces the digital realm?

Thomas Lisle: Well, to me, it seems that while I love having paintings on my walls at home, digital time-based art is the medium of the digital age. The internet and public spaces have changed the way people look at art. Time-based art seems to be much better suited to the digital world we live in than static images. I haven't stopped making physical paintings; I still love making them, but there is an exciting new world to discover in time-based 3D digital paintings, where a painter can go beyond physical constraints. For example, in my next series of photographs, I have some paint that is affected by negative gravity, like on Earth, but some paint that is affected by positive gravity, wherever that might exist, I don't know, but it's great to see the interaction between the two forces, that is impossible in the real world.

Vlad: Is digital time-based painting as expressive as physical painting?

Thomas Lisle: It's complicated. A physical painting has a physical reaction; the composition is much more critical, as it's not changing, and the painter's marks are more visceral and tangible. However, a time-based painting has a narrative; as soon as something changes from one state to another, there is a process, a story being told, and that's a significant change. Another fundamental shift is that digital art emits light rather than reflecting light from a physical painting. I don't think there is as much definition in virtual strokes as in physical ones, but there is perhaps more feeling as you see it developing as it's being made; with an actual painting, you only see the result. Digital strokes are animated and can start doing different things and behave in ways a real brush cannot. It's a time-based expression that goes beyond the boundaries of what real-world paint and brushes can do; these paintings are not trying to emulate an actual painting, which seems pointless, but to experiment and develop what digital time-based painting can do that static physical painting can't.

It's breaking exciting new ground, like discovering a whole new universe of what painting can be and can do. You have to remember that there are thousands of things digital visual effects and simulations can do, but most of these things have nothing to do with painting. I want to focus on what can be done with contemporary painting, as it's the foundation of art and history. The world of digital art is very diverse at the moment. Much of it has nothing to do with contemporary paintings and sculpture; I think it's essential that digital art is built upon the hard-won visual languages and principles of abstract art to have any meaning and value in the future.

Vlad: So, are human consciousness and the human hand-to-eye relationship essential to making a painting and artwork for you?

Thomas Lisle: Yes, overall, I find it interesting that the spirit/being/consciousness of the artist, whatever you want to call it, comes through in an artwork through their physical acts. AI or randomness cannot replace that.

Vlad: How do you feel about AI art in general?

Thomas Lisle: I think it's irrelevant to painting and art. Imagine asking Ingres or Hockney to make a painting or drawing for you, from which you buy the copyright and call it your work. That's the closest analogy I can find for AI art. Ingre and Hockney not only spent a lifetime mastering the techniques and skills of drawing and painting and the relationship between hand and eye but also made drawings of great beauty.

So if you do not want to do the hard slog of years of learning, developing skills, and craftsmanship, then hey, go to this website and say make me an animation in the style of Van Gogh of a Sky Scraper that morphs into a slug that gets eaten by a girl eating ice cream, and hey - presto 10 minutes later you can download the movie and impress your friends.

The learning curve to program artwork like my digital paintings is many years, and you must learn about many complex concepts and technologies. Equally important is the digital output I make, every detail down to the very smallest voxel (that's, a 3D pixel); I can control, edit, manipulate, and tweak until I get exactly what I want - this is the total opposite of what AI art does, all AI art gives you an uneditable movie or image in 2D.

Every day in the art world, I come across people who think all digital art is the same; it is not. There are huge differences between technologies and software. I'm not at all convinced that AI will make considerable changes to the art world. I am never going to read a book written by AI, listen to music written by AI, or look at art made by AI and take it as someone's consciousness expressing itself in all but the most limited way. I take comfort in the fact that you can't even copyright AI art in the US, as it's insufficiently human-made.

 It will take a long time before everyone knows the difference between watercolor and oil paint, etchings and lithographs, and the many different digital mediums.

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Thomas Lisle
Thomas Lisle
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