At a time when we crave human connection, the once impersonal digital space has shifted into a primary tool for intimacy and interaction. Tiffany Jade explores the challenges and opportunities of digital mediums for artists and galleries, revealing new depth to the relationship between artists and those who covet their work.
Caroline Denervaud in her studio. Image: Eva Baales
The Art Gallery has long been a vital touchstone in an artist’s journey. A mechanism that connects them to their audience. Since the emergence of the internet in the early 80’s however, a distinct ‘before and after’ exists in the collective conscience and artists have either embraced or repelled the opportunities that the digital revolution has come to offer. Galleries have evolved or became redundant, and the expectations on artists, gallerists, and audiences have changed. Now, as we struggle through a global pandemic, the transitional undercurrent being experienced in the art world has become a riptide.
One of the defining concerns of digital platforms is that we are sacrificing human connection in favour of immediacy. That this reactive energy leaves little space for consideration and drives trend rather than enduring, preeminent art. For an artist, direct access to their digital audience fuels both significant opportunity and dangerous influence. Many navigate this by balancing immersive periods of time where they are wholly devoted to the development of their work, with bursts of business acumen - something that doesn’t naturally lend itself to the archetype of an artist. Megan Dicks, Director of Otomys Contemporary is familiar with this dialogue having established the gallery exclusively online a decade ago. She has since steered the business through various manifestations in both digital and physical space, recently closing the doors of galleries in both Melbourne and Sydney to focus entirely on a digital presence.
Recognising that a shift to an artist’s sense of place within the commercial market was already well underway, Megan understood the need to re-establish what it meant to be an artist in the digital age. She recalls that, early on, the choice to focus on social audiences was “frowned upon in the industry” however the “financial viability of this contemporary approach” far outweighed the criticism at a time when traditional galleries were closing their doors across the globe. It turns out that this early decision has shored Otomys Contemporary up well in light of the current COVID-19 climate.
Megan Dicks and Hannah Abbott of Otomys Contemporary. Image: Sharyn Cairns
Sophia Szilagyi signing a piece of work. Image: Rachael Horan
As we all sit tight in our homes, digital platforms have metamorphosed from powerful tools to primary vehicles for connection. Ex-communicated from conventional pathways, many artists have had to re-assess their creative processes, the viability of their art as a vocation, and how that weathers fundamental disruptions.
This multi-faceted redefinition of their purpose means many are falling back on pure creativity to engineer new and innovative ways to reach audiences. Ironically, the very things that once concerned us about digital tools - the human disconnect - has come to be their redemption. Suddenly, we can be privy to the inner workings of an artist’s studio. Immersed in a powerful journey that is transparent, evocative and enlightening. Where artistic intentions become common ground between the artist and those who covet their work. Depth to the relationship is now being forged from the detritus of disaster and galleries are recognising a whole new sense of responsibility to support the pragmatics and strategy behind the digital interface. They are once again reinstating themselves as a conduit, the difference now though is the need for humanity to balance the digital so that when we all emerge from this strange moment in time, the beautiful abundance of artistic creation that is quietly being brought to life in homes and ateliers around the world can be tethered to another ‘before and after’ in our collective conscience. One that will come to define a new sense of place for galleries in the grand scheme of tomorrow.
Meg Walters in her studio. Image: Todd Clare, Otomys Contemporary Gallery. Image: Trevor Mein