Júlio de Matos Photography

NOVA IMAGEM (02/1981) [back]

Writings & Interviews



Widely accessible and cheap high technology provides artists in industrialised countries (particularly the USA) with the structures that, combined in this era of rapid change with a collectively felt need to express new values, concepts, experiences, emotions, determine the birth (invention) of new and more complex forms of visual language.

We are witnessing an effort to renew, recombine, reinvent classical forms of art, from Drawing to Painting, from Engraving and Serigraphy to Photography; thus, these new forms of visual communication are breaking the commonly accepted rules and taboos which restricted them like a straitjacket when they ceased to be sufficiently open to carry new messages and content to new audiences.

It is in this same context that we are seeing a resurgence of old, extinct forms like the art of making paper and vegetable paints, calligraphy, daguerreotype and many others, in an effort to provide the artist with the maximum number of media by which he can assert his individuality, contributing to the demassification of communication.

Today, we see the appearance of new visual communication techniques supported by high technology – computer graphics, video art, holography, electrophotography, kwickprint, faxography, scannergraphy, lasergraphy, etc, so that often the artist combines his creativity with a deep knowledge of the technical media of his time, something that has not been true since the Renaissance.

The first cars were, in their form, the result of evolutionary development from the horse-drawn carriage. When a new idea or object is born, its form is always related with earlier examples, due to lack of precedent. The invention of Photography, for example, was the result of the evolutionary process of Western art (particularly Drawing and Painting) and no analysis should neglect these historical roots. Whether we are aware or not of the interaction of the various forms of visual language, they exist and play a particular role in the evolutionary process of art and the artist.

So, it is not surprising that when Photography, on the road to maturity, began to become aware of itself as an autonomous form of art, many of its early formal concepts were taken, borrowed from Painting, Engraving and other earlier forms. So it is from this perspective that the latest visual media of the future are used today to express concepts from the past, because the visual grammar of each is almost totally yet to be invented. Their first practical applications are always to copy and try to reproduce pre-existing artistic forms, for example in Video-art and Holography the cinema is the point of departure. Painting / Plastic Arts and Photography are direct references for Xerography / Electrophotography.

A. D. Colman, Photography Critic for the New York Times, pointed out, in November 1979, at the Electroworks Symposium, about copyart that “there is a lack of critical tradition in these areas”. To offer criticism, it is necessary to master the vocabulary and grammar of the medium in question. Knowing a lot about Painting is not enough to qualify an art critic to offer the public commentary on Photography. To understand the mental attitude of the artist it is necessary to understand the language and techniques of the medium. Assuming this is true, the critic has the obligation to provoke the artist into surpassing himself, taking a position on the productive cycle of art and not confining himself to its examination, appreciation, exposure.

This kaleidoscope of factors is a clear sign that we are at the threshold of an era that will revolutionise the known forms of visual communication. We should be expecting the most from the creative combination of this potential, and also to contribute within our own limitations.

Júlio de Matos
February, 1981

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