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Don't forget to get real

Andrew Smart | Nov. 19, 2008
Dont be afraid to stick your head into some colored mud and see where the experience takes you.

The Australian art critic Robert Hughes was once asked if film and more visceral media have made an art form as quiet as painting doomed?

His response was that there are always going to be people who like something which is silent, static and incontrovertible.  Because for the same reason that in our actual lives, we dont want a continuous, thin-sensory bombardment, you just want to have areas of silence, and areas of reflection.

Having spent 10 years managing media businesses, including 5 years in digital media, I believe that digital media has expanded the forms and opportunities for self expression well beyond traditional art forms such as painting, and that digital art need not be intrusive, noisy or even interactive.

Nevertheless, I found myself agreeing with Joe OSullivan, Chief Operating Officer of InFocus, as he reflected on Hughes quotes and his own feelings towards art at their private showing of James Holdworths paintings at The Old School in Singapore.

Art is very subjective, instinctive, said Joe, a man who has spent his life in hi-tech and once owned a gallery, a first peripheral look pricks the attraction, a deeper study of the fabric of the painting and the hook is in.

As he spoke these words, I realized that I was on this path and that the self-actualization I was experiencing would have been difficult to recreate online.

Yes, the web can introduce a painters work to the global community and improve their prospects for commercial success.  But if you visit James website at, as attractive and well presented as it is, it fails to present the full texture, weight, and impact of his work.

To quote Hughes, Paintings are things in the physical world, made out of colored mud smeared on a piece of a piece of cloth or a piece of board, with a stick with hairs on the end.  They have a particular address to your body, and none of this comes across in the computer image.

While I agree with OSullivan and Hughes, I wonder what is more important; to understand the artists expression of himself or the emotional impact and reflection it creates within me?  I will be selfish and say it is the latter, and thank the artist for stimulating the experience.

This brings me to a secondary thought, which is that this experience would have been harder to share and explore with others if it had happened online and not at a physical event.

Joe and I may look at James work with a shared admiration but the depth and meaning of our emotional responses and the subsequent impact on our lives will be different and personal.


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