But is it art? – A look at the 2012 Lumen Prize shortlist for digital art

The Lumen prize is an international award given for the best digitally created art in the world.  Their mission statement is to celebrate this ‘exciting, emerging genre’, bringing attention to this growing artform, for a public that is increasingly interested in the latest technology and its affect on the art world.  Art may have evolved and may no longer be a question of paper and paint, but how much digitisation can exist in art before it’s just a showcase of the latest functionality rather than a test of creativity?

The artists who enter the Lumen competition typically work with tools such as smartphones, tablets, digital cameras and computers.  But do all and any treated and manipulated images qualify as creativity – are the photo-shoppers responsible for magazine covers artists at work?  When does the use of technology in art demonstrate skill rather than artistry?  Perhaps, if the fruit of their labour is beauty then it’s all art.  This seems to be the thought process of the Lumen judges who have shortlisted pieces created with photo-manipulation, composite digital photography (the combining of images to create one picture) and pieces that play with filters and varying exposures to create the desired feel.

Whether the image content is completely fantastical or real with a treated twist, the artistry in the shortlisted pieces seems to exist in the message – irony, visual trickery, wonderment and old-school values of surrealism and hyper-realism, brought back into the contemporary artspace with programmes like Photoshop and Instagram.  Some notable pieces from the shortlist are below – 

The Beginning by Saeed Rezvanian

 The Beginning is a digital photography piece, edited with Photoshop. 


Untitled by Rich Bunce

 Untitled is a photomontage. 


Lux by Alison Clifford

Lux by Alison Clifford

Lux, an audiovisual artwork, was created by editing layers of photographic light images using the 3D software Maya, then edited in Final Cut Pro.


Rules of Engagement 03 by Nettie Edwards

Rules of Engagement 03 by Nettie Edwards

Rules of Engagement 03 was created with vintage photographs, self portraits on an iPhone and iPad and imaging applications like Hipstamatic, Juxtaposer, Brushes, Photocopier and Iris.

Winners will be announced on October 19th.  Until then, make up your own mind about what constitutes art and whether a digital collage fits your bill.


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