Reverse Ravel, Michael Holcomb Artist
Artwork appears at BASIS Chandler

Michael Holcomb lives and works in Tucson Arizona. His art is displayed in the lobby of every school managed by BASIS.ed.


I became aware of the profound relationship of art and technology in the 1960’s, in the middle of the blossoming of the “technosphere” that followed World War Two. This included television, the integrated circuit, computers, lasers, robotics and the Internet, all of which have continued to shape and define our world. Some of my earliest work with arts technology had connections to the Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) initiatives, Ant Farm and the Artists Television Workshop.

Even though I’d been successful as a young painter, I put that behind me and worked for several years as an artist, designer and animator in television and video art where electronic imaging technology was most advanced and where digital tools were first accessible to me. By the late ’70’s, small, cheap desktop computers had become available and WYSIWYG interfaces soon followed. Suddenly there were computers everywhere and I was able to take my work to a university setting where research in new methods and forms is the expectation.

The university world has provided many opportunities, allowing me to work in teams with engineers and programmers on large complex interactive “new media” projects and to continue making images with increasingly sophisticated tools. I’m currently Assistant Dean for Technology in the Arts at the University of Arizona and Director of Treistman Center for New Media in the College of Fine Arts.

I’ve been fortunate to have my work exhibited and published around the world and to see this kind of work accepted as part of the larger and more historical understanding of “Art”. I’ve never been more intrigued by or committed to my work than I am today.

My work with art/technology is well represented in these defining ideas:

“As an artist, my primary challenges and processes are concerned with ‘discovery’. Discovering the formal, rhythmic, spatial, and chromatic relationships that result in a finished piece is an unpredictable, humbling, and often surprising experience. The images I create are records of those richly complex discoveries. As in life, patience, courage, openness to change, to exploration and the confidence to embrace meaningful options when they emerge, can affirm, sustain, and renew.” Michael Holcomb

“TECHNÉ is an epistemological term that Aristotle used to refer to the third form of knowledge in his classification of sciences. Now, commonly understood as mere skill belonging to craft, Techné has lost its original meaning which integrated beauty, art, expertise, technical knowledge, skill and industry: In Aristotle’s time, artistic creativity and technology were not divided.” Victor Burgin

“‘Poetic Logic’ is the sensuous apprehension of what we do not yet understand in the
presence of reality.” Frederick Sommer

“‘Phase’ is a concept that helps us see the variable synchronicity of art and technology. Bach imagined music beyond what his instruments could play. Now we have instruments that can play beyond what can be imagined.” Gene Youngblood

“Nothing is positive about art except that it is a word.” Willem de Kooning

The confluence of technology, art and culture has been my central interest since the 1960’s. I am a humanist with much curiosity; interested in getting these very sophisticated computational tools to produce images they weren’t always intended to produce. I respond to the sensual surprises that result from setting up a number of formal and mathematical circumstances and revealing what was, heretofore, unknown. Then, like any other artist, it’s what I do with these discoveries that makes the work.

The forms are developed with 3-dimensional vertex modeling software and original algorithms. They are edited for characteristics of color, transparency and texture. I compose them in a controlled and lighted virtual environment and they are captured in a high-resolution digital image. The images are printed with large inkjet (Giglee) printers using archival ink and papers.

Some of my recent works are influenced by the 19th century German biologist Ernst Haekel’s great book, Art Forms in Nature. I’m also greatly influenced by the early 20th century abstractionists whose translation of the spiritual into the sensory often found pure form as a subliminal equivalent, the result of what some referred to as clairvoyant observation.

Dr. Q Mark Reford

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