source: practicalethicsnet

Catherine McIntyre is perhaps the world’s finest digital artist. Currently engaged in computer-based illustration and graphic design, she developed a fascination with anatomy and form as a masters student in photography. She collages and coheres arresting images that combine natural and artifactual objects. Some of her images are cyborgs, others are chimeras, many are nudes. All depend on sophisticated visual juxtapositions, interlaced with themes of ageing, decay, foreboding, vulnerability, nature, culture, strength, resistance and communication.

Some viewers may be distracted by the nudity in her work. As for why she uses the nude, she says:

‘Many of the pictures include the naked figure. The nude is a natural symbol of the laying-bare of innermost feelings, and has been a continuing metaphor in my work. It can radiate well-being, or vulnerability and weakness; it can symbolise humanity’s deepest essence, or that of the natural world; it can be idealised, realistic, grotesque, dismembered, impersonal, abstracted. … The endless ways of representing the nude all carry with them resonances inevitably associated with the depiction of ourselves at our most unprotected. It has become, for me, a symbol of veracity, lack of pretence, honesty – and vulnerability. I find images of the nude impossible to ignore’.

Her work is a visual feast, undeniably lovely, sensual and bare in its many connotations. Impossible to ignore. The sensuality embedded in much of her work is a joy, part of an embodied human life which our culture has a difficult time viewing or discussing without lapsing into prudery or political correctness. Yet her use of chimeras, cyborgs and nature/culture intersections resonate in a different key. They bespeak our arrogance towards animals, hubris towards nature and evil done ourselves. ‘Helix’ is classic McIntyre, juxtaposing artifactual stairwells and the nude to reference the DNA that is one esse of our earthly being. ‘Deus ex Machina’ highlights our mechanical approach to life through the manipulations of biotechnology. ‘Please Write’ intricates the longings of our bodies, hearts and minds, with the loneliness, betrayal and abandonment thrust on us by life. ‘Jac’ filled my eyes with tears the first time I saw him. No one teaches about love or the golden rule as well as our animal companions. A domestic canid with the wings of Pegasus who walks on water comes as no surprise to those of us blessed by non-human friendship.
source: thesislambertsblog

The photographic artist Catherine McIntyre uses the computer purely as a tool, because it extends her chosen form of photomontage. McIntyre’s principal reason for using the computer is that it can fit into her artistic process rather than being an end in itself.

Her pragmatism centres on the computer’s flexibility when she is making digital collages in Photoshop; in this capacity the computer is a tool and not an aesthetic statement in itself. McIntyre creates her images digitally because the computer happens to be the most expedient way of doing so. In this, she has taken an opposite position to Tom Costello, preferring to expand her art through digital means. Her focus is on their pictorial content, not on the production method, and I do not see this as being somehow less virtuous than using the computer for its own sake. As McIntyre says:

If I could get the same look manually, I probably still would (I did physical collages for years before finding that P’shop did the things I wanted better) because the things that concern me pictorially are those that concern painters.

In line with this, McIntyre does not see the computer’s lack of a “native” graphical form as problematic because it is secondary to the context of the art. She insists that using pre-built software packages involves considerable skill, and using the computer is not completely transparent. Working with it can produce effects previously impossible or unworkable.

McIntyre’s principal reason for using the computer is that it can fit into her artistic process rather than being an end in itself. She distinguishes between those she sees as “true” digital artists – the programmers dealt with later in this thesis – and artists like herself who happen to use computers pragmatically:

For the former, the means of production and the way that this affects and shapes the end result is primary. The latter (myself among them) don’t care that the computer happened to be in the production line; it’s just a good way of getting the sort of images they want to make.

For McIntyre, the creative aspect lies in the idea, not in its production. Using Photoshop frees her from certain technicalities, allowing her mind “to operate in different areas of concentration which are closer to those of painting.” Because McIntyre can operate on layered images in Photoshop rather than on physical masks, collaged photos, etc., the skill is “transferred to the arrangements” she makes. Furthermore, McIntyre sees the computer-artist interface as being of little importance in her method; she also regards elements such as composition and tonal balance as the means for conveying the creative idea rather than being “creative” in themselves:

The technique extends further than the computer-artist interface, which is of little importance in the method. I think these arrangements – composition, tonal balance, all that – aren’t the creative, idea, part either, but also the means of conveying it.

This understanding is greatly enhanced if the artist is also the programmer, yet the serendipitous aspect applies to the user as well. McIntyre uses realtime manipulation when collaging her digital photographs in Photoshop. Having turned to the computer from her previous physical collaging, McIntyre justifies her digital work with reference to Martin Kemp’s definition of skill in art:

I think that Martin’s definition of ‘skill as the alliance of idea and technique to realise something, not simply as handiwork’ is perfect […] the techniques, both computer and traditional, also need an idea outside them […] before they make something new.
McIntyre most important insight is that, for her at least, the computer is only an element in the overall creation of the art. Her ideas find expression on it rather than being tied to it; they are computer-enabled rather than computer-specific. In this, the Photoshop interface proves useful because it provides a metaphorical link to her previous darkroom and collaging practice, yet allows a great deal of flexibility in the application of filters and the composition of images. Using Photoshop enables McIntyre to utilise the computer’s power through gestures and actions that are not wholly new to her, because they incorporate her past experience and activities.