A criticism often leveled at those using the computer as a fine-art tool is that they have not extracted anything new from the medium—that their works are merely derivative of other media. Some artists, however, are receiving recognition for addressing the computer’s unique abilities and making a truly digital impact. A case in point is Char Davies, vice president of visual research at SoftImage Inc. (Montreal) and winner of the "Prix Distinction-Computer Graphics" at this year’s Prix Ars Electronica competition in Linz, Austria.

The Prix Distinction was awarded to Davies’ "The Yearning." She also entered another piece, "The Drowning (Rapture)," in the competition.

Davies used SoftImage Creative Environment software running on a Silicon Graphics Indigo Elan to create the two images. "My [artistic] research," she states, "involves developing an alternative aesthetic—an aesthetic that seeks to subvert the visual conventions so prevalent in 3D computer graphics, such as Cartesian space, linear perspective, and objective realism, in order to express an alternative world view in which dualities of self and world, mind and body, are fused, and our essential embeddedness in nature is reaffirmed."

To communicate such content, Davies relies on the 3D space and simulated light that she can manipulate within SoftImage to "combine depth and surface, interior and exterior, light and shadow, photo-realism and abstraction in the same scene. "—Gary Pfitzer

Char Davies - The Yearning (1993)
© Char Davies 1993

The experience of Caribbean scuba diving at depths of more than 100 feet inspired both of the Char Davies images displayed here. Says Davies of "The Yearning" (above), "The intended meaning of this image was originally one of spiritual passage, across a threshold, into light. However, my experience of diving through coral reefs, with the sun beyond the water surface, came through spontaneously—grounding the content in the specific natural elements I encountered."


Char Davies - The Drowning (Rapture) (1993)
© Char Davies 1993

A total of 60,000 triangles makes up "The Drowning (Rapture)," which incorporates 3D models; multiple lights, texture maps used for pattern, surface roughness, and transparency mapping; and refelection, refraction, and static blur effects. "The image's theme," says Davies, "is not so much about drowning as rapture, of willing surrender to an entity larger than ourselves."

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Last verified: August 1st 2013.