prepared for Alex Alexander & Associates


May 1, 2003 Interview of Pygoya by Alex Alexander

translation into other languages 



Alex: Are you the first digital artist of Hawaii? When did you start and what has been your digital process over decades of experimentation?

Pygoya: I am the first digital artist to exhibit in Hawaii. Larry Lovett, also an artist, brought to Honolulu the first professional computer graphics system in 1984. I paid for user time and assistance at his Digital Associates firm from 1985-86. Larry later joined exhibits I organized as a gallery owner and director. In 1986 I bought the Amiga 1000 and started to create on my own system.

From the get go I wanted to create imagery on the PC that others would consider to be "fine art" or simply "art," instead of merely computer graphics of the day. Having been fortuitous to start at the beginning of the PC revolution, my work historically records not just one "serious” artist's efforts to grow in the new medium through experience and technological progress, but also documents graphic powers of personal computers since 1985. Along the way challenges changed in step with technological capacity.

For example, I was intrigued in my "Pixelism" in the '80s, intentionally magnifying visually the electronic pixel as an intrinsic element of the medium, instead of like critics, deploring the low resolution and limited electronic palette as reasons for justifying the digital image isn’t "art." Instead, immediate challenge was to use such parsimonious graphic tools and still transform the monitor markings into convincing fine art. A new Ph.D. in the art of psychology (1980) gave me the tools and self assurance to proclaim that what I produced and exhibited was indeed fine art. It was a lengthy crusade with media - newspapers, magazines, television - to change public attitude towards “computer art.” Along the way I relished the opportunity to be the researcher, always attempting to judge public and institutional attitudes and reactions to my work.

It was a quick jaunt from 16 colors to 16.2 million which for me quickly felt like chromatic overload. The medium is still hurt today by the intensely bright and gaudy work of less seasoned digital tool users. Through the years, my favorite palette of hues have dwindled back to a core of earthly tones, feeling quite at home in black, brown, and gray, spectral domains.

There were indulgent times too, like the time I experimented with fellow artists as "human printers" to output large paintings from the original monitor designs. Then there was the mansion I built that provided more of a museum ambiance for the "Cyberpaintings" (it had 40 recessed track lights) than it worked as a cozy residence for the family.

Alex: What does your digital palette look like now?

Pygoya: The colors are not as intense as when I first started out with such limited choices. But even with more I tend to prefer muted tones, downplaying the intensity of bright and saturated colors for the sake of highlighting other visual elements more interesting to me which thereby reflect who I am, such as those that induce ambiguity, complexity, and paradox. I think of bright colors as spicy seasoning in my compositions; overuse is distasteful to me at this period of my life. It also may be an over reaction to decades of bombardment of radiating phosphorous photons into my retinas. There is now a natural tendency to seek soothing if not also less glaring colors, not unlike working with the painter's opaque pigments. Dark shades and hues also assist in creating the illusion of depth, and even more so when contrasted against high saturation and brighter warm accents, such as red and yellow.

Alex: How do you think digital art will look in a corporate setting?

Pygoya: I try to create a ying-yang balance in most works between the physical medium (computer graphics, imaging with light) and my training in and sensitivity towards actual paintings. I did earn a masters in painting and drawing and have never lost the affinity for ground natural pigments and the appreciation of texture, such as the weave of canvas and the fiber of Asian watercolor papers. I also had courtships with bronze sculpture, mix media, photography and ceramics. To this day all this past experience find their way and place within my digital art.

Now imagine this potpourri of visual effects layered within the digital medium. On the corporate wall it resounds with the traditions of what art has been, but now, at the same time, there is the freshness of a medium born of the Age of Information. It makes the corporation appear contemporary, leading edge in its selection of how it displays it's taste, its choice of identity within the present cultural context. For the high tech company there is seamless integration between its products and services and its identity with cultural artifacts that emerge from similar technological origins. Yet I also select to make my works easier to accept and even enjoyed for those who hate technology and prefers past antiquity. I see my work as a bridge between two worlds, changing eras, that corporations can adopt to brand themselves as simultaneously supporters of tradition as well as patrons of emerging forms of contemporary art. Add the scale of murals and power, success, and unlimited growth become associated with the corporation's public persona. Size counts and assists in branding the company as a major player within its specific industry.

Alex: What is your ability to create large format works needed for large walls, such as corporate and hotel lobbies?

Pygoya: I can provide any size work from a monitor image design! This gives me the flexibility of unlimited scaling not just in physical size of the works but also in pricing. I offer limited edition inkjet prints of archival quality, as well as hand executed oil paintings on canvas that are mural size. To produce a large mural, say 15'x10', with faithful reproduction of the detail nuisances of the digital image, would take all my time, at least a full year per image. So I collaborate with master painters for such large commission projects, always staying in charge, in control of the process, insuring quality. Personally the reward is not so much the money but the satisfaction of lust to see my vision born from intelligent light blossom into full bloom, at a size that overwhelms, dominates, a room once sterile and mundane before installation of the monumental artwork.

Alex: As an artist, what turns you on?

Pygoya: Besides size? Hmm- Feeling like a magician that can actually create the magic of making perceptible as well as tangible, art collectibles derived from the ephemeral spectrum of light. What also turns me on is to realize that success of my digital dabblings require the same imagination and open mind as when I was a boy lying on the lawn, searching for natural object shapes in clouds, metamorphosing during their journey across the sky. To this day I excitedly anticipate for forms to emerge from sequential commands that drive software to transform  color, shape, and expression. Then there is the God given attribute of mine of being quite the eccentric, thereby enabling me to turn on not just to fine art but other aspects of life, such as performing dental therapy, disco dancing, writing, marathon running, even flirting with the ladies. All channel into a grounded sense of fulfillment of a wonderful life, marked by tangible accomplishment and personal satisfaction. I am a “happy” artist - but it doesn't hurt my work!

Alex: You went for example, from Disco Doc (dentist) to Digital Artist?

Pygoya: You might say I was always the rebel, the troublemaker, the impetulant sibling of the family. So it was easy to counter the status quo, and common sense, and risk professional failure by camouflaging my dental clinic reception room as a discotheque, complete with spinning lights, loud music and an actual hired disk jockey. After surviving the criticism and sensationalism of being the renown Disco Doc, it was no big personal threat to throw away the brushes and declare my play on the computer as "art." The medium provided this rebel with a cause, which to this day as revealed through the networking of the Internet, is a global revolution in the arts yet to be resolved.  Tomorrow's historians should get it right, now being weaned within the pandemic digital cyberculture.

Alex: What is your goal? Is it that your art be immortal and find their final resting place within the museums?

Pygoya: My goal to keep making art as long as I live, with the computer. Yes, mated for life.  I can only hope that I shall be remembered for the work I have done in assisting the medium into consensual respectability as a significant art form cultivated from Cyberculture of the Digital Age, now having spawn the Internet. Whether I'm personally remembered "ain't no big thing." Like any other artist, it matters that my work be considered relevant. Most importantly, I leave behind a collection that keeps my feelings and expressions alive as a working artist of my time.


German translation, courtesy of Ingrid Kamerbeek, public relations for the artist, Europe


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