Technology Transforms Tradition: Digital Drawings by Mikko Ijäs

August 15 – December 17, 2011

Roger W. Rogers Gallery

While Mikko Ijäs made the drawings in this exhibition from direct observation in a very traditional manner, the means by which he executed them is anything but traditional: He used his finger to draw them directly on the touch-screen of a portable, digital device. By combining the disciplined observation and skill of a traditional draftsman or painter with the capabilities of contemporary digital equipment and technology, the works Ijas produces with the Brushes application on an iPhone and iPad are imbued with a startling and productive tension. His luminous and colorful drawings are simultaneously steeped in the history of art and on the edge of technological innovation.

The success of these landscapes, still life artwork, portraits, self-portraits, and interiors executed in France, Namibia, India and Finland is built on the experience gained from many years of working with traditional media. While Ijäs is a skilled draftsman, he is anything but a traditionalist. Using digital media enables him to work quickly and directly in his chosen landscape or setting. The device’s portability allows him to capture the exact quality of a mid-day, sunlit landscape viewed from a hilltop in Namibia’s remote Damaraland, as he does in Ugab River. I’ve had the privilege of watching Ijäs work on such plein air drawings in the Namibian desert and was surprised at how unexpectedly tactile the process of building an image is for him. It is most akin to finger painting, but with a near-infinite variety of colors, line thicknesses, and line qualities. He can apply color with any one of a vast number of tools, and erase, edit, and revise the works just as easily.

The very nature of non-traditional media encourages experimentation and risk-taking. The artist is liberated and empowered by technology, which gives him abilities and opportunities that working in traditional media would preclude. Technology also enables him to distribute the work via the internet and social media to his audience the moment he has completed it, or to exhibit it later in a variety of ways: as in-process animations, as projected backdrops for theater productions, or as prints on paper and canvas in more traditional museum and gallery settings.

In his drawings Ijäs balances an interest in perception and realism with meaningful, productive distortion. In doing so his work is in dialogue with the history and traditions of painting. His interest in the work of Matisse, the Fauves, and Van Gogh is reflected in his use of luminous, intense color, expressive linework, and a painterly approach. While Ijäs is clearly interested in historical perceptual strategies like cubism, he also acknowledges the influence of contemporary artists like David Hockney, who explores a similar interest in drawing on hand-held electronic devices. What separates Ijas from Hockney is the clear joy he finds in perceiving and depicting beauty. His works in this exhibition are consistently joyful, regardless of whether they admire the grandeur of nature, or celebrate the quiet bliss of an intimate, domestic scene.

Mikko Ijäs is a Finnish visual artist and researcher who lives and works in Helsinki, Finland. He received his Master’s degree in Studio Art in 2006 from the department of photography of the University of Arts and Design, Helsinki, and is currently working on his Doctorate in Art Theory at Aalto University in Helsinki, where his dissertation (titled The Eye, Hand and Mind) deals with the evolution of art in the context of art history, human perception, neuropsychology and the practice of fine arts. He has exhibited widely in Europe, the United States and Africa. More of his digital works can be seen on his website:

Amis Kloof, 2010, iPad Drawing, 24” x 18”

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