Thx for the Brush

Robotic drawing series by Sebastian Schager

“Thx for the Brush” is intended as a humorous expression of the fact that in today’s abundance of media it is common practice to make unrestrained use of existing images. This is what is being thematized and reflected upon here. For Sebastian Schager, who also studied art history, such appropriation has always been part of his artistic practice. The principle of chance is a central element for him, precisely also in the series “Wheel of Fortune” (WOF) presented here. Further tools are the web search and also the appropriation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with its image production according to text.

We have arrived at the age of complete technical reproducibility. Everybody can copy everything. The claim to create something really new, completely free of what is already existing, becomes a utopian idea.

Does it make a difference whether one moves an arm to paint, or a Titian, or a Jeff Koons, has others brush oil on canvas for him according to strict formulas, or whether a machine does the job? Does Jackson Pollok paint himself, though he merely used gravity and performed the movement over the canvas without ever actually touching it? Is it art when a photographer “just” pulls the trigger and sends film to the lab? – Yes, it is. The question remains: where does art-making begin and where does it stop? One could argue that once something is physically manifested, the miracle has already happened, evidence has been created, and an artifact has been produced.

However, this debate is completely open, not least because in our generation there are new levels to think about, for example through the addition of purely digital art, keyword NFT. Robot-assisted drawing, as in the series of works described here, uses just another tool. Every era has a tendency to bring forth its contemporary style through new technical inventions in image making – think of the Camera Obscura, oil paint in tubes, or the influences of photographic technology on painting. If the artist does not use them, he tends to become irrelevant. According to Schager, every great artist’s career is linked to technical achievements. The process of making art is becoming more complex, and the implementation of contemporary artistic practices is now more like a high-tech laboratory than the classic notion of the studio.

The making process for the WOF: 1. collecting images; 2. randomly choosing from this collection, with AI or through a web search; 3. digitally collaging these images or gradually integrating the gradually randomly chosen imagery; 4. converting to halftones; 5. making vectors for the plotter; 6. working on the machine 7. evaluating the results.

In this way, a cooperation between man and machine is created that allows co-creativity, producing new positions and mechanized aesthetics.

Sebastian Schager, born 1984 lives and works in Vienna. He founded the artist group PERFEKT WORLD in 2007 and today works as an artist, gallery owner, curator, graphic designer and project coordinator.

Edit after an artist statement by Michael Schmitz / Ag18 Galerie Vienna