Magazine article Art Monthly

Darrell Viner

Magazine article Art Monthly

Darrell Viner

Article excerpt

Darrell Viner

Henry Moore Institute Leeds 28 July to 30 October

A series of experimental computer drawings made by Darrell Viner (1946-2001) when he was a postgraduate student at the Slade (1974-76) has recently been acquired by the Leeds Museum and Galleries Sculpture Collection. A substantial group of the drawings is currently on exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute, together with related material from the artist's estate. If the idea of early computer art by a student induces a yawn, it is worth knowing that by the time Viner reached the Slade he was a relatively mature student, already knew quite a lot about computers, and was clearly completely self-motivated. Close scrutiny of a long sequence of individually framed examples of these drawings reveals that they range from some very delicately modulated fields of signs, like etched musical notation, to dense, velvety accumulations of tiny little crosses, abstract discourses on a bookish scale. They belie the prejudice that, for the early, exploratory computer artists, the computer had to be used like a blunt tool, against its will. The ingenuity with which Viner planted seeds of randomness and asymmetry within a basic grid-like regularity was a pre-echo of the artist's later, somewhat wayward humanistic practice. In an adjacent showcase is displayed the worn student portfolio in which these drawings came. It is doubtful that Viner envisaged that his computer printouts would ever be framed individually in this way. These individual examples are extracted from piles of almost identical translucent printouts, each slightly differently configured, like stills in an animated film--and indeed the exhibition also includes a short animated abstract film, but not a masterpiece of the genre.

Viner was using his knowledge of programming not only to make automated drawings but also to give independent movement to sculptural objects, some of which are documented here as contemporary photographs (presumably the original works no longer exist). His special quality was that of making kinetic sculpture that articulated the entire space within which it was shown. In this respect there was obviously no stylistic or conceptual quantum jump between Viner's student projects and the work he was to make subsequently, prior to his premature death. The noisy motorised wooden 'creatures' which Viner made for his postgraduate degree show left interesting marks on the gallery floor when they were shown at the Royal Academy. …

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