@ Myrtha Steiner, Artist & Collection curator, www.myrthasteiner.com
NFT Art - A Visual Adventure
Web-based and digital art have been with me for decades, whether as a visitor to exhibitions, where I am fascinated by their expressive and creative possibilities, or in my role as a collection curator, where I take care of the long-term conservation of such works. As a thoroughly real-world artist, who needs the haptic and sensual, it never really occurred to me to work with digital means myself and use them as a tool for my own art. Until NFT art came along.
Initially, it was ephemeral information that didn’t resonate with me. I understood as much as that it was a new type of digital art. Only after a while, when NFT art crossed my way more often, I started to wonder what exactly it was. I became more and more curious and wanted to know how it worked. In order to understand a new technique, for me the best way is to do it myself. That was when I started to dig in and learn how to make an NFT artwork.
Thinking about the kind of images I would create with this new technology, digital painting seemed natural. However, all my drafts on the computer failed. Everything I love about painting was missing: the texture, the brush stroke, the layers of colour that give depth and space to the painting; even the smell.
The world of NFT art is full of references to street art, graphic novels, and comics. It draws its aesthetic vocabulary from the gaming industry. It is full of artificial worlds and fantasy creatures, bright colours and hyper-realistic spaces. The trailblazing fact about NFT technology is that it allows a digital work of art to be placed online as an original and unique piece. Before this, every digital image could be copied infinitely.
As is often the case with new types of art, the eye first needs to get used to it – just like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s little prince, who describes making friends as a slow acceptance, step by step.
Looking around in my studio, I stumbled upon the subject of the underwater world.
When I went diving for the fist time, I was stunned about what I saw. I was kneeling on the ground of the sea, packed with the diving gear, ten meters below the surface. The sunlight came through the water. The water appeared as a light blue, and visibility extended beyond fifty meters. Colourful fish and magnificent corals surrounded me. It seemed an endless variety of shades and shapes. I was kneeling there, not moving, just looking – thinking I had landed in the most amazing living environment. I continued diving. For one year, I spent almost every weekend under water, exploring the flora and fauna of the sea with growing fascination.
For 17 years, I had been working on an artist book about the subject, and completed it in 2021. I executed it with lithography – drawing and printing about 650 pages by hand in my own printing shop. While printing, sometimes the result was not what I wanted. The quality of the print might not have been sufficient, or it was not an image I approved of. Instead of discarding the wrong prints, I kept them in a pile.
Even though my first dive is twenty years ago, the memory is still vivid and I still want to work with that experience. After I found out that painting digitally would not work for me, I browsed the pile for motives that could provide a basis for digital imaging. Then, I scanned some of the motives and started to work with them on Photoshop. Contrary to the artists’ book, which I had printed black on white, I now included colour.
I was familiar with digital art, but found it challenging to work in the medium. Every draft seemed flat; one pixel flat so to speak. It took almost two months until I found a way of working in the digital space. The working title of my NFT series is «Boxfish Project». Boxfish is a small fish that resembles a little box. It became a kind of leitmotiv for my artist book as well as for my NFT series.
For me it is important to convey the atmosphere of being under water, of giving a sense of fluidness. With each of the images I want to show a different aspect of the experience. There are many things still to uncover.