I always pause for a moment to enjoy the granny square art photos that filter through my Instagram stream thanks to artist Guy Whitby, known online as WorkByKnight. This artist doesn’t crochet (as far as I know) but takes accumulated images of crochet granny squares from various sources and uses them as the basis for wonderful art images.
On Creating Digital Art
The Australian artist’s tagline on IG reads:
“Food, clothes, homes are manufactured. Life is factory made. WBK is factory made art for a manufactured world. I lament analogue.”
Of course, I personally love to handcraft items the slow way but I absolutely have an appreciation for digital art and the power that’s possible within it as a craft. The artists speaks to why he works digitally on his Facebook page:
“An artist in order to contribute to history, should make work that references the age in which the artist lives. An artist should hold a mirror up to the world around him or her and comment upon the reflection. Having lived through the latter half of the 20th century and now into the 21st-century one of the biggest transitions in my life has been the technological evolution from an analog foundation to a digital platform. My youth was spent without computers or mobile phones yet the transition to them being such a vital part of my life seemed effortless and mandatory. Only now as our world becomes touchscreen dependent do I reminisce upon the buttons I used to push. Perhaps I will miss pushing buttons when they are all gone? Perhaps in the push of a button there was something more tangible than the brushing of a touchscreen. Though buttons to me also suggest the en masse world in which we currently live. They are made in factories in their hundreds of thousands they are not unique, they are not special. And now these buttons are relics of an analog age. Perhaps I draw a parallel between discarded analog devices and my own mortality. For I too one day will become discarded and irrelevant, just as my once treasured Sony Walkman was reverentially discarded.”
He is also quoted as saying:
“In Australia we’re asleep when the rest of the world is awake,” Whitby says. “We have a computer monitor, a mouse and a tablet and work in the tranquility of the night. This gives a freedom from time. And working in the digital realm there are none of the restrictions of a physical medium. You can’t overwork what you’re doing.”
On Appropriation and Integrity
Again over on Facebook, the artist writes about the importance of any artist’s commitment to creating beauty, and how he is much more committed to the beauty of a work than its integrity. He says:
“So if I am living in an age that lacks integrity surely my art should too? My work is digital for one; that in itself, in the eyes of some, lacks the integrity of pen or ink on paper, or oil on canvas or a 3dimensional real world sculpture. … I use not my own iconography, people I know or I have met. My work uses images of human or artistic icons I did not create. These icons or artistic creations became popular or successful on their own merits. As an artist I am reappropriating that merit. I do so using software I did not create and a lot of my work has never even been printed on paper, they exist only as digital media. And while these works lack integrity I will still endeavour to make each piece beautiful.”
Something cool that happened was that WorkByKnight created a crochet heart of granny squares in this digital manner, made (of course) from granny squares that others had created and uploaded to the Internet. This digital heart art (above) was spotted by someone who wanted to crochet for charity and got a group together to recreate the digital image with actual crochet. So first people crocheted blocks, then Guy digitally accumulated them and turned them into a heart image, then other people were inspired by that heart image and recreated them in crochet. Here’s a picture of the finished crocheted heart blanket with the person who launched the charity project and WorkByKnight himself:
The artist creates digital art in themed collections and of course it’s the Granny Square collection that I’m highlighting here. Actually it’s two collections, the initially Granny Squares in 2012 and the current project: Crocheting It Real. But there are other collections I love as well, most of which use images of everyday items to create portraits. The Analog to Digital Series, for example, uses images of letters from Scrabble and computer keyboards to create portraits of movie stars, poets and others. As you can see, the granny squares often represent famous folks as well. Butterflies of Buttons is another theme I loved.
Exuberant and Enthusiastic!
In 2012, Work by Knight won a $10,000 award for his artwork in an Ebu-Arts contest. The term refers to the desire for all works to be “exuberant and enthusiastic”. He displayed more than twenty pieces in that exhibit, including the Dame Edna image above (which consists of more than 800 miniature granny squares), portraits of Woody Allen, Marilyn Monroe and Steve Jobs and representations of classic arts like The Dancers and The Windmill.