In the mid-1980s at the age of 67, Lee Mullican, best known for his linear palette knife technique, began working with UCLA’s Program for Technology in the Arts to explore how this signature painting style might translate to the emerging digital imaging technology of the day. The possibilities new technology afforded, paired with Mullican’s advanced painting practice, resulted in spectacularly buzzing dense digital compositions of complex color palettes and illusions of depth.
Mullican found inspiration in the similarities between his painting style and a computerized matrix, particularly the dark background paintings he began to produce in the late 1970s: “I examined why I thought the computer was for me. Even in my paintings, I was always working with pattern and line and color. I’ve had a built-in computer ever since I’ve been doing art.” Replacing his brush and signature palette knife striations with a clickable mouse and pen-like stylus, Mullican was able to merge the late Surrealist method of automatism with the computer’s instant and precise replication of marks. He stated “I found that beyond what one thought, the computer as being hard-lined, analytical, and predictable, it was indeed a medium fueled with the automatic, enabled by chance, and accident to discover new ways of making imagery.”