Offering endless options for adjusting colour, as well as transformations including liquefaction, smearing, embossing and blurring, Photoshop's extraordinary range of easy-to-apply filters were largely designed to emulate analogue procedures, but instead display an intensity verging on the hyper-real.
There's growing emphasis on such effects in contemporary painting - often raised to new levels of exaggeration through attempts to translate them (back) into paint. (Note 1)
The vibrancy of on-screen colour arguably constitutes a newly contemporary experience of the qualities of light, and nowhere are the possibilities for exploring such intensity more varied - and accessible - than in image-editing software. Note 2.
Photoshop's enormous range of filters and channels not only provide options to enhance existing colour, but also to distort it entirely, saturating, reversing, blending and heightening in ways that have stealthily infiltrated the work of many contemporary painters.
Founded in 2001, the Berlin-based collective Artists Anonymous produce paintings based largely on digitally processed photographic material.
Whereas early works focused primarily on translating enhanced or manipulated colour into paint, more recent paintings are characterised by reference to additional effects and more complex use of imagery and layering.
Glenn Brown was one of the first artists to identifiably translate image editing technologies into paint.
For Brown, the capabilities of Photoshop not only allow him to create complex composites as a starting point for his paintings, but equally serve as a stylistic reference.
The software is used, firstly, to prepare and combine his source materials. Scanned elements from works by the likes of Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Anthony Van Dyck and Rembrandt are merged, distorted and run through filters as the first step in a process Brown has described as "...constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artists' work".
Brown's subsequent painting technique amounts to a close translation of these heavily worked references.
Uncannily resembling heavily impasto paintwork, in reality his canvas surfaces are completely smooth, consisting of complex skeins of thin, intertwined lines of colour. This bravura trompe l'oeil is as dependent on illusion as Photoshop's own rendering of pixels into gooey viscosity and, indeed, closely mirrors its own procedures for simulating texture.
While Brown's impression of unctuous, rainbow-hued paint clearly bears some relation to the multi-chromatic brushstroke, his work is far more evocative of Photoshop's 'liquefying' tools than its digital brushwork.
He is also, like Artists Anonymous, particularly interested in altering colour, tweaking and even reversing channels to achieve, for example, green skin tones rather than red.
Yet despite Brown's enormous debt to Photoshop's algorithms, he successfully wrests digitisation back into a world of cerebral, hand-crafted physicality.
Image-editing effects take just seconds to apply; Brown's interpretation of such results takes months, even years, to produce, playing expertly with the increasing overlap in today's visual culture between the illusory, the actual, and what is generated by software and rendered by hand.
Swiss artist Tobias Madison's practice is more tongue in cheek than it might at first appear, a heady exploration of the limits of taste through works that encompass the overblown and absurd.
This aesthetic is perhaps no better illustrated than in Madison's riotous Photoshop concoctions, which pull together a vast array of canned effects, textures and filters so kitsch in totality that they might almost be marvellous.
Constituting a very knowing exercise in attraction and repulsion, these works revel in the kind of excess which unrestrained use of powerful software can easily promote (we've all seen excruciating club flyers, home-made posters and other examples of appallingly undisciplined 'professional' design).
Serving as both celebration and critique of the contemporary digital landscape, Madison's compellingly vulgar Photoshopped confections truly constitute a new incarnation of Pop for the Noughties. Note 3.
The work of collective 'assume vivid astro focus' (avaf) is characterised by riotously colourful amalgams of figuration and abstraction across disciplines including painting, photography, film and installation.
Firmly associated with digitally-processed media, it's difficult to imagine the group's existence without recourse to the technology on which their aesthetic so depends.
Unlike the majority of artists featured here, avaf employ both Photoshop and Illustrator for their work - a software combination that facilitates their creation of highly graphic ornamentation paired with heavily processed photographic imagery.
In interview with the Kunsthalle Wien, avaf produced the following insights regarding the production of the large-scale pieces they term 'wallpaper':
"Most wallpapers we make start with drawings on acetate that are scanned, cleaned up, and sharpened in Photoshop. These elements are then turned into vectors, and we work on coloring them in Illustrator, where we also work on the composition of the wallpaper piece. ... Some other wallpapers are Photoshop files, and are a mixture of appropriated and original imagery also mixed with vector elements."
Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie's technical skills are as dazzling as we've come to expect of artists hailing from former Soviet territories, so any suggestion that he might draw inspiration from Photoshop deserves, we admit, some scepticism.
Yet his Pie Fight series shows all the hallmarks of the software's 'liquefying' functions.
More oozing flesh than dripping pie, Ghenie's facial features in meltdown evince a darkly comic presence (and there can't be many image-editor owners who haven't at some point squidged portraits into a similarly sludgy mess).
That said, Ghenie's extensive range of stylistic manoeuvres seem essentially driven not by any wish to emulate or reference, but simply to fully investigate the possibilities of his own technical prowess.
Artistic engagement with the re-representation of digital paint effects using paint itself constitutes a fascinating twist in the philosophical debate on simulacra and the hyper-real initiated by Jean Baudrillard and Gilles Deleuze, among others.
In particular, the question arises as to whether such activity wrests this depiction back towards a state of 'real' reality, or represents a further movement away from authenticity and prior identities.
The age-old difficulties inherent in depicting ambient light sources through the medium of paint take on a new twist with regard to the computer monitor.
Screen-based colour is rendered using combinations of red, green and blue light, and can never, of course, be accurately reproduced using pigment of any kind. (Graphic designers are well aware of the problems involved in best replicating what they see on-screen in print, and professional design packages such as Photoshop and Illustrator use inbuilt 'out of gamma' warnings when luminance becomes well beyond the capabilities of the printing press to even approximate).
Many of Photoshop's filters and colour adjustment functions result in vibrant values that are extremely difficult to translate into paint, and our ever-growing consumption of online media inculcates familiarity with the 'internally luminous', backlit image.
Just as painters have always been drawn to the difficulties of depicting ambient phenomena such as sunsets, firelight or neon light, the digital age ushers in a new set of challenges.
As an aside, it's tempting to speculate that the recent (and growing) popularity of fluorescent paints is at least partly related to attempts to capture such luminosity on canvas.
Madison's message here is strikingly similar to that suggested by Cory Arcangel's Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations, which imply equal concern with the pleasures and pitfalls of digital art.