What Would Leonardo da Vinci's Art Look Like in the Digital Age?

How South African artist Natalie Paneng interpreted the Renaissance master's work

By Google Arts & Culture


Natalie Paneng is a digital artist based in Johannesburg. Her multi-disciplinary work explores the 'online' world and how the internet and its algorithms control and influence us.


Despite working in the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci was thought to be ahead of his time. Interpreting his work with her creative style, we spoke with Natalie on how she brought the master's creations into the digital age.

Invention Codex in motion by Natalie Paneng

What was the inspiration behind your interpretations?

Bringing the energy of the digital in, that being aesthetic micro genres as well as giving the images the look and feel that they were developed using modern software.

Invention Codex in motion by Natalie Paneng

I was mainly interested in how detailed Leonardo’s work was and tried to find links between how intricate his process of discovery was.

I am also very obsessed with spirals and found that to be a constant motif in his work and sketches and I also have a lot of spirals and coils in my work so I used that crossover as a place to start unpacking.

In Leo's brain by Natalie Paneng

Did any of Leonardo's works seem ahead of their time?

The codice sketches all feel like they’re in motion in some way, I am really fascinated with how Leonardo annotated and made the sketches come alive through his detailing.

In Leo's Brain by Natalie Paneng

I think what was so ahead of the time with his work is that it feels processed by code or some sort of system but in a very analogue way.

I am interested in this because I can’t relate to such heavy reliance on my own brain but rather rely so much on the digital so I really admire how his brain solved things I feel we need machines for.

LEO'S DESKTOP. by Natalie Paneng

What was the process of creating these images?

The process of creating the images was looking at them and trying to access what was being communicated and described by trying to digitally highlight or bring some of the thoughts to life through movement.

LEO'S DESKTOP. by Natalie Paneng

I tried to bring my own digital thinking and tools to the same level of detailing and description that the images have. It felt like continuing the thread presented on paper through another medium.

Last Co-Working brunch by Natalie Paneng

What inspired your ‘The Last Supper’ co-working lunch?

My inspiration was trying to see the time jump between ‘The Last Supper’ and think about what an iconic image like that would look like in today's context.

Last Co-Working Brunch by Natalie Paneng

It's a playful approach to rethinking a communal setting like this where people are sharing food and probably discourse and placing it in our current context.

I find myself asking to bring my work to brunch or noting how normal it is to see dinner tables transformed into working spaces. I think our current culture is based on a lot of multi-tasking and I wanted to bring that energy into the image.


How does Leonardo’s work relate to the digital age today?

I find Leonardo’s work to be digital in its thinking, for me the digital is often layered and format based and I see Leonardo’s work as a link or basis for a lot of the digital and mathematical thinking we use in our everyday systems now.


His work doesn’t feel like it wouldn't be relevant in a digital context and there's something interesting in that for me.


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