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Ars Magna

Ars Magna (1545) was a book written by Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576), arguably one of the three most important technical texts of the early Renaissance, next to Copernicus’ important book of astronomy and Vesalius’ foundational book of anatomy.

Ars magna means “the great art”, by which he meant mathematics. The book presented novel solutions to complicated algebraic problems, and introduced (but did not elaborate upon) the concept of complex numbers.

The artworks in this series are not cryptographic or algebraic, but they are built solidly upon randomness. I am honoring Cardano as the inventor of the Cardan grille (grid) an early form of cryptography, specifically steganography. You know the concept. It’s those pieces of text where most of the letters are blocked out (perhaps by a piece of cardboard), leaving behind single letters which can be assembled into a new message. (Also a popular basis for memes.)

The images in this series might look like the type of seemingly random data that might have a message hidden in it, but they were really my attempt to capture digitally the idea of my twist drawings and paintings, most easily represented by this acrylic painting:

The digital result looks nothing like the painting, but this underscores an important understanding: Once I conceive of a method to emulate in software, there’s no telling how the software will turn out. And that's where the fun begins.

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