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Generative Art: My New Studio Direction

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

An introduction to my new work: computer-generated, but neither mathematical nor informational.

I've shifted my art practice. From a studio based on painting and drawing, to one conducted on a laptop, my new digital practice includes so far over a dozen different software explorations of aesthetics, much of which (to date) is what can be called "generative": art which a computer can produce autonomously, without interaction or intervention from humans.

I will be documenting all this art over the coming months, both here and on Instagram. As a kind of preface to those upcoming introductions, let me position my work in relationship to the type of computer-generated art that most people are familiar with. Apologies in advance for the lack of images. I want to keep things a surprise for now.

My generative art is computer-generated, and it is the result of autonomous software, but it is not mathematical art or information-based art. By mathematical I mean the visualization of abstract mathematical concepts, like fractals or geometric equations. By information-based I mean real-world database visualization, or the products of machine learning.

Much mathematical art is quite lovely, even astonishing, and much information art is quite profound. There's nothing I can say to diminish the power of visualizing real-world data and mathematical properties in aesthetically interesting ways.

My concern is that such art is descriptive, or illustrative, but not puzzling, much less mysterious. It tells a story, about something which exists in the world, providing you with delivered information. This is good for understanding the universe, but is that the role of art?

Whatever else art might be, it must help its viewers understand something about themselves. Viewers that cannot see themselves in a work of art have been failed by that work.

One might marvel at a fractal, and consider the nature of trees and mountains. One might see the visualization of a large dataset of social or medical data, or read the output of a neural network that was trained on the sonnets of Shakespeare, and reflect on the state of science or society, or the meaning of condensed Elizabethanism, but this all feels to me quite cold.

When I see the random work I’ve generated and collected here—as I’ll be presenting both in these pages and on my Instagram feed—I ask myself: Why do I think this is interesting? How is it that chance operations can produce a result that stirs me? What is it about the human soul—or machine—that responds to such apparently arbitrary stimuli?

Some of my recent discussions have been with friends who challenged the existence (or significance) of randomness altogether. Is the universe constructed, and all events connected? Or is the universe a single holistic organism, all events reflective of that organism’s inner experience?

What do you see in these images? What do you think about randomness? Does it exist? What is it about our universe that either allows randomness, or conditions it? What is it about our minds that respond to such aesthetic experiments?

I apologize again for the dearth of images in this lengthy post, but I need to save room for surprise. After all, isn't that what chance is all about?

I will be posting here, and on Instagram, the results of dozens of experiments I have conducted during the latter months of 2021. I hope to give you much food for thought in mulling over the questions I’ve outlined for myself above.

P. S. I have also made much art which is informational, in this case based upon photos. I'll get to that in due course! My hope is that it's aesthetically interesting enough to be elevated above the norm. For now, I'll be publishing my generative art, and working out in these pages the types of ideas that I will be using as building blocks for future projects.

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