Art and science: abstract animations concerned with the creation of complexity from simplicity.

Proscion. March 2018

A piece of abstract digital animation that uses my technique of overlaying multiple copies of the same image made to move relative to each other in simple ways and to interact with each other so that, for instance, the colour displayed in the resulting image changes.
This “starburst” animation is composed of multiple overlaid copied of a 36 pointed star.
A key motive behind these video animations is the linking of art and science through the exploration of the creation of complex forms from the interaction of simple forms, with particular reference to the creation of the incredible complexity of the universe from its incredibly simple building blocks. There’s more about this here: Complexity from simplicity: contemporary artworks.

Proscion – abstract moving image artwork

Contemporary art abstract moving image - starburst
A detail from the work

A detail from an abstract moving image work from a series in which multiple copies of a single shape move and interact using simple computer algorithms, creating complex shapes.
In this work multiple versions of a simple star shape are modified in size and colour to create a complex star form. Smaller clones of this star form are then ejected from the original star form, in an action that suggests the birth of new stars or the creation of matter in some other dimension of the universe.

Proscion: Abstract moving image: March 2018

To see higher resolution videos and more information about this series click here.

Study of the motion of water ejected from a hose spray head in pulses

Study of the motion of water ejected from a hose spray head
Video. 11 seconds

A very short video capturing the motion of water as it is ejected in pulses from a conventional garden hose spray nozzle with the head set to different spray modes.
The brevity of the water pulses makes it possible to see patterns in the spray that are normally concealed or are absent when the water is ejected as a constant flow.

Fountain study - water ejected in pulses from a hose nozzle
A still from the video, showing the pattern created as a result of the pulsing effect

This phenomenon is possibly a good starting point for a fountain or other water-based artwork or installation.

Photograph of mundane domestic setting – beans tin in washing-up bowl

Contemporary art photography - mundane domestic situations

 

Photograph: Heinz Beanz tin in washing-up bowl
January 2018

This photograph is from an ongoing series in which I photograph mundane scenes and objects in everyday domestic settings. Other photographs in the series show such things as cup rings on work surfaces, shadows of soap containers cast by lightbulbs.
The photographs are all aesthetically pleasing (to me). One of their purposes is to show beauty in normally overlooked situations.

Video exhibited in the London Group Open Exhibition 2017

This video, titled Spyk, was exhibited in the London Group open exhibition, 7th November to 1st December 2017.

Spyk
Abstract moving image: 2017

The video is from my series of videos in which multiple copies of relatively simple forms are rotated at different rates to each other, thus generating complex forms. There are more of them here.

The London Group was founded in 1913 by a group of artists including Lucien Pissarro, Henri Gaudier Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Walter Sickert, Duncan Grant and Wyndham Lewis. Its aim was to be an artist-based group that could act as a counter-balance to establishment institutions such as the Royal Academy. Current members include artists such as Frank Bowling RA, Anthony Eyton RA and Dame Paula Rego.

To see higher resolution videos and more information about this series click here.

Art in the Environment, Cornwall

contemporary art in the environment - intervention in the landscape, St Ives, Cornwall

This work consists of a length of brightly coloured cord hanging over the branch of a hawthorn tree in a patch of woodland near St Ives, Cornwall.

The simplicity of construction of the piece is important. The observer will hopefully notice the almost total lack of endeavour required to create the work, while also noticing the (hopefully) relatively high aesthetic payoff as a result of that endeavour.

The two bright vertical lines formed by the work contrast sharply with the dark shadows and the tangled and twisted branches and twigs of the hawthorn and  blackthorn in the wood.

The fact that the cord creates two hanging lines gives the cords an increased presence when compared with a single hanging cord. They seem to resonate against each other and create a more concrete effect than would be achieved with a single one dimensional strand.

A lot of land art and other art in the environment strive to use only natural ingredients in the composition of the art, good examples being the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. This work however consciously uses artificial material in the form of nylon paracord.

The placing of brightly coloured plastic into the environment refers partly to humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the natural world. This is partly a message about the despoiling of the environment by our endeavours. The fact that the nylon cord is simply draped across the branch of a tree helps to reinforce this message, as the cord acquires qualities associated with the detritus of our throw-away consumer society. The fact that the cord is plastic reinforces this further, and the fact that the straight lines of the cord are cutting through the organic forms of the woodland gives a slight sense of violent imposition.  However, the brightly coloured plastic looks quite pleasing in some ways and to some sensibilities, so the work is also saying that humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the environment has a positive side to it (but also that just because something looks nice doesn’t necessarily mean that it is).

In fact, where would we be without the artificiality that we impose on the environment?  The artificiality that we create is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. Would you like to live without the electric and electronic devices that populate your life? (The coloured cord could easily be a length of electric cable). The main problem is that we just create too much artificiality. Hence some of the ambiguity in this piece.

The use of coloured cord in this work was undoubtedly inspired by the work of Fred Sandback.

Nought and cross

contemporary art abstract geometric design

Nought and cross. 2017

A digitally created work consisting of diagonals and circles.
In this work I was chiefly concerned with the effect of creating discontinuous diagonals. The circle helps to focus the attention onto the centre of the image, where all of the action is taking place, as well as adding a degree of three-dimensionality and formal variation to the image.

Horizon Line – a cord stretched along the horizon

Contemporary art  - intervention in the landscape, Cornwall

Horizontal Line: Cord stretched along the horizon: Cornwall
Plastic cord, landscape. September 2017

A photograph of a length of brightly coloured plastic cord stretched horizontally so that it coincides exactly with the horizon.
This is an unmanipulated photograph.
The work is partly about the all pervasive presence of plastic in our lives and the environment, with the piece of plastic cord seemingly stretching all the way along the horizon. The fact that the line of the cord is along the horizon created by the sea links the cord with the plastic pollution that is present in vast quantities in the oceans.
As well being a metaphor for the plastic that is polluting the oceans, the cord also signifies that plastic is in many ways a very useful and pleasing substance (without which our modern world wouldn’t be able to function). This is indicated by the fact that the cord creates a very pleasing aesthetic effect. The major problem with plastics is the complex molecular structures that are created during the creation of the plastic – when plastics are developed that don’t have those structures, and that thus decompose properly, the plastic problem will be greatly reduced (although of course it will still be a problem, along with all of the other problems that we are inflicting on the planet).

The work also exists at a purely aesthetic level, with an appeal generated solely through the juxtaposition of the horizon and the cord.

Art in the environment, Cornwall - a cord stretched along. the horizon
A detail of the photograph to show the church.

Sculpture created from mundane material

contemporary abstract sculpture - geometric forms from mundane materials

Right Angle
August 2017

It’s hard to tell how big this sculpture is from this photograph.

The square ends of the two blocks from which the sculpture is composed could maybe be a metre across. In fact they are closer to five centimetres, as the piece is created from lengths of two by two wood (two inches by two inches).

The work has a strange relationship with scale. It’s small, but it could be big.  If there was a zoom facility for three dimensional objects that worked in a similar way to that on computer and phone screens, where you simply touch the surface and drag in or out to change the size,  this sculpture would beg to be dragged just to see how it worked at different scales.

At it’s actual size this sculpture looks as though it’s happy at the size that it is, while somehow containing the spirit of a larger sculpture within itself. In some ways it gives the impression of being a large object that is somehow being perceived as being small, as though viewed through the wrong end of a telescope .

As I mentioned, this work is composed of two pieces of two by two wood. This is a common size of wood sold in long lengths in timber yards for use in general construction projects. This sculpture came about when I picked up two short offcuts of wood from a different project, that each had been cut at 45 degrees at one end, and placed them on a work surface on their angled faces. They instantly acquired a dynamic and vital presence.  Due to the manner in which they rested at an angle they looked as though they were embedded in the surface with part of their form submerged.

One of the things I like about this work is that it is made from extremely simple components – two pieces of wood from a builders’ merchants and a bit of acrylic paint. Yet it doesn’t look like a work created in the spirit of ‘detritus art’ in which the work is deliberately engineered to emphasise its origins in the flotsam and jetsam of contemporary culture (Artists such as Philidda Barlow, whose work I like greatly, and Abraham Cruzvillegas come to mind as good exponents of this genre). In fact this sculpture could almost be mistaken for a tiny example of the ostentatiously highly engineered work that are quite common in modernist sculpture.

Spyk – abstract moving image art

Contemporary abstract moving image art
A detail from the work

An abstract moving image work from a series in which multiple copies of a single shape (usually a relatively simple geometrical form) move, overlap and interact using simple computer algorithms to create complex shapes.
This work was exhibited in the London Group Open, 2017.


Spyk: Abstract moving image: August 2017

To see higher resolution videos and more information about this series click here.

Set Square – a sculpture of identically shaped, differently coloured elements

Contemporary minimalist sculpture - repeating elements

Set Square
Wood, ceramic, acrylic paint: Height 12cm: August 2017

A sculpture composed of two identically shaped, differently coloured elements.
The two elements are set at an angle to the vertical to give the impression that they may be partly concealed within the base on which they stand.
The elements of this sculpture are short lengths of 2×2 wood. It is deliberately made from mundane material at a small scale which gives the work a surprising intimacy.

Umbrella Cone

contemporary art drawing - surreal umbrella

Umbrella Cone
Ink drawing with digital colour. June 2017

A sketch of an umbrella protruding from the top of a cone.
This sketch combines my interest in umbrellas with my interest in vaguely geometric forms in the landscape.
The stone-like objects (which may be organic) with points or spikes protruding from them add a further surreal component.
The reversed signature shows that I’ve flipped the original image round, which I do quite frequently in order to evaluate the composition of images. I obviously decided to leave this one reversed.

Abstract moving image art

Contemporary abstract moving image art - interacting disks
A detail from the work

An abstract moving image work from a series in which multiple copies of a single shape move and interact using simple computer algorithms, creating complex shapes.
In this work forty-eight disks move a circle creating strikingly different patterns and effects in the first and second halves of the work.


48 Interacting Disks: Abstract moving image: June 2016

To see higher resolution videos and more information about this series click here.

The perception of pattern – join the dots

contemporary art and science - intricate pattern perception from dots

I’ve just created this image this morning, inspired by a book that I bought a couple of days ago at the Wellcome Collection (an exhibition space that merges art and science, and a place that I strongly recommend a visit to if you’re in London). The book is Art Forms in Nature, which depicts the astonishing drawings of German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1918).
The edition of the book that I purchased (Prestel, 1998) has an introduction that includes a diagram by David Marr (1945-1980), a British neuroscientist who worked extensively in the field of visual processing.
The David Marr image, shown below, was concerned with the way in which the human eye (and brain) will scan images seeking out understandable patterns. The image (which I’d never seen before as far as I remember) reminded me very much of some of the images that I’ve produced myself, both in its form (arrays of dots) and intension (the generation of ambiguously decipherable interlocking patterns).

David Marr visual processing dot pattern
(Image reprinted courtesy of The MIT Press from Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information by David Marr, ©MIT 2010, figure 2-5, page 50)

Naturally I was inspired to deconstruct the David Marr image so that I could then try to create my own images based on what I found. The image at the top of this post is the first result.
After studying David Marr’s image I worked out that a simplified version of it could be constructed from multiple versions of the basic element shown below, with each element placed at an equal distance from the adjacent elements.

contemporary art science pattern perception

I call this image a basic element, but that’s slightly inaccurate.

When you look at this element you probably see a centre dot surrounded by a ring of dots with lines of dots radiating outwards like rays.
However, this ‘basic element’ isn’t really a basic element at all, because I created it from an even more basic element, this being a row of thirty three dots in a straight line. Six copies of this row of dots were then distributed about their centres in a clock face fashion.  See the image below. So in some ways the element in the image above isn’t really a ring surrounded by rays at all – it’s actually a set of six lines of dots.

pattern perception in visual processing

Just one more thing.
When you look at the element above you see a clearly defined inner ring of dots and probably a less obvious secondary ring of dots created by the innermost dots of the rays. These ‘innermost dots of the rays’ are only ‘innermost dots’ if you choose to define the dots that are closer to the centre of the figure as a separate entity (a ring). In truth all of the dots in the image have the same status (other than that of their position), all being simply dots in lines, it’s just that the ones closest to the centre most easily form a ring when interpreted by our brains. Our brains can interpret the second set of dots as a secondary ring because you can, when you concentrate slightly, see that they are linked into this formation by association with their neighbours, although more loosely  than is the case with the emphatic inner ring.  What you won’t notice though is that the next set of dots outwards also form a ring, as do the next set and the next set all the way out to the end of the rows of dots. You can’t see this because for all of the dots beyond the secondary ring the dots are too well separated for the eye to associate them with each other. Somewhere in the space between the secondary ring of dots and the next dots outwards a threshold is crossed at which the brain can’t hold the dots together as a ring – the association is snapped.

It’s interesting that this post was intended to be about the relatively complex image at the top of the post, but I’ve spent most of my time dissecting the simpler image of the underlying element.  Fortunately, the points that I’ve made about the underlying element are exactly the points that can be applied to the more complex image, and thankfully without the excessively complex structures within the complex image conspiring to befuddle the brain.

Pen and ink drawing from my sketchbook (and from my subconscious)

contemporary art drawing from the subconscious

Pen and ink on paper. Height: 2.5inches/65mm

As an exercise in creativity I make a habit of sitting down occasionally and just drawing whatever comes into my head, giving the process as little thought as possible. I call it “drawing my subconscious”. I do the drawings in pen and ink on paper, usually in a notebook that I reserve specially for the purpose.
This image is a scan of yesterday’s effort, drawn on a sunny afternoon while sitting in a wood full of bluebells in the very pleasant grounds of Hatfield House, a stately home dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. As you can see, my surroundings had little impact on the workings of my subconscious. Which is a bit worrying.

Apple ‘brand identity animation’ with a similar feel to my own animations

I was interested to see during a shopping trip into London today that the current ‘branding animation’ that is running on all of the Apple computers on show in a department store that I visited had something of the look and feel of some of my own animations (shown below).
This is probably a coincidence. I can’t imagine that the designers in Apple’s branding department were trawling the internet and happened to come across my work. And then chose to adopt some of its style. Although you never know. They have to keep their fingers on the pulse after all – although I’m not sure how on the pulse my videos are, as the video that the Apple animation most resembles is several years now.
The Apple animation, which I can’t find on the internet, and therefore can’t point you towards, features the leaf on the Apple logo detaching itself and replicating itself to form a rotating circle composed of multiple copies of itself, changing size and colour but always retaining a degree of graphic simplicity.
The animation sequence to me had something of the feel of of mine. Of course it may only be me who sees any resemblance, due to my heightened sensitivity towards the design factors of the work I created. My work uses circles rather than leaf-shaped lozenges, my circles interact where they overlay while Apple’s simply overlay, and mine are different colours, but that’s not much of a difference in my book.
Assuming that there IS a resemblance of some sort I’m not sure whether to be pleased that a company of Apple’s status is using a similar style to mine, and thus validating it, or be annoyed that a company of Apple’s status is using a similar style to mine, as people would inevitably say “Your animation’s inspired by Apple’s, isn’t it?”.

A longer version of this animation, with more variation in the movement, can be seen here: Animation

Shoe reflected in a mirror – the art of illusion

mirror based art - a shoe reflected in a mirror

This is a version of a piece of art that I’m working on, based on a pair of shoes and a mirror. The shoes are positioned so that the reflection of each in the mirror coincides exactly with the other shoe on the opposite side of the mirror, merging the real shoe and the reflection of the other shoe into one.
Like a lot of my works that involve illusion this one explores the line between reality and our interpretation of what we perceive.