• Numbers as symbols – and the perception of form

    A study in numbers as symbols

    Video. 2024

    A video of a 30mph speed limit road sign with the number 30 rotating within the circular sign. The figure 30 in the sign has been animated digitally.

    This concept occurred to me spontaneously when I looked at the sign (Having said that, I’ve walked past this sign many times over the past few decades and the idea has never occured to me before – more on that later). The sign is in Market Drayton, Shropshire, where I grew up.

    One of the points that the video is hopefully making is about the nature of the shapes of numbers (and by association, of letters too). I’m interested in the fact that the shapes of numbers (and letters) are to a large extent random. You can understand why the number one is represented by the shape 1, which is essentially the simplest possible mark that can be made to represent the presence of something, and why zero is represented by 0, which is possibly a symbol that visualises an empty space. But why is 4 the shape that it is, or 5,6,7,8,9?

    Bearing this interest in the shapes of numbers in mind, one of the features of the video is way that it emphasises the changing shape of the numbers as they rotate. When the 3 and the 0 are on their sides they no longer look like the number 30 viewed sideways but as distinctly different shapes – especially the 3. The 3 stops being a 3 and starts becoming a mysterious symbol. This phenomenon works particularly well with the numbers 3 and 0 because the shapes of these numbers are more or less symmetrical about a horizontal axis through their centres. It wouldn’t work so well with, say, the number 47, where the brain would probably have a lot more difficulty seeing the digits as nothing other than the 4 and the 7 at unusual angles.

    perception of form and numbers as symbols

    perception of form and numbers as symbols 2
  • Circles and rays

    Contemporary abstract art and science - circles and rays

    Circles and rays

    Digital. 2022

    A print taken from a digital animation of expanding circles and rays.
    The work is related to my interest in both art and science, and is inspired by the concept of the expansion of the universe.
    I’ve been interested in both art and science most of my life. In fact in my youth (over fifty years ago) my ambition was to be an astronomer. I even constructed my own astronomical telescope, including grinding the parabolic mirror, when I was a teenager.

  • Ants as a Superorganism

    contemporary art print – ant superorganism

    Superorganism.

    Digital print. 2023.

    A depiction of the concept of a superorganism.
    A superorganism is the name given to such things as colonies of insects in which the members of the colony act together so that the whole colony functions as though it is a single entity, and in which the individual members of the colony are probably not viable to survive alone.
    In the image hundreds (or maybe thousands – I lost count) of ants swarm across a rock and form into the shape of a huge single ant.

    The subject of the image reflects my interest in both art and science.

    Below is a detail of the work to show the appearance of the individual ants close-up.

    contemporary art and science – ant superorganism

    The image was created in Affinity Designer .

  • In the Beginning – rotating grids generating complex patterns

    In the Beginning: complex patterns generated from simple patterns

    Abstract digital animation     2015 

    This work is a an animation composed of overlapping identical grids of hexagons rotating relative to each other.
    The piece works on a similar principal to Moiré patterns, however the results are made more complex by the inclusion of simple computer algorithms that make the patterns in the grids interact with each other so that, for instance, where black areas overlap each other they turn white.The work is a relatively fast and dynamic work from the series. Others are slower and more meditative.

    The work is from a series that explores the generation of complexity from simplicity and is ultimately concerned with the visualisation of the basic underlying nature of the universe (which by its nature must be very simple) and the way that it gives rise to the immense complexity that we see around us.

  • Complex patterns from simple patterns

    Complex patterns generated from simple patterns

    Digital animation     2015

    This work is a slow moving animation that repays close attention. At first you may think that the animation isn’t working, but after three or four seconds you will notice the changes that are occurring to the complex inner structure of the work. 
    It is composed of overlapping identical grids of hexagons rotating relative to each other.
    Simple algorithms make the black and white areas on the grids interact with each other so that, for instance, where black areas overlap they turn white.
    The work is deliberately slow to give it a meditative quality. Other works in the same series are faster and give a more dynamic effect.

    The work is part of a series called In the Beginning that explores the generation of complex patterns from simple patterns or forms as a metaphor for the creation of complexity within the physical universe from what must by definition be extremely simple beginnings.

  • Emergent Patterns of Complexity – proposal for wall mural

    contemporary optical effect art

    Emergent Patterns of Complexity (proposal).

    Artist’s impression/photomontage. 2014.

    An artist’s impression of one of my Emergent Pattern artworks as it would appear displayed on an art gallery wall.
    The work is composed of two identical grids of black lines that are one above the other and that are at an angle to each other. Where the lines on the two grids cross each other the black lines cancel out and are replaced by white. The result is that the overlapping grids create complex emergent patterns.

    The generation of these patterns is in some ways analogous to the generation of Moiré patterns or fringes. They are much more complex than Moiré patterns however, as Moiré patterns are created by the simple overlaying of lines without the additional operation of modifying the areas where they overlap.

    The artwork is inspired by my fascination with optics and optical effects and my interest in both art and science.


  • Shadow rings – contemporary light sculpture featuring cast shadows

    contemporary light art sculpture with cast shadows

    Shadow Rings.

    Card, acrylic paint, LED light source. 30x15x20cm. 2022.

    A light source shining on painted and folded card cut-outs in the form of rings.
    The shadows cast by the light shining on the rings form half of each full ring on the base of the artwork.
    The video above shows the light turning on and off to show the effect.
    An example of contemporary light sculpture. The piece is deliberately low-tech, using a cheap commercial table lamp as a light source and simple folded card.

  • The hive mind of an ant superorganism

    contemporary art insects ant superorganism

    Superorganism of ants or the ants’ hive mind

    Digital image May 2022

    An image of a swarm of ants forming the shape of one giant ant.
    The image is intended to convey the scientific concept of the superorganism, where the individual members of an animal community (often insects such as bees, wasps or ants) cannot exist as individuals but have to function as part of a larger unified communal entity.

    The concept of the superorganism is similar to the concept of the hive mind. The hive mind is perhaps more closely identified with neural activity rather than physical activity, and in human society is associated with the concepts of collective consciousness, group think and other thought processes. Hive mind activities such as group think are not necessarily positive.

    contemporary art insects ant superorganism

    The work reflects my interest in science, evolution, the natural world and the environment. It is based on a conncept and image that I created in the 1990s for the Guardian newspaper.

    contemporary art insects ant superorganism

    Some people argue that human society is a superorganism, generally on the grounds that we live in an incredibly complex society that is full of specialisation of roles, and that society would fall apart if some of these roles were to fail to function. This definition however doesn’t take into account one of the prerequisites of a superorganism, which is that the individual organisms within the superorganism can’t survive alone. Humans can easily survive even if our complex society collapses – there are people all around the world doing that very thing right now.

  • Ants on an art gallery wall. Proposal

    Note: this work has coincidental similarities to House Taken by Rafael Gomezbarros.

    My concept predates that of Gomezbarros, mine being originally conceived in the 1990s to accompany an article in the Guardian newspaper, while Gomezbarros’s work was created in the 2000’s (as far as I can tell).

    Contemporary art and science - ants and insects as a superorganism

    A proposal for an artwork about ants as a super organism

    Artist’s impression for a gallery installation. January 2020. Based on a work from 1990

    A proposal or concept for an artwork showing ants crawling across an art gallery wall, with the ants grouping together and coalescing into the form of a single gigantic ant.
    The artwork depicts the concept of the superorganism, in which multiple individual organisms of the same species (in this case ants) interact by a process of synergy to give rise to a collective body that can operate in ways that the individuals can’t. The individual organisms within the superorganism usually display a degree of division of labour or specialisatoin of function, meaning that the individual organisms can’t survive for long on their own. Human civilisation is often defined as a form of superorganism, although this isn’t strictly accurate, as humans can survive alone.

    Contemporary art and science - ants and insects as a superorganism

    The ants in the work may be two dimensional, such as in a mural, or three dimensional such as in a sculptural work.

    Contemporary art ants
  • Expanding and radiating forms

    Expansion I

    Digital animation    August 2019

    Contemporary abstract moving image art - expanding radiating cosmic forms
    A video still from the work.

    A work from my series of abstract animations depicting radiating forms expanding outwards from a central point of emergence. The work is linked to my interest in the process of creation on a cosmic scale, such as the creation of the universe at the Big Bang or the expansion of a star or other celestial object.

    Contemporary abstract moving image art - interacting forms
    A video still from the work

    The work is ideally viewed on a large screen.

    This work was exhibited in the London Group gallery, Waterloo, London in December 2019 and the Penwith Gallery, St Ives Cornwall in February 2020.

  • Contemporary art and the creation of the universe

    contemporary art optical effects

    Proscion II

    Giclee print March 2018

    A still image from an animated artwork showing a starburst effect.
    The image was used in the Deep Space event on 21st April 2018 at Sterts Theatre near Liskeard in Cornwall.

    The image is the result of my interest in astronomy and cosmology and in the nature of the universe in general, especially the nature of its creation. My interest in the cosmos dates back to my childhood when I constructed an astronomical telescope (including the grinding of the main 8.5″ papabolic mirror).

    An image about cosmology, astronomy, the universe and creation.

  • Contemporary art linking art and science – Electrom

    Contemporary art and science – generative art
    A detail from the work

    An abstract moving image artwork in which multiple copies of a single shape move and interact using simple computer algorithms, generating complex shapes.

    The animation links art and science by exploring the generation of complexity from simplicity.

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

  • Ionn – abstract contemporary art meets science

    Contemporary abstract moving image – art meets science
    A detail from the animation

    Ionn – abstract generative animation

    Digital abstract moving image    April 2018

    The image above is a detail from an abstract moving image work from a series in which multiple copies of a single geometrical shape are animated to interact with each other using simple computer algorithms, creating extremely complex shapes. See the video below for the full animation.

    The animation is an attempt to link contemporary art and science by showing the way in which complex forms are generated from simple forms, which is one of the fundemental underlying principles of the structure of the universe (where the component parts of atoms such as electrons and protons are composed of even simpler entities, which themselves are composed of even simpler entities, which in turn…).

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

    Proscion.

    Abstract moving image    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 meets science - abstract moving image - starburst
    A detail from the work

    Proscion

    Abstract moving image.    March 2018

    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. The series is inspired by my interests in art, sciennce and philosophy
    In this work each individual ‘entity’ is composed of multiple versions of a very simple star shape that is 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, the creation of matter in the universe or the evolution of self-replicating life-forms (hence the link between art and science).

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

  • Abstract moving image. Interacting forms.

    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 video was displayed at the London Group Open in 2017. 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.

  • 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.

  • Complexity generated from simple forms. Daedim

    Contemporary art meets science - the generation of complexity from simple forms
    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.
    The series combines my interest in art and science.

    Daedim: abstract moving image

    Animation.     July 2017

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

  • Complexity from simplicity: abstract moving image art

    contemporary art abstract animation light art

    Complexity from simplicity: 48 Interacting Disks

    Abstract moving image.    June 2016

    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 in a circle creating strikingly different patterns and effects in the first and second halves of the work.
    This work is from a series of animations exploring the generation of complexity from simplicity.

  • Environmental art with coloured plastic cord, Cornwall

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

    Art in the environment, Cornwall.

    Fluorescent coloured cord, tree. 2017

    A lot of land art and other art in the environment strives to use only natural ingredients in the composition of the art. This work however consciously uses artificial material in the form of a length of brightly coloured fluorescent plastic nylon cord.

    The simplicity of construction of this piece is important. The cord is draped over the branch of a tree and is pulled tight downwards to create two perfectly straight, vertical, parallel lines.
    The work is meant to create slightly confused emotions in the observer. In the relative darkness of its woodland setting the cord stands out as a source of brightness, and the two parallel lines are aesthetically pleasing amongst the twisted shapes of the branches and the leaves.
    However, the cord is bright because it’s unnatural fluorescent plastic, and the parallel straight lines of the cord are similrly unnatural and are partly a reference to humanity’s need to impose order on nature.
    This work was created at the same time as most of the other paracord works on this site.