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2011-02-13 Fractal Mondrian buzz

2011-02-11 Bette Burgoyne

2011-02-03 Emma McNally

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A blog about algorithmic art and fractal aesthetic. Click here to subscribe to the RSS feed.

February 13th 2011

Fractal Mondrian buzz

There has been quite a buzz about my recent the "fractal Mondrian" pictures. The blog post was luckily featured on two popular blogs, and there has even been a very nice article in the Boston Globe today (jump to page 2).

A disk


Josh Rothman, in his Boston Globe article, compares Mondrian's aesthetic quest to algorithmic creation. Mondrian was trying to evacuate any personality of his paintings, in order to be "elemental, primordial, fundamental". He rightly points out that this aspect is absent from the algorithmic approach. (The personality of the artist can still show up in an algorithmic work, especially when the algorithm is complex. But probably not in an algorithm as simple as one aimed to reproduce Mondrian's patterns.) This comparison reminded me of a very interesting broadcast transcript I read a while ago. Dr Alan Lee, from the Department of Philosophy at Flinders University, made the following amusing experiment. He showed authentic Mondrian paintings mixed with randomly generated ones to panels of people uneducated in arts, as well as to panels of art critics and artists. Apparently, no one was able to tell the authentic Mondrian paintings from the random ones. (Here is however an article that says otherwise, but they might not exactly contradict each other). He then develops an interesting idea: what Mondrian was looking for was maybe precisely randomness. It would explain why people had so much difficulties telling an authentic painting from a random one, Mondrian simply did a great job. It is quite conceivable that it costed him a great deal of effort, the human brain being notoriously bad at making random choices.

Still, I feel that the fact that my picture was generated from an algorithm is largely irrelevant to the success that lead it to the Boston Globe. I am certainly not the first person to use algorithms to create Mondrian-like paintings. Had I posted the picture below (algorithmically generated as well), I doubt there would have been any buzz about it.

A Mondrian pastiche

So what created the buzz? I think it happened because while 20110121-1 displays obviously Mondrian's pattern, it is the antithesis of Mondrian's minimalism. Readers familiar with this blog will know that I do not have a lot enthusiasm for minimalism. Actually, one of the very goal of this blog is to feature artists whose work is fundamentally complex and anti-minimalist (the "fractal aesthetic" in its subtitle). So hopefully this buzz is an encouraging sign that fractal aesthetic is still overly underappreciated and has a bright future.

[Update : A picture of the fractal Mondrian pattern is available as open edition prints here.]

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