Coding A New Geometry
— By Asaf Slook
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the dynamic interaction of shapes. As a child, I created a game to amuse myself, during which I would etch around household objects such as glasses and mugs, before sitting for hours and framing them against a ruler and pen upon sheets of paper. Much later, this would inform my collection, Glass, Ruler, Pen on fx(hash). Later, I progressed to drawing bunches of dots onto paper, connecting them up to make other shapes, such as diamonds. These experiments in proto-plotter art would in turn lead to my later collections, Gems, and Space Gems. I am not professionally trained, and my work stems from a lifetime of escapism in considering the aesthetic of shapes.
It was around five years ago that I learned how to code in evening classes after school. A couple of years after, I got into the Generative Art scene almost by mistake. After discovering Art Blocks, I couldn't believe that code could produce such art. Tyler Hobb's Fidenza left me questioning how those forms were possible. And in the process of learning how this was possible, I fell in love. I tried to create my own works, experimented with code, and felt the satisfaction of having people collect what I'd made. More specifically, I fell in love with the values and creative possibilities of what I believe is the defining, revolutionary, artistic movement of our age. I began to work late into the night. I looked into flow fields and perlin noise. I began to iterate upon the traditional art movements that I read about. To refresh, refresh, refresh...
A Digital Orphism
Apollo represents the culmination of perhaps a year of work, in which my process accelerated exponentially; alterations in single layers of code producing whole new algorithms. An earlier progenitor for this new endeavour arrived with the completion this summer of my collection, Less Mess, Much Less…, again on (fx)hash. This abstract organisation of shapes produced wonderful printed textures but, compositionally, it wasn't groundbreaking. I wanted to take this direction further; to innovate and expand the boundaries of what an algorithm can create. So I researched abstract art, Cubism, Pointillism, and I was drawn time and time again to both the circular formation at the heart of Awareness, by Robert Delauney, and the bold colour contrasts in the sub-divided concentric circles in Rythme by his wife Sonia Delauney.
I recognised my own childlike wonder at the mystical properties of the circle in its intersections; its interplay of colours and shape. I took this amorphic concept and tried to emulate it in code. It took two or three months, and I was on the point of capitulating- it had stopped being fun. Then I went back, and one night made several breakthroughs. My code is very 'messy', but I'm driven by the outputs foremost; I found a simple trick that made the code run and enact the intersections I'd desired. What should I do with it? As I was always drawn to circles, I set them forefront, adding occasional shapes in orbit around them. But the outputs hadn't strayed far from that initial inspiration of Awareness by Delaunay, with its notion of a circle divided into four with a vertical and a horizontal line.
After this, I thought, 'OK, I have replicated their work- that's not that cool. How can I invent?'. Originally submitted to gm.studio as Digital Orphism, I worked on iterating and varying these key traits of the project in consultation with the curation team. I was keen to move away from this initial influence of the Delaunays, and for a better definition of the ethos behind the project. gm.studio founder, Cyphr, suggested the title Apollo after the poet Apollinaire who coined 'Orphism'. By the 1910s, Orpheus had come to symbolise the embodiment of the artistic process. Just as he was able to play his lyre so beautifully that he could make people - and even rocks- weep and sing, so the act of painting itself could be seen as an instrument. Thus with art, we can engage the mysteries of our inner experiences with the pure aesthetic emotions of colour and form. I resonated deeply with this, remembering my childhood games of escape and wonder at geometric shapes.
But it was Apollo, (god of the circular Sun) who was said to have given Orpheus his lyre. And the Apollonian Principle of order, balance and aesthestic pleasure is a great metaphor for our own attempts to control using coding algorithms; the new geometric order I have attempted to impose upon this collection. My work still focused upon the circles, although I began thinking about how the layout of other shapes might serve to emphasise them. It seems to me profoundly human that we are drawn to circles as portals to other places: to eyes as the windows to the soul; to stars, moons and planets. Just as Apollo's temple at Delphi was known as the 'navel of the world', I worked on 3D shading effects in which half a circle appears flat, and the half domes outwards from the page. I also worked more on the tiny pixel shapes that would render an almost granular texture, and fields of negative space.
Colour: the voice of light
Colour was one of the key routes to making this collection distinctive in its own right. I started with a couple of basic palettes and struggled until my wife, who is an artist and designer herself, gave me some wonderful advice to look through old magazines. I wasn't precious about my sourcing of the palettes; I felt liberated after Orphism to engage with the spectrum in its purest form. So I scavenged widely: from vintage advertising posters of soft drinks from the 1930s and '40s, to Parisian Art Deco restaurant posters; from superhero comics, to American Second World War propaganda posters… gradients and colours that we don't see much anymore, sampled into new palettes. I was particularly attracted to vintage tourist posters from the 1940s which were often suffused with the mellow sunshine yellows and blood oranges I was looking for: dusk at the Golden Gate Bridge, noon in the French Riviera. I also used some Mondrian-style palettes which I found striking in their boldness.
In Arabic, the 'khamsa', or 'five,' is synonymous with the Hand of Fatima: a symbolic, open-handed welcoming of the abundance of the universe. In this spirit, I'm pleased to summon up for you these 555 artworks, that they may serve to bring energy and positivity to your lives.
The process of creating an output begins with the circles. Given my work has a special focus upon them, it's natural we start with their creation. The composition type is randomly selected, and the circles' positions are then derived from this type. After the circles are 'placed' and stored in an array of shapes, the base shapes which will serve the circles and divide them are added. Those shapes are a combination of squares, triangles and rectangles. After these first two steps, we have an array of shapes: still only as data, and not visual just yet.
Then the shapes begin to render. In my imagination, the Delauneys would take the canvas, sketch the base shapes with a pencil, and then decide how to fill them with colour to form the composition of this work. Drawing from that idea, the code's first visual step is to draw pencil-like sketches of those shapes' borders, before moving on to colours. The algorithm is running over the pixels in the screen, and in each pixel it decides: a) which intersection it is in (and how many shapes contains this pixel), and b) whether to add an intersection with a specific color/texture/gradient, or just an empty space.
Once the code finishes running over all the pixels and filling them with colours, it runs over them again, but now with the dark grain fill: the intention behind this step being to give more power to the colours by adding a more neutral colour. The finishing touch is a final pencil sketch over all the shapes' borders.
|Palette||Zeus, Nemesis, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Hephaestus, Nike, Artemis, Athena, Hecate, Hermes, Dionysus, Hades, Hypnos, Demeter, Janus, Hera, Poseidon, Tyche, Iris|
|Composition||Robert, Sonia, Portal, Dmitri, Space, Oracle, Piton, Delphi|
|Aspect Ratio||1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2|
|Out of Ink||True/False|
with Yorks (@ekphrastic_eth)