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Lagniappe #6

dreamtime, 1995

CA and Computational Aesthetics

Images Paul Brown

PSK deals mainly with the science of complex systems, but from time to time we mention artists and musicians whose work seems to have a thematic affinity to cellular automata or self-organization. The more abstract tessellations of Keith Haring, or the ambient music cycles of Richard James come to mind. Recently a visitor who signed our Guestbook, Rebecca Nissen, called to our attention an Australian artist, some of whose work has been directly inspired by CA rules and other pseudo-random algorithms. He is Paul Brown: painter, editor of fineArt forum, frequent contributor to SIGGRAPH, and writer on art and technology. Paul has kindly let us reproduce a sampling of his drawings, paintings and electronic images, along with pointers to two relevant articles from his tasteful home page.

We urge you to read

emergent behaviours - towards computational aesthetics, artlink, july 1996,

an account of Brown's early fascination with Conway's Game of Life and its subsequent impact on his aesthetic. The pen plot and accompanying text below are representative of some of his work from the 1970s.

tiling study, 1974

"although i had seen the epoch-making exhibition cybernetic serendipity at the institute of contemporary arts in london in 1968 i did not get to use computers myself until 1974. they have dominated my work and insights ever since. this was one of my first significant drawings and was produced using a single tile whose orientation was determined randomly. like most of my work from 1974-77 it was generated by a fortran program submitted on punched cards to an icl 1903a mainframe computer running in "batch mode" and subsequently drawn on an offline calcomp drum plotter. only calcomp routines were provided. exhibited at acm siggraph 86."

Jumping forward two decades, there are also glimpses of the artist's recent and current work on his web page. Below we have chosen three pieces which display a tension between pattern and disorder reminiscent of recipes featured here in the Kitchen. See

looking at the ceiling, imprint, december 1996

for a brief description of the sundry artistic/technological tools and techniques which Brown uses to create these striking images.

night sky 4.3, 1996

swimming pool, 1997

gymnasts, 1997

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