plucking out the I

Confession: I don't paint any of my paintings. I let them paint themselves, mainly because I lack the technical skills.

Take draughtspersonship, for instance. I can't draw a likeness of anything, not a dog or a cat or a tree. Not a man, woman or child. That's why in my paintings there are lots of squares, triangles and circles: they're easy to draw!)

Luckily, chaos theory, complexity theory, and fractal geometry can be harnessed to do the job of a skilled artist in place of a skilled artist: expert systems standing in for an expert person.

In the "artist-free approach" there is only one rule: there is only one rule.

Rule 1 lets you dispense with the conventional wisdom, the standard techniques and principles. Which is handy if you lack technical proficiency in the first place! In the absence of a skilled artist, the artwork itself can be encouraged to emerge in its own way in its own time, with only reactive intervention as required.

In the absence of a skilled artist, there's no need to plan a painting, no need for preliminary sketches, not on paper nor on the canvas itself. Instead the painting is allowed to paint itself, subject only to the forces of randomness and chaos, and to a complexity filter (discussed below).

In the artist-free approach, the artist "channels" content in the same way a corporate wage-slave doodles on a notepad to avoid engaging with the content or process of a meeting. In similar fashion, the artist avoids thinking about the content or process of creating the artwork, avoids making any choices or decisions so as not to brutally destroy the fragile randomness within which chaos thrives. Chaos is essential to the artist-free approach. Chaos is a way to decide shape, size, and colour when the artist can't or won't.

[Digression: Similar processes and principles in quantum physics, eg where the experiment itself changes the outcomes the experiment is testing, so that the experiment ends up testing nothing but itself. Where the act of observation changes that which is observed. Where the cloud of quantum possibility is crystallized into a more definitive, less stochastic, harder-edged specificity. The observer collapses the wave function as described by the Schrödinger equation, and out of a vague cloud of probabilities extracts a specific outcome in macro reality.]

When the artwork is encouraged to grow and develop in an environment of total freedom, there is scope for only a relatively limited involvement of the artist. And that limited involvement is mediated only via extraordinary consciousness, including but not necessarily limited to the hyper-conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious.

To maintain the purity of the randomness and chaos out of which the content of the artwork is generated, the artist must remain strictly neutral, "preference-free", re shape, size, colour, position etc. of the elements of the artwork. Beauty is not required nor requested. Neither is Symmetry, nor even Significance itself.

The artist can, however, arbitrarily impose a complexity filter upon Rule 1. Such a filter permits the introduction of new content, and changes to existing content, but only where the outcome is more complexity. Not in any vague, platitudinous way, but in a very specific sense, deriving from information theory.

Imagine a chessboard of rows and columns of alternately dark and light squares. Now imagine a chessboard in which all the squares are dark. The first chessboard is more complex that the second. If you were writing computer code to generate the chessboards, the code to specify the first would be shorter than that to specify the second. The code to specify one blob of red is shorter than that to specify two blobs of red.

The complexity filter would, for example, permit lines to be added that transform the appearance of a two dimensional square into that of a three dimensional cube, because that transformation increases complexity. But the filter would not allow existing lines to be removed if that were to make the square into a straight line, because that would reduce overall complexity.

[Digression: What's so great about complexity? Nothing. But ordered complexity, on the other hand, the Elixir of Life, lends itself as hospitable host to emergent qualities such as Life, Consciousness, etc.]

To incorporate randomly self-generating content into the artwork, fractal geometry is a good source of techniques, eg the use of patterns of self-similar elements, or the use of self-similar hatching and cross-hatching. Another example is the use of tessellated patterns on backgrounds or surfaces.

Another key technique/tactic is "pluck it out", which I implement across the board for every painting session: I wear glasses that impair my vision. You know the ones, that you get for $9.99 at the convenience store. I use factor 4.00. The idea being to preserve randomness/chaos by virtue of being unable to see what you're doing.

And then there's layering. To help the artist avoid "investing" in any particular "final" or "finished" form of a painting, ze should keep painting on top of existing paintings as a way to facilitate the equivalent of "organic" growth (subject only, as ever, to the complexity filter), incorporating elements of older layers within each new layer. In this way the painting incrementally takes on more depth, more complexity. And if you were to remove the layers one by one from the top down, a new (old) painting would be revealed each time.

According to the above, a painting is"finished" only when no more complexity can be added. In practice I stop well short of that, having only a finite lifespan. My work is only semi-chaotic.


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ghostseeker said...

I always say that I don't write my stories. I get inspired to create them, usually from dreams or a photograph. I give the characters names. Then the stories write themselves.

masterymistery said...

ghostseeker, thanks for your comment. I venture to say though that at least you have story telling skills, lots of 'em, (in contrast to the lack of skills that's the primary determinant of the shape, size and nature of my paintings).!!.