P-61, “geometric hints”, plotter drawing ink on paper, 50cm x 50cm, 1970
Bild 12/366, Tempera/Leinwand, 1966, 73cm x 92cm
P-18, “random walk”, plotter drawing ink on paper, 50cm x 50cm, 1969
P-196/B, Acrylic on canvas, 1977, 130 cm x 130 cm
P-10, “random walk”, plotter drawing ink on paper, 50cm x 35cm, 1969
I’m not sure if this blog is starting to show it yet but you might notice soon enough that I gravitate towards black and white quite a bit. Not that I don’t like color, I do, but black and white will always be my first love. Many of my initial sketches or renderings are void of color.
It’s no surprise then that these paintings and drawings by Manfred Mohr made it into my folder of favorites. Mohr is considered a pioneer of digital art. He programmed his first computer drawings in 1969 and has been creating with the machine ever since. His body of work is well documented on his site where you will notice that he’s been working with color the last decade or so. But I remain partial to his earlier decades, even before the computer. I especially like the very subtle geometry and the abundant negative space in his egg tempera paintings.
I few years ago I was browsing in the shop of the now-closed Function 13 gallery in Kensington Market. It’s really too bad that the gallery couldn’t survive as it was the only spot in Toronto that kept its pulse on the small and emergent digital art scene. If you were a generative artist, this was the gallery that would get what you’re doing. I’m not sure what the alternative is right now..
But anyway, as I was browsing, I randomly picked up this book ‘Code Drawings’ that was filled with very elaborate and dynamic black and white ‘generative sketches’. Or that’s what I assumed at first, only to discover that the sketches were actually hand-made drawings that adhered to a set of rules defined by artist Son Vo:
The project directly references the work of Sol LeWitt who created a his well-known series of Wall Drawings based on a variation of loose guidelines and diagrams. I just love the fact that a single line of instruction becomes the seed for 200 unique and beautiful drawings. That’s really the crux of what attracts me to generative art so much — the possibility of creating great complexity with very simple input. Granted, I like to use the computer to speed up the process. And yet, as these drawings remind us, it’s certainly not a prerequisite for engaging with the same ideas.
Composition II, serigraph, c 1970 (source)
Cassiopée II NB, acrylic on canvas, 1958 (source)
Untitled composition, (source)
For whatever reason Op art never featured prominently in my art history classes. If you did a pop quiz on me now, I might recognize a few slides but I wouldn’t recall a single name associated with the genre. I don’t know if my teachers didn’t like it or simply didn’t have the time but somehow this movement was always given a mere glance over. Not that I was too intrigued anyway.
The other day though, I discovered Victor Vasarely and while reading his bio realized there was a lot to relate to from my current context of interests in geometry, computing and art. Vasarely began his education in science and medicine, making an abrupt switch into art a few years later. Inevitably, the objective nature of scientific method made its way into his artistic practice where he developed methodical systems for rendering his graphic paintings — “an art programming language that allowed for endless permutations of forms and colours to create individual and unique works” (source). He might be known as the father of Op art, but it would be hard for me to ignore the roots of generative digital art in his work as well.
Oh and his paintings are massive. Next time I’m in the south of France, Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence would certainly be a worthwhile visit.