Guest artists: Josh Harle, Sean Clark
Conny Dietzschold Gallery, 11 June-13 July
At first glance Ernest Edmonds’s works in paint and on screen in Light Logic appear to be classically Modernist exercises in the exploration of abstract forms, principally the square, and a corresponding juxtaposition of colours. The contrast between these works and the profusion of detail in much digital work in ISEA2013 and beyond is striking. However, Edmond’s spare surfaces in no way reflect the complexity of the technological thinking and skills involved in making his creations, all of which have, in one way or another, lives of their own.
Some are generative screen works, two of them interactive, while the others are paintings. In “Art, interaction and Engagement” (Linda Candy, Ernest Edmonds eds, Interacting, Art, Research and the creative Producer, Libri Publishing, 2001), Edmonds makes a distinction between interaction and influence. His Shaping Form (2007) features a small screen displaying occasional changing patterns. In the lower frame is a motion detector. Edmonds writes that the work is generative: “Movement in front of [the] work is detected by motion analysis and leads to continual changes in the program that generates the image. People can readily detect the immediate responses of the work to movement but the changes over time are only apparent when there is more prolonged, although not necessarily continuous, contact with it. A first viewing followed by one several months later will reveal noticeable changes in the colours and patterns.” He also points out that trying to force the work to respond with gestures “might result in a period of quiet.”In a video accompanying the exhibition, Edmonds explains that he creates algorithms with regard to structural elements that then allow the computer to generate its own images in response to the immediate environment. He suggests in the essay cited above that in some of his works that the computer-cum-artwork is learning to re-write the rules on which it is founded. The quietly exciting thing about Shaping Form is that the outcomes—choices of colour and patterning—are not preconceived by the artist.
Edmonds’ works, he writes, begin life from “a set of unique rules that are rather like their DNA” (floor notes). They are likewise then subject to the influence of their environment. However, something in Edmonds’ psyche must yearn for the relative permanence of paint on canvas, since the exhibition features a number of paintings of the same shapes that characterise his output, although their blues and brown are of darker hue than the screen works’ bright colourings. Again all is not as it seems. The shape and, presumably, the colour choices have been generated by an algorithm and transferred to canvases where Edmonds applies his real world brush. A case of the artist as painter generated by his digital artwork?
In another room, in front of a large screen on which Edmonds’ ColourNet (2012) is generating itself, stand two iPads on which appear discrete works by Sean Clark and Josh Harle (creator of China Town in CoFA’s Running the City). Clark’s generative Transformations (2013) offers a rectangular palette of colours, not unlike a paint card. If you touch one of the colours it momentarily brightens before changing into another colour as a number of squares prettily shuffle into new positions. Clark writes, “By touching a square you will replace up to four existing colours with new colours based on the colour touched. The artwork will then reorder itself again to incorporate the new colours. You will find that you can change the overall colour of the matrix by repeatedly selecting the colour closest to your target colour.” Visit the artist’s site http://trans.formations.mobi/t1/ where you can try this yourself.
Occasionally Clark’s work undertakes its mysterious activity by itself. Apparently Transformations is in long-term synch with Colournet, joined in mutual influence although “built with different technologies and possessing different organisational rules…[They] exchange colour values to influence each other’s on-going development.”
Harle’s Corelli’s Café (2013) is part of the artist’s fascination with “how emerging technologies” are changing our ways of “inhabiting space,” and “why emergent, poetic accounts of the city are important.” Using custom software, Harle creates virtual environments founded on still images through which we can navigate three-dimensionally, in this case a café in which we can move around the room, close in on the food and notebook doodlings, ‘step’ outside onto the footpath and inspect much else. The overall visual shape is almost that seen by a fish-eye lens, which as in China Town, can offer an unusual, slightly vertiginous global view. The poetry of Corelli’s Café is found in the oscillation in the work’s textures between fine detail and impressionistic ‘long shots’ and the user’s sweep across the image.
The presence of Corelli’s Café n Light Logic is unusual given that it is rooted in what we see in the world rather than in the abstractions generated by Edmonds and Clark and their co-creating machines. However it is, after all, light that Harle harnesses in his re-inhabitation of space with digital painterliness alongside Clark and Edmonds’s generative palettes and the latter’s painting by alogorithms.