Generative algorithms and acrylic painting create deep digital paintings

Numerikus, custom generative software and digital painting, 2015. Images courtesy of the artist.

Using custom generative software, the artist Helena Alexandra code generative algorithms to create real-time animations, resulting in mind blowing digital paintings. Although Alexandra often leaves the generative artworks stand on their ownshe creates other works that combine algorithms with physical media like acrylic paint and ink, blur the lines between algorithmic, digital and traditional painting.

Alexandra tells The Creators Project that she started creating digital works in 2012 after focusing on drawing and painting in the mid to late 2000s. In 2014, she started learning on her own to code, a skill she has used to write custom generative software for her most recent work.

Catch and Release, custom generative software, digital and acrylic painting on canvas, 2015

“I’ll write code that creates real-time generative animations, essentially mobile agents that create colorful digital marks,” Alexandra explains. “Each time the code runs, it creates a unique animation. As it spins, I seek out the most interesting visual moments and capture them as quickly as possible because the imagery is fleeting.

Alexandra compares this process to taking still images from video. The way she captures the stills is written in the program itself, so she experiments a lot and tweaks the code until she visually gets what she wants. After taking photos during the algorithmic animation process, she begins a digital painting that works well with generative imagery.

Radial Dharma, custom generative software, digital and acrylic painting on canvas, 2015

“I aim to blur the definitive recognition of what is generative and what is digital painting, really working them together in a unified expression,” she says. “When this is done, I print the result on canvas or paper, then I paint and/or draw on it with acrylic and ink.”

Alexandra credits generative artists Christian Zander and Michael Hansmeyer as key inspirations. Zander pieces Perspective and Coat are particularly influential for Alexandra, as the artist imbues them with a play of space and perspective. As for non-generative artists, Alexandra finds her inspiration in Romio Shrestha and Clark Richert, and often turns to nature to inform her work.

Матриарх, custom generative software, digital painting, ink on paper, 2016

“I can see how some people might think that generative art has less of an artist’s touch,” says Alexandra. “Actually, before I learned to code, I struggled with it. But after creating with code for a while, I now understand it as both an artistic tool and a medium, just like a brush and paint.

“The result of the image depends on the artist, the choices he makes and his expression,” she adds. “And as far as the contribution I have with these generative artworks, I would say that’s all my contribution.”

In 2013, Alexandra had a small solo exhibition titled Bardo Technology. The title is a fusion of the Tibetan Buddhist state of being with the idea of ​​art as technology.

Induction Lodge, custom generative software, digital and acrylic painting on canvas, 2015

As Alexandra explains, bard has several meanings in Buddhist texts. Its simplest definition, however, is understood as “the intermediate state”. But the usage of Alexandra comes from Sogyal Rinpoche’s description: “a Tibetan word that simply means a transition or gap between the completion of one situation and the beginning of another.”

“It was my intention for the show to do a series of pieces that acted as a kind of technology to induce the bardo state of consciousness,” Alexandra explains. “Where the art engaged the viewer to a point where they could potentially experience a pause, or void, in their day, conversation, or thought, and perhaps even have deep insights .”

Digital Grow, custom generative software, digital painting, 2016

The exhibition consisted mainly of drawings made in colored pencil, ink and acrylic on paper. The visual format of the works was that of the mandala (a ritual symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism), with repeating patterns and markings designed to attract the viewer. These motivations have carried over to his most recent generative paintings.

“I always aim to evoke a pause in the viewer,” says Alexandra. “To create a moment where the viewer can experience something new and perhaps even profound.”

Alternator’s Pagoda, custom generative software and digital painting, 2017

Click here to learn more about the work of Helen Alexandra. Follow Hélène Alexandra on Instagram: @_helen_alexandra

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