Brushstrokes in the Digital Age present series of robotic painting (2016-18) done in collaboration with the e-David painting robot, using visual feedback system. The works investigate methods to redefine one of the primitive forms of art — painting — within our current technology-based era, exploring paradigms of creativity in the realm of machine-assisted processes at the base of my own practice of robotic painting, and broaden the discussion around the manifestation of narrative and iconography in relation to social and cultural changes via technological innovation. A number of questions of wider impact arose as the result of our collaboration: When and why would a semantic method of defining the object in the image be used? Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to paint semantic objects without having a pre-existing cognitive understanding of them? How could I use abstract forms, grammatical structures or mathematical models to achieve more complex surfaces? How would computer language be used to express the intentions of a composition? When and why would different painting styles be used?
What did you create?
Working with the lab developers in parallel to the evolution of the painting machine, I have designed and integrated into the painting system an extensive (and growing) library of brushstrokes, gestures, trajectories and patterns. These can be programmed individually or collectively in various combinations, so that they can be used and executed by the painting robot, enabling a customized and interactive human-machine creative environment. The robot becomes a powerful tool to explore an entire realm of creative practice that extends beyond the physical and perceptual limitations of solely human-level practices.
Why did you make it?
These works are seeking to deal with questions of human machine control: To what degree should the robot’s actions be controllable by humans? Should the robot make autonomous decisions? If so, at what stage? How would we evaluate the output of the robot (with such binary values as good/bad, or yes/no?) and how would these evaluations be saved to its memory such that the robot would be capable of using this information “correctly” so that it could make new decisions about its actions in the next run? Further, when dealing with the arts, one has to reflect on matters of authorship: the concept of originality and creativity of the individual artist in our contemporary industrial and digital era, extending to the commodification of visual data. The automatization of global visual information generation by learning machines predominantly serves to increase, expand and recreate existing cultural and aesthetical tendencies and artefacts. However, by using an interactive platform and working with inherently complex materials and tools (e.g., paint and brushes), I wish to challenge the absolutism of simulated computer-generated image production, adding a level of complexity and surprise into the outcome of the work, breaking free from acquiesced understandings of painting.
How did you make it?
In collaboration with the e-David painting robot team, we had to take into consideration how different materials would react with one another. For example, how could different colours be mixed on the canvas or on the palette? How should the size of the brush be set, and when is it necessary to add glaze? We developed a range of distinct, individual brushstrokes (controlling the velocity and the z-axis) whose characteristics are analogous to those made by human painters in the “real world”, in order to be able to pre-define when, in which order and for which tasks each stroke is to be used. In doing so, we are basically defining and categorizing singular parameters within a library of painterly “acts” and “perceptions”, in order to create a grammatical structure for the “language” of robotic painting. All of these questions — qualitative technical aspects, creative and æsthetic value, etc. — are defined by the team and saved in the visual feedback of the robot as parameters, as rules.
Your entry’s specification
Series of robotic paintings acrylic on canvas: *The amount of presented works can be varying according to specific exhibition spaces. e-David Self-Portrait; robotic painting; acrylic on canvas, 60 x 80 cm. Just Before It Snaps (6 painting). Robotic painting. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 cm each. Six Variations on Gestural Computer-Generated Brushstrokes. Acrylic on canvas, each 60 x 80 cm. Abstraction, Or: What I Can or Cannot Do; robotic painting; acrylic on canvas, 100 x 120 cm Entropy Nr. 1; Acrylic on paper, 95 x 80 cm. 2016 Entropy Nr. 2; Acrylic on paper, 74 x 50 cm. 2016 Resisting Gravity in Red (top left) and Resisting Gravity in Blue (top right); robotic painting; acrylic on canvas, each 30 x 40 cm. Homage to Jackson Pollock; robotic painting; acrylic on canvas, 60 x 80 cm. Homage to Jackson Pollock Nr. 1 & Nr. 2; robotic painting; acrylic on board, each 50 x 40 cm.