I often find myself preoccupied with justifying fractals (and other types of computational imagery) as art; trying to link fractals with the larger stream of visual art that has flowed and enriched (and provoked) our culture since pre-history. I don’t know why it nags me so much. I don’t think most fractalists are very concerned with what outsiders think about fractals or how they may label them. Maybe that’s a more sensible attitude to have than the one I have which seems to keep wanting to write an Art Manifesto, Bill of Rights or a Declaration of Independence for fractals.
My latest inspiration to write a fractal Magna Carta occurred when I saw this Mandelbox image by Pauldelbrot (Paul Derbyshire, I think) posted at Fractalforums.com.
It’s weird, but I hear things when I look at this image. I don’t really mean I hear audible sounds (that’s nuts!), but the image suggests to me the sound of icebergs bumping against each other underwater: Great, massive objects in motion.
Or mountains. Does this image not make you look up and see the distant, towering faces of whatever that smooth-sided thing is? Is there a basement of the mountains, where the roots and feet of them are exposed and we see where they come from and what they stand on?
Yes, Pauldelbrot’s Mandelbox image here is every bit as expressive as a great Ansel Adams photograph or one of the Group of Seven landscape painters whose impressionistic and semi-abstract style displayed the raw, muscular beauty of the Canadian wilderness.
A few disjointed thoughts about fractals and art:
- The images speak for themselves
- They are what you see (and hear)
- It doesn’t matter how they were made
- They’re as much an art form as Paul Klee’s work is
- They express themselves in a language of shape, form, color and pattern
- They have a symbolic kind of expression
- Good art is the stuff you keep coming back to look at
- Design and ornamentation is visual music
- Serious art is any kind of art you take seriously
- Fractals are captured, not painted
- Fractals are an abstract and imaginary type of imagery like Abstract Expressionism or Surrealism
- Fractals are an interesting world just to explore; you don’t have to take your camera with you
- Fractals don’t have to be fractals, they can be landscapes, sacred smudges or forbidden cities
Here’s two more by Pauldelbrot.
The moss-covered stone ruins are a good example of the imaginary kind of themes that fractals seem to instinctively display. It looks realistic, but the strange patterns in the stones are unreal. Can you spot two cavities or spaces in the stones that look the same? This shows the enormous creativity of the Mandelbox fractal: everywhere you look there’s something new. That’s what creativity is all about: new things.
How about: Grendel trashes the mead hall? Amazingly photographic. Note the glinting reflection of light on the truss in the foreground. Would a professionally taken photograph of a ruined temple be clearer or more vivid than this? There’s great imagination at work in the construction of these trusses and it all comes from a fractal formula (and an enormous amount of computing). There’s a touch of the surreal in this image; its as if it was the illustration to one of those H.P. Lovecraft stories about million-year-old, pre-human temples of the cosmic elders.
Well, I haven’t finished my odyssey, but Pauldelbrot’s recent Mandelbox images posted to Fractalforums.com have certainly moved me on to the next island. Actually, I don’t care if a voyage like this never ends.