Reality Changes Things

Something happens to fractals when they start to resemble real things.  It’s sad, in a way, but I think fractal art is limited in its appeal to a wider audience simply because it’s “fractal.”

Fractals have shape, color and pattern, but often those purely abstract, non-representational qualities relegate fractal imagery to the domain of the decorative or just cryptic –because they don’t look like anything.

The great Salvador Dali produced something in the 1950s which today I would consider to be nothing more than a cheap digital effect:

~Click on images to view full-size on their original site~

Galatea of the Spheres by Salvador Dali (1952)

But Dali, like most painters, adds some touches here and there that cause the image to diverge from a what a glass ball photoshop filter would quickly produce.  Dali adds realism to what would otherwise be a handmade attempt at geometric art and the image becomes much more engaging.

If Dali were alive today he’d be frustrated with fractals.  He’d want to paint stuff on them.  It’s the realistic connection that makes surrealist art interesting.  If it were totally unreal and (like fractals) didn’t look like anything, it would be abstract art which inevitably, despite the best efforts of art critics and other educators, is received and labelled, “decorative/weird.”

Here’s some fractal art that is transformed by presenting the appearance of real things:


The Death of Id by BrutalToad

Nice and Dali-esque, too.  BrutalToad says, “I don’t know why I gave it such a title.  It was just the first thing that came to mind.”

I think it was just a stroke of brilliance.  Mysterious and contemplative suits the image.


Container World by redbeltboxer

It looks like the complicated inner architecture of a Persian/Indian medieval castle.  Like from the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time video game.  Video games are real, right?

The background is more abstract, undefined, but the 3D fractals seem to have it easier when it comes to taking on realistic allusions.  3D imagery is inherently more realistic or has more potential to be.  Perhaps it’s just easier to relate to things that have the extra third dimension of depth?

Iterated Appliances by Madman

This one is too real and, like the title suggests so well, it’s a kitchen being endlessly extruded from some magical machine.  I see ice dispensers and bandsaws in the same “appliances.”  Melaminia: the world of endless smooth white cupboards and counters.

Starship Docking by Power 8

As you can see, the twilight zone of realistic fractal imagery is quite a broad one.  There’s nothing here really that is realistic except when all the pieces are put together and then the effect is quite good.  This reminds me of the Magritte painting where you’d see a simple natural background and then front and center something wildly imaginative.  Nothing suggests “spaceship” except the presence of that mysterious shape in space overtop of what resembles a man made landscape of moon farms.

It has a “kubrick-ian” style to it suggesting a scene out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Alright, now that we’ve taken a few steps away from reality, let’s take a look at some purely fractal, or at least, purely algorithmic art for which there is no possible realistic or “representational” allusions.

20110402-dssp20 by Samuel Monnier (click for deep zoom)

Sam’s been using a new algorithm that I don’t really understand, but the results look similar to fractal things.  This one really shows how the simple graphical qualities of shape, pattern and color can work together to produce something appealing even when there’s no reality or realistic appeal involved or attempted.

20110401-dssp17 by Samuel Monnier

Where realistic allusion is not possible in fractal/algorithmic art, the colors, shapes and patterns become much more important and have to possess a greater degree of creativity in order to interest the viewer.  It’s harder to make good fractal art that doesn’t look like anything other than “fractals.”

On the other hand, it’s possible to make such artwork and have it stand on its own two legs without some “fascinating” explanation for how it was made.  I have no idea how Sam made these; I’m sure it was brilliant and unique, but if he’d simply made photographs from microscope slides, or cranked them out with a child’s drawing toy, they wouldn’t be any less interesting.