My What a Big Fractal You Have #1

Do you see what I see?

No art, Sherlock…


I really enjoyed your last post. I, too, have been thinking about the desire some fractal artists have to reveal more of their images in ever expansive detail. The methods fractal artists use for doing so seem to vary. Some prefer to draw the viewer into the act of making the image and employing interactivity by including parameter files (as you discuss). Others prefer a more static, sensory bombardment for viewers by allowing ever larger and more high rez versions of individual works to be studied in detail. My question is: What’s behind this impulse to go big?

What brings this whole matter to the forefront is that two well-known Ultra Fractal artists, Samuel Monnier and Janet Parke, have used a new tool called Zoomify to display zoom-and-pan windows that allow considerable detail to be seen in large images. Two by Monnier can be found here, and Parke’s can be found here and here. Why, exactly, are they doing this?

Is it because we know deep zooming is cool? We like checking out those YouTube vids of endlessly Zen lower depth dives into fractals exhibiting rivering recursion and self-similarity that stream out of the frame and immediately reappear. So, is Zoomify a deep zoom mechanism for still 2D images? Or is it just a digital magnifying glass?

Or are these two UF artists starting to look at their own works from the viewpoint of a big canvas? After all, both announce on their web sites that prints of their work are available for purchase. Could they be moving through the paradigm shift I call passing from monitor mode to wall mode? These are radically different mindsets. Once you begin to “see” all of your work as a poster-sized print on a wall rather than something the size of a sheet of typing paper on your monitor, everything — from perspective to aesthetics — changes.

Which brings me back to Jim Muth’s musing from my last post: Are there really some fundamental differences in the fractal community between people focused on math and people focused on art? And isn’t a fusion of both the final goal: fractal art?

Here’s my concern. When I peer through the Zoomified looking glass at these images, you know what I see? Bigger fractals. What I don’t see is more detailed art.

If you’re going to start acting like your fractal images are indeed similar to a large canvas, shouldn’t you start paying much more attention to the concept of texture? Even just a little bit? Isn’t texture a long established critical component for art?

And how much texture do these ultra-magnified Ultra Fractal images have? I’d argue absolutely none. Not a single, tactile peak or valley can be seen.

And isn’t that odd? Many UF images certainly look highly textured. Does Zoomify demonstrate that seeing is not believing? For all those piles and piles of layers and masks, are UF images really flat as a pancake?

Or, do I mean flat as an unprocessed photograph?

And am I looking at the details of fractal art — or merely the details of a picture of a fractal? It really does matter. It matters as much as what you see looking at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in a museum and what you see looking at a picture of Sunflowers in a book.

And that brings me back to prints. If you’ve blown off all concerns about texture to the point of having none at all, then why bother making anyone a Giclée fine art print to museum specifications using archival inks and papers? After all, there’s no surface grain to showcase or enhanced tactility to “bring out.” Save your money, collectors. Opt for that cheaper, flatter photographic print instead.

I think one’s fractal art should have as much art as it does fractal. Otherwise, I question whether one is truly a fractal artist. Perhaps, instead, one is a fractal maker.

And I have my doubts that these two designations are the same thing.

I’ve been working in wall mode since 2003, as the Binoculars Room on my web site should demonstrate, and texture has become an essential part of my self-expression. But, of course, I admit to heavy and deliberate post-processing to the point where I am satisfied that my (sometimes atom smashed) fractals have also turned the corner to become art. That’s the point of wall mode. To help viewers see the big big picture as you see it. Not in a book to wonder how you made the piece. But on the wall to more clearly see how you made it.

It seems these two UF artists have that big big fractal thing down cold. Now, maybe it’s time to fully embrace wall mode and not just flirt with putting a magnifying glass to a flat, canvas-sized picture. Maybe it’s time to take the first baby-steps toward that equally important big big art thing.

I am troubled by these thoughts and their ramifications. I hope we can have a conversation about some of these reflections. I look forward to hearing what you think.


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