AWARD WINNING DIGITAL SIMULATIONS OF CELLULAR DIVISION BY ANDY LOMAS
Much like looking up close at a brain under a microscope and beholding the beauty of nature, Cellular Forms can be hypnotic. But don’t be fooled, for these images are very much digital, and the result of algorithms programmed by Andy Lomas. Always intrigued by the cleverness of nature, he tries to exploit the cleverness of his computer through generative art.
With Cellular Forms, Andy generates complex, biologically evocative forms based on the simulation of growth by cellular division. In the same way that our own cells grow to shape us and make us unique, Andy’s digital cells grow based on their own rules. His main objective is to explore the generic similarities between many different forms in nature, rather than to recreate any particular organism; and to do so with an aesthetic impact. Digital poetry about nature, with a hint of science. In October 2014, the Lumen Prize for digitally created art honored Cellular Forms with its highest award. Time for us to have a chat with Andy.
NATURE IS A BIG THEME IN YOUR WORK, WHAT ABOUT IT INTRIGUES YOU MOST?
AL: What intrigues me particularly are commonalities and patterns between different things, such as different organisms that appear to have evolved almost identical solutions to the same problem independently. How such rich results can emerge from the simple processes is forever a fascination. Alan Turing’s work on how many of the different patterns found in nature can be generated from simple interactions of pairs of chemicals is a huge inspiration.
HOW DO YOU FEEL LIVING IN THIS DIGITAL AGE?
AL: I feel very fortunate that I live in an age where these astonishing machines exist. In particular, I think the idea of a universal computer, in essence a machine that, to any degree of accuracy, can emulate any formalizable process, is an incredible one. Again, a concept that we owe to Alan Turing. I think this makes computers the most intriguing, utterly blank canvases to work with; unforgivingly honest collaborators that can be used to explore any system.
WHAT CHARACTERISTICS OF DIGITAL AND GENERATIVE ART ATTRACT YOU MOST?
AL: Emergence, discovering things that are surprising and new from apparently simple processes, is definitely the biggest thing that attracts me to generative work. Just because I’ve created an algorithm or implemented it in code doesn’t mean that I know all the results it could create. Seeing things that are completely unexpected is the main thing that leads to new directions of exploration.
YOU WON THE LUMEN PRIZE GOLD AWARD; WHAT DOES WINNING THIS PRIZE MEAN TO YOU?
AL: It means a lot, as this is very much a personal labor of love so finding out that other people genuinely appreciate and react to the work in interesting ways is great. Digital art is now a very wide field with people exploring all sorts of different aspects, from big data, the web, and emulating traditional techniques, to more generative and computational work like mine. There have been a lot of fascinating dialogues.
Every year, the Lumen Prize organizes a touring exhibition with works by the winning artists. The last stop of the Lumen 2014/15 tour will be Crypt Gallery, London in May of 2015. Here, videos and prints of Cellular Forms will be on display.