Sunday 1 March 2020

Randomly Generated Landscape Paintings

I’ve been working on this project since my Masters but only recently shown any of the outcomes to the public. You could say that this represents the ‘physical object’ outcome of my Digital Border work, as it stemmed from the same randomly generated landscape game that I made using Unity 3D.

My process with Digital Border was to create these unique landscapes using a Perlin Noise algorithm. I then added in generic game objects from found online sources and created these little narrative-driven vignettes that were ‘photographed’ in-game. The photos were reproduced as 9x16cm acrylic glass on aluminium, emulating the language of a mobile phone screen. I also recorded a few and replayed as video installation work (see my exhibition in Nantes and also my MFA show).

During this time, I was using the same algorithm to generate landscapes with the idea of producing physical work of charcoal on paper with them. I made perhaps 10 or 15 works based on this but never uploaded them or shown anyone. They were purely run as tests–and I was happy enough with them–but my focus was on digital work at that time.

I’ve gotten back into painting since then, so I decided to expand on my simple charcoal sketches and developed them into full-blown paintings. This came from a random opportunity in Splott Market. I was having a look at the car boot section with a friend of mine and came across a load of floppy disks that were going for free. I instantly knew I had to paint on them, and that paintings derived from digital source imagery would be perfect for them.

Also, painting on floppy disks? Sure–why not? I had someone comment that they were reminiscent of Richard Higletts little landscape paintings on old paintbrushes, and I didn’t think about it but there is a familiarity there and I really like Higlett’s work. I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to best approach the surface for painting with oil. I initially tried to mimic canvas with a heavy gesso crisscrossing but then I realised how much I actually hated painting on canvas. I dipped the disks in generic varnish a few times to prepare the surface and found that this worked much better.

I applied the same approach to preparing the wooden panels for painting. Rather than gesso (which I normally do) I found this gave a fresh and interesting flat surface for painting on. My favourite will always be painting on sheet metal or MDF, but this worked well too. I might try some varnish with canvas at a later date and see if it give that amazing smooth finish that I love.

So from these initial charcoal ‘en plein air’ sketches evolved a body of work around the same subject matter and with cool & unique paintings on 3.5” floppy disks. They were recently shown at a View from the Edge in M.A.D.E. Gallery in Cardiff, with other works by landscape painters with unusual approaches to the subject matter. 

In the past I've made some work exploring plein air painting with digital images. I found the act of working from 'live' sources than working from photographs breathes extra life into the process and the introduction of random chance and change adds to the immediacy of the paintings. When I painted from in-game DayZ, there was always the danger of an incoming Zombie or enemy player ruining the scene. The environment forced my hand to make quick decisions about how to approach the work, and I enjoyed this freedom and embraced immediacy of painting like this.

I’m currently revising making paintings from webcams. This was a series I’d only made a few pieces for, and I look forward to exploring the process again and seeing what new outcomes arrive.