When the director of Pixar’s Up (which beat independent animation studio Cartoon Saloon for an Oscar) first saw the competition’s The Secret of Kells he said he “recognized a countercultural force.” The director’s name is Pete Docter.
The wide world views Pixar as near the apex of animation skills. Substantial money has poured into 3D animation technologies — the realistic wave that swallows a peaceful beach, the quirky growth of a sunflower as it rises toward sun. Algorithms. The math that makes motions feel realistic, a babydoll round and cherubic and faced with a plastic you can tell is slightly soft to the touch.
Cartoon Saloon piled up four Oscar nominations with its unPixar-like techniques. Described by Docter, “At the time… [animation] was all about 3-D, and Cartoon Saloon were instead embracing the graphic. They were embracing flatness—not only the flatness of an animation tradition, but also of Celtic design, and merging these things together in ways that were really unexpected but also very sophisticated.”
Cartoon Saloon is an independent Irish studio that Wikipedia reports as currently hiring 300 animators. Their goals are idiosyncratic to them, their themes localized, their artistic style informed by Irish art.
This insight into artistic strategy is a chewy one for the art world.
A. Two patterns in one frame. B. Pattern unit compiled from A, tiled out into a pattern. C. Same as B but with alpha (blank space) around + contrasting-scale pattern behind. D. Patterned silhouette on patterned background (augmented for contrast).
When More Is Better Yet
Galore even beats More.
I love ladling complexity on top of excess. Life seems so chaotic and the more busyness I can control at once provides a bannister.
One of my longtime goals is to achieve maximum complexity while retaining readability. Readability may be constrained by the human ability to keep track of separate units in one’s head. My most ambitious project would have 3D characters which dance or otherwise move, upon each of which plays a pattern or patterns or a single image in video and/or animation form. This would require designing every single facet to work — harmoniously? disharmoniously? — with each other (pace, rhythm, tonal contrast, color schemes…), probably with a sound track and undoubtedly with a background which is likewise alive.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the Wedding Dance. Public domain from Wikipedia.
You see the multi-tasking problem in Bruegel’s Wedding Dance. Try to attend to the foreground figures while keeping track of those receding into the woods. Particularly as you notice all the tumescent penises on show.
My project would require experiments with each piece to determine the aesthetic effects of say, smooth vs jerky movements of the figures in ensemble. Of combined arms and head movements vs arms with leg movements. Drilling down in every particular and next as they combine. I’ve toyed with each figure being assigned a storyline that unfolds in the images playing across their forms. Limits are for sissies.
The key to the project will come in controlling contrasts. Slow/fast, purple/yellow. Where to deploy them, where to tone them down. Because the biggest requirement is that the whole darned thing works as a whole. And the more traits that can be grouped the more your attention will fold them into what you can stay mindful of.
That said, until I have a studio assistant with technical 3D and 4D computer skills I won’t begin. My main job would be getting the aesthetics to work. Arguably harder, to begin to understand how the pace of a figure’s motion is affected by the rate of change in the video screening across it.
I’m in the midst of showing my work with patterns on the Created side of this website. Simple, then more complicated, and the last — on 11.23.20 — more voluptuous yet.
The basic techniques are laid out in mathematics. They’re called Wallpaper Patterns and each of seventeen can replicate a single unit to infinity without variation. I don’t pretend to know what the effects of nearby black holes will have if you pattern out to infinity. But the mathematics remain doggedly two-dimensional.
Except. Except for the odd rule that allows a pattern unit to sometimes be flipped. Which cannot happen in 2D. Why this action qualifies inside 2D math mystifies me.
Some wallpaper patterning formulas require a move through the third dimension. Imagine that this left-facing dragon [from [Dover Publications] is printed on thin paper and bound in a book. You must turn the bookpage over to get a dragon facing the other way.
All seventeen wallpaper patterns vary the orientation of one unit to the next like moving a compass needle. And some use the baffling flip diagrammed above. Remember with this set of seventeen formulas you could cover the Earth in roses or Royal Stewart plaid or puppy dogs. It’s that easy.
Michael Hansmeyer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. weforum.org
Sounds like fusion in cuisine and music, yes? Aspects of globalism, compass points converging. The tendency in modern practice to both hyper-focus and intermingle like a red sweatshirt in a laundry of white. In hyperfocus a medical doctor becomes an internist becomes a cardiologist becomes an expert on heart arrhythmia. The push-back tendency is for artists to work fruitfully with doctors, doctors to probe brains with physicists, physicists and musicians to learn things together.
You may think that the parer-downers have difficult work and complexifiers have it easy. Throw in a bunch of newts, some old silver dollars and onion soup mix. Complexity! We need to understand that mindless complexifying can be done by a dog undigging bones in a nice lawn. Don’t even need a human. But brilliant complexifying takes imagination and rigor.
An installation by Martin Hansmeyer, courtesy the artist.
Michael Hansmeyer, Computational Architect, is among the elite who think about reasons to wantonly complexify rather than to simplify. This unique corps of thinkers buck the trend of paring off the dross to find something pristine and spit-shined inside.
He has taken a platonic solid (think sphere > cube > pyramid >…dodecahedron) and designed a way to create thousands of unique versions. (The Hansmeyer site says if you have 3d glasses the forms will come out to meet you.)
Hansmeyer’s goal in complexifying is toward the discovery of brand new and hitherto unknown forms. Often their geometry is more complex than humans have been able to conceive before computers. Hence the computational in his job description. In a TED talk the artist shows a diagonal fold in a sheet of paper. His Platonic Solids and the elaborating columns that followed grow and morph based on that one fold. Innies and outies pushed to a paroxysm of expression.
Platonic Solids by Michael Hansmeyer, courtesy the artist.
All of the forms shown are generated using the same single process, Only the variables that control the process’ division operation are allowed to change. This single process affects both the form’s topography and topology. It influences attributes such as the degree of branching, porosity, and fractalization – just to name a few. Hansmeyer, Platonic Solids.
Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, has become a hot topic in mathematics and engineering. The father and son duo at MIT, Eric Demaine and his father Martin have famously pushed the study forward. “It’s very cool to make something that doesn’t exist,” says Martin.
The installation Murquanas by Michael Hansmeyer, courtesy the artist.
His fabrication information is well-sifted. You can learn plenty in a few short paragraphs.
Of Muquarnas (above): To articulate the the tiles of the original design, 15,000 individual hollow aluminum tubes were inserted into the tiers and glued into place. Specific tubes were custom fabricated in order to minimize their weight. Muqarnas, Fabrication
This is a mind that starts at computers and gets from algorithms to totally unique computer-controlled manufacturing. Abstract digits, touchable renditions. Imagination assisted by computers works out the practicalities of design. Plus people recognize the strangeness and bend their curiosity to understand.
Once the math has had its say the architect in Hansmeyer takes over to devise a visual form and make the airy math palpable. One thing I love about his work (I was a museum guard once) is that he invites viewers to touch. In one installation of columns each pillar was up-lighted in a small circle so that those who asked questions with their hands reached into a spotlighted space. The human encounters with his strange work seem another layer in his strategy.
A delighted viewer. Photo by Kyungsub Shin of Michael Hansmeyer columns installation, courtesy Michsel Hansmey
He obviously experiments with materials and architectural problems like gravity and force flows.
And architects need a crew of experts — with forms that no one has created before, they need wised-up experience.
You say to brick, “What do you want, brick?” … Brick says to you, “I like an arch.” If you say to the brick, “Arches are expensive, I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that brick?” … Brick says, “I like an arch.”
The question today is: What would a grain of sand like to be?
(Hansmeyer on beginning a new project that will be of cast sandstone.)
There’s a wealth of information in multiple formats, but sly little arrows reveal other whole troves. Like a clever mirror of complexity as a phenomenon, the volume keeps on expanding.
The variety of Hansmeyer’s endeavors can be found on his Projects page. You see his scope, from columns of evolving complexity to an encircling room of lace to a stageset for the Zauberflöte.
• Meaty quote about Eric and Martin Demaine, the MIT origamists:
[The Demaines]…built the piece by starting with a three-dimensional hexagon they folded from paper. They then inputted the shape into a computer and virtually erased all of the paper, so that only the creases remained. Next, they turned back to the tangible and created a dynamic piece of art, using aluminum rods, locked together at the joints with plastic spheres, to represent each crease.
“We took something real and virtualized it, and then made it real again,” says Martin.
I’ve been casually thinking about the world in terms of D-ness for decades. D-ness includes our familiar 2d3d4d. Never found much use for 1d. But do theoretical physicists?
The endearing physicist MIchio Kaku can entertain up to 11 spatiotemporal dimensions. He can write the mathematical proof. He’s a giant of highly-effective-people. I recommend wolfing down whatever you can locate of his books, videos, interviews. (Michio Kaku Explains the 11 Dimensions of the Multiverse)
I have no notion what the implications of the next seven dimensions will have on the facts of my paltry few. But I have lots of thoughts about those common three. It started like this
When you practice collage you may find an ideal image of a spring green expanse of meadow, but it has an eyesore shack in it. Shack doesn’t say what you want, the meadow does. So you paste a sunset or vase or tiger over the shack. You disappear it. You paste whatever image says what you want to say paired with the meadow.
It’s very like poetry, finding the juicy word that nails it. Because the use of visual art is to communicate — and the rule here is you don’t use words.
Rules are important in creativity. I remember some poet writing that he composed a different form of verse every day (limerick, psalm) in his youth. He practiced the forms.
When I started making my own art — not the drawing/painting skills I’d thought I’d needed — I was knifing images from magazines and my own art books. My rules were: sourcing found-materials and using color harmony to bind my compositions.
And I had another rule — you could stand back and enjoy a strong abstraction, or you could move in and read the content. An observer cannot do both at once. So the work shifted meaning depending on where you positioned yourself.
That’s a rule I never once formulated. I discovered it by looking back at my work.
When I changed my media, using my own photographs — and ruled that they could only butt up against each other (no overlay, no hiding content). And in looking back at that I realized a fundamental truth. A mathematical truth.
Collage is a 3D medium. The ability for one image to obliterate another requires one to be above (in front of) another. It intervenes in space, same as a lady wearing a big hat in the theater seat ahead of you blocks the screen.
The photomosaics were rigorous grids of mostly 4×6 photographs from a regular printing shop. I took the photos, waited, then came home with dual stacks — double prints! — of images. I’d deal them out in piles and begin to discover how they went together. Always an adventure, like traveling to somewhere with new food, new manners, new breeds of ducks.
Well, working with the no-overlap rule meant that photomosaics were a 2D medium. I had the option of culling photos that didn’t work in my design, but I frowned on it. The more images in one work, the happier I was. My biggest was 13 feet of 4″x6″s. Kimono Lost in a Sand Garden.
As a side-note, a number of people remarked on the horse image in that work. I’ve never figured out where they see it.
Love Lost by Sloan Nota, collage. Copyright Sloan Nota. via artist’s collection.
I discovered both myself and my art while making impromptu collages. Paper, x-acto and glue, books and magazines. Excellent images on paper more beautiful than newsprint. Later I moved on to photomosaics — images from my camera butted up in a tight grid. The grid form pushed me to create images which flowed across the grid lines and stole your attention from them. If you savored my image you could not focus on the grid, and vice versa.
I was playing with those two artforms far in the back of my mind when ‘click’ I saw the fundamental difference between them. Fundamental. Collage lets you paste a smaller image on a background image. If a tractor besmirches your glorious landscape, paste a swan on top of it.
The Persistence of Memory, by Sloan Nota. Photomosaic (built from original photos of the Lions in Trafalgar Square, London). art copyright Sloan Nota. via the artist’s personal collection.
Collage is a 3d artform. Yes its made from materials commonly thought of as 2d, but when one image can block another that is a 3d phenomenon. Its not available to you in a photomosaic which gives the artist nowhere to hide the nasty bits — the off-tune detail that will skew the meaning of your completed work, the deodorant ad, the moldy vegetable.
Example of low relief. Horse and rider from Horemheb’s tomb, ca 1325 BC. via pinterest.
Example of high relief. ‘General Grant, ‘ bronze sculpture, by William_Rudolf_O’Donovan (Grant); Thomas Eakins (horse). via wikipedia.com.
Here’s a quick synopsis of my view of the Dimensions. Not a physicist’s understanding but an instructive play with semantics.
This sheet of business paper is the epitome of 2D, yes, width x length. But what if the paper’s for watercolorists? Then it has dimples, surface texture, a 3D aspect. I think of this 2d/3d region as bas-space, a continuum that begins with flat flat 2d. That surface develops 3d qualities with texture, or that favorite detective story clue, the impression emphatic writing makes on the sheet below. Shade over that with a pencil and you can read what the evildoer wrote. 3d emerging from 2d again. Or complicating it.
In reliefs 3d can build incrementally and logically outward from mere etching to low relief to high relief — and now imagine a kind of duct-tape-removal sound as it pops away from its substrate. Sculpture in the round.
Linguistically rich turf. We throw around the terms 2d and 3d as if we knew them, as if we knew the difference between cabbages and plums. But when you think about origami, a rolled newspaper, a once-folded sheet with a minor faint crease — it can be rewarding to ponder the nuances.
And here I stop, a step away from topology, from tesseracts, Klein bottles, Mobius strips. Because to think about these you must plant your feet on very different turf.
All this ensues from my blogpost of February 4, Architectural Message of Chartres Cathedral. Architecture is usually spoken of as a 3D artform, rooms, domes, stairways. Volumes. But humans are necessarily smaller scale. In order to interact with architecture you must approach it, meander in it, tire of its lengthy halls. Thus the 4th dimension time becomes part of what an architect must design for. You don’t route traffic to the throne room through the scullery.
Likewise grand public architecture taxes the architect with producing the right silhouette. A fortress from a distance should look grim and intimidating, a palace must show luxe even far off on the horizon. Architects are employed to understand these messages and to deliver them.
Sculpture in the round also has this 4D aspect. If you see the Nike of Samothrace from the front you may guess the backside but you have to walk around it to be sure the sculptor hasn’t add a tail.
Also last week I also spoke of barn-raising in 1800s America, how it took a community to accomplish the feat. Then after the work came dancing and feasting, festivities where humans made merry together. And thus wove a deeper community.
Today as you drive across rural America many of these structures are slumped sideways, abandoned. Yet think of the planning and sweat that went into these massive buildings. Interesting that hardly any houses which would have gone with the barns are seen from the road. Houses are flimsier. They didn’t tap such a widespread community in order to rise. A community now morphed and unrecognizable.