by Vatsala SethiDec 31, 2022
Anthony Samaniego is an American artist who creates vivid video snippets that are possessed of a larger-than-life quality through their visual richness. His work roils and twirls upon itself, transporting viewers into its own digital reality. Each piece is so detailed, that experiencing his art becomes a hypnotic affair; one that is reminiscent of the code-based generative art practices that have become a major trend within the larger new media genre. However, the term ‘reminiscent’ is key here, as the artist does not choose to place his practice within that particular ambit. He tells STIR, “I wouldn't say that the techniques I use are generative processes. I think of generative art as creating something from code. I am not doing that. Instead, I am shooting areas and objects physically, deriving a point cloud, animating and distorting that point cloud through simulations, and finally, animating camera movement. It's an arduous process that relies heavily on myself. I wouldn't consider it generative, but then again, everything is generated from our minds, is it not?”
The visual artist continues explaining his creative process, and admits that math does, in fact, play some part in it. “I use math mainly in order to set up loops. Sometimes I'll use math for something slightly more complex, like setting up specific particle sizes, or creating an equation that modifies particle size according to the distance travelled from its point of origin. For loops, I mainly calculate camera distance and equate that to the piece’s starting position. Sometimes I involve a d = rt (distance = rate*time) formula for simplicity. It's really about making sure all the numbers match up,” he says.
Having read Samaniego discuss his creative methodology, one will no doubt find it strange that he would not call such an arithmetically involved process “generative”. Perhaps this can be explained through the paradigm of knowledge inheritance that typifies the journey of many a digital practitioner? So much of the code or formula that goes into such works is free to be acquired and modified, that it would make sense for certain creatives like him to view their craft as focused more on bringing these smaller, more technical facets of digital art and blockchain technology together in the captivating ways that they do. And to be sure, the artist in question produces work that is nothing less than captivating. Take Breathing Space for example: Samaniego’s piece takes us on a journey through a wispy forest that is being created before our very eyes. It is almost spiritual, and lingers on the mind, like a good feeling found in the lap of nature.
Samaniego has had an interesting creative journey, considering that the artist did not initially conceive of himself as a creative at all. He tells STIR, “I am from Los Angeles, California, and do not have any formal artistic training. Education wise, I have a Bachelors of Arts in Economics. I started shooting photos around 2009. At first, I shot purely for fun and to kill time. Eventually, I developed a love for photography. That love ventured over to videography, which eventually saw me spending most of my time making cinemagraphs and GIFs.” He explains that he finds a profound beauty in the subtlety and timeless nature of the photographic medium. His fascination with photographs, and later with the moving image, have opened up amazing creative avenues for him: Samaniego has found work with a variety of brands, including Apple, Coachella and Toyota. The artist continues, reminiscing on that era of his practice, and says, “That was during a period from 2012-16. In 2016, I started experimenting with photogrammetry. At the time I didn't know what to do with the point clouds. I just knew that I wanted to animate them in some fashion. That led me to 3D, but down a different route rather than photogrammetry. Anyway, I revisited photogrammetry during the pandemic, as circumstances led to me being locked indoors, shooting plants all day. In a world of unknown chaos, I found a way to create some artistic merit out of how I was spending my time. What evolved from it was a creative practice that involves all my skills, from photography to videography, photogrammetry, and 3D animation as well.”
The artist’s work has a startling clarity to it, which makes a viewing experience feel as though one is entreated to witnessing the motions of each individual pixel. Samaniego finds this interesting, and says, “I strive for a balance between impressionism and pointillism in terms of aesthetic. I never thought about the feeling of being able to see each particle though. Come to think of it; I used to shoot a lot of photos at night that had a heavy bokeh influence. Now it's almost like the bokeh has grown into a 3D object. In conceptual terms, I like the science of all matter being composed of atoms. In a sense, these are 3D interpretations of reality, but made up of particles or atoms."
Of late, Samaniego has entered the Non-fungible token space through Makerspace, crypto art marketplace and community, and now uploads all of his current work on Art Republic Global and SuperRare. “At first, I was reluctant. NFTs seemed too good to be true and artists actually having power in the market was something that I was not used to…It's been liberating. I am a part of a few groups that will become more public in the near future. Let’s see how that goes,” he says. He ends his interview with musing on the direction he would like to see his practice evolve in. For Samaniego, it’s all about scale now: he wants to create increasingly large-scale installations, in order to better immerse his audience within them. He is correct in acknowledging the enchanting quality his work possesses, and it will be fascinating to see the pieces Samaniego develops in the coming years. Perhaps we will soon experience massive visualisers featuring his work, along with an exploration of AR capabilities. The latter seems most exciting, but no matter what the artist chooses to focus on, his work will no doubt remain wonderful and valuable to engage with.