NFTS, new media art, and artists: Clara Che Wei Peh unpacks Art Dubai Digital
by Rahul KumarMar 24, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Rahul KumarPublished on : Apr 13, 2022
The undisputed highlight for me at the 15th edition of Art Dubai was the digital section. Situated within the Madinat Jumeirah complex in Dubai, the digital pavilion was separated from the traditional booths that showcased paintings and sculptures. Overall ambiance was low-lit with dark coloured display walls, to allow for the digital screens to take the stage. The debut edition of Art Dubai Digital presented a curated selection of 17 cutting-edge digital platforms internationally. For many this was their first experience of exhibiting in a traditional fair context.
One of the participants, Bright Moments gallery based out of Los Angeles and New York in USA and Berlin in Germany is uniquely structured. “It is an on-chain Decentralized Autonomous Organisation (DAO) that specialises in live NFT minting experiences. Ownership of a CryptoCitizen NFT grants membership in the DAO, and every member has equal rights, equal say and equal footing,” states the introductory text on its website. I was drawn to the digital art of Jeff Davis at the booth of the gallery. Part of his series titled Reflections, the works referenced memories about past relationships and displayed like coloured mirrors, except the imagery was on screen and the colours changed every few seconds. And even the form!
I speak to the artist about his ideas of making digital art and his work titled Reflections.
Rahul Kumar: Are you more of a techie who codes or a visualiser who creates art? It is interesting that you have an education in mathematics and arts.
Jeff Davis: I definitely approach my work as an artist first and as a creative coder second. My background is primarily in art, but I do have a degree in mathematics as you mentioned. I received my BA in mathematics and studio art from Lawrence University, then went on to receive my MFA in painting and drawing from the Art Institute of Chicago. I have additionally spent 20 years of my professional career as an arts professor and administrator. My artwork has evolved from painting, to traditional printmaking, to digital printmaking, to generative art over the last 25 years and I view creative coding as the most recent tool for accomplishing my conceptual goals.
Rahul: Have you given up painting and drawing? Do you miss the tactility and process of making a physical work?
Jeff: I suppose in a practical sense I have, at least for the time being. I honestly don’t miss the process of making physical artwork. My art has always been very clean and precise, and I continually felt like I was working against the medium to achieve my desired results. Once I discovered computers as an artmaking tool, I haven’t really looked back. Working with a computer allows me to think generatively, iterate quickly, and envision large bodies of work without regard to physical limitations. I do very much still enjoy physical artwork though, so I’m sure I’ll return to digital printmaking or even book publishing at some point in the future. But for now, my interest primarily lies in finding ways to exhibit purely digital works in physical settings.
Rahul: Usually artists like to stay in control of what they create, or at a minimum take conscious decisions in guiding the outcomes. In your process much is left to chance in the very creation of the final work. How do you reconcile to this?
Jeff: I think you can have it both ways! As an algorithmic artist, you have the power to control all of the variables of an artistic system in addition to the possible ranges. I spend a lot of time with each algorithm I create, refining its parameters and previewing countless outputs until it’s completely dialled in. At that point, you can be comfortable allowing randomness into the system to explore the algorithmic space. It’s also a very exciting way to work as an artist because new artwork is revealed to you in real-time. It allows the artist to have the same sense of discovery and revery that a first-time viewer has when encountering an artwork.
Rahul: In the works displayed at the recent edition of Art Dubai, titled Reflections, what are the ideas that you intend to communicate? How are bringing together geometry and colours visually conveying your deeper philosophies?
Jeff: When I was developing Reflections, I was thinking a lot about how to capture the concept of memories, specifically memories about past relationships, through simple forms and colour. In a plastic sense, the generated frames in each piece have a visual similarity to mirrors. And the colour selections are based on different stages of interpersonal relationships, which dictate how the colours are synchronised with one another and how quickly they move. The project was also specifically conceived for an event at Bright Moments New York, where one hundred token holders were able to generate the artwork on-site and experience it for the first time along with me.
Rahul: Please take us through the process of creation of the work – how is the algorithm deciding on the forms, composition, and colour shades in this work?
Jeff: The first decision that the Reflections algorithm makes are the colours. It places a random colour in each corner of the composition and blends them together. Each of these parent colours is also attached to the duration of the animation, so they slowly change over time. The algorithm additionally has a feature called Vibe, which sets the relationship status of the Reflection, either Exploration, Friends, Flirting, Partners, or Together. This setting determines if the parent colours are synchronised in any way and their rate of change over time. For instance, the Friends Vibe uses similar hues that all move very quickly with one another, while the Partners Vibe consists of two hues locked in a complementary relationship. The final step of the algorithm is to mask off the coloured background with a random number of black frames with varying corner roundness.
To explore the features of all 100 Reflections, visit www.artblocks.io/project/208
STIR was a Media Partner of Art Dubai 2022 that took place at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai from March 11-13. See the exclusive coverage here.
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