image data as raw material for new work

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by libby

Something like an explosion appropriated from Fiona Rae

Last night I spoke at the wonderful Creative Data Club about how I use data from digital images as source material for my own new work (like the piece above).  These new images, which I generate by analyzing other digital images with some (Processing) code are, in part a digital sketch book and in part stand alone works in their own right.


Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.35.26 PM

My digital print making started a year or so ago, when I was looking for a colour scheme for my installation Computation Cloud (above).  At that time, I took a screenshot of one of Franz Ackermann's paintings from the internet.  Ackermann's painting (above) is called City Planning 2: Home, Home Again and is made from oils on a 280 x 350cm canvas, but my computer doesn't know it this way - it only recognizes the data...

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.54.10 PM

Here on my computer Ackermann's work is now 394 x 315 pixel RGB image with a name including the time and date of the screenshot and it is this data that forms the raw material for my own work.   In the image below I used code to analyze the RGB data of the pixels and calculate the average colour of the original image in each of the triangular regions and then to replace each triangle with this average colour.

Untitled (Ackermann deconstruct)

I have written previously about other images that arose from this process of data analysis.  They formed a sketchbook that inspired Computation Cloud.  Furthermore, due to working with digital images I was able to make a short animations that anticipated the movement of the installation: see here Ackermann_destruct - that then played out in the real world piece (click on the image below to see the video):

First cut of Computation Cloud live

Besides the digital images informing larger installations, they also become works in their own right.  When translating these images from screen to the physical world it has been interesting to think about the scale of the prints and the paper they are printed on, since both of these choices really change the experience of looking at the pieces in physical space and give different meanings to the work.

Untitled (Ackermann quantise) at Christie's

For instance with my Untitled (Ackermann quantise) prints (above at Christie's), I opted for a size that was similar to my computer screen and printed on gloss paper, since this most accurately reflects the vibrancy of the screen-based colours.  Similarly, the physical print of Time's Tattarrattat (The Garden of Forking Paths) was printed on gloss paper to reference the reflective quality of the once entirely screen based image.

Time's Tattarrattat (The Garden of Forking Paths)

More recently, as in a lot of my projects, I was thinking again about ideas surrounding the slippage and blurring of reality - the smearing out of individually possessed properties of entities as you transition from the macroscopic to the microscopic.  So, to form a background 'reality' that I could then deconstruct, I once again turned to some more of my favourite painters, Dan Perfect and Fiona Rae, whose compositions and colours I was keen to play with.  In these paintings, I really like the way marks (or features if you like) trigger the parts of your brain that are looking for patterns, the works teases you, yet becomes slippery when too much focus is given to any fixed aspect.   With this in mind, the images below are firstly the paintings that I appropriated and then my pieces which were produced via an intuitive process that involved hundreds of iterations of testing different ways the original data from Perfect's and Rae's images could be analyzed and manipulated.

Perfect - Lacoon

Heaney - Perfect Lacoon


Something like an explosion

Close up detail

The last image is a close up of the previous one.  Along with the issues written about in this post, are also questions surrounding appropriation and authorship of digital works and also the authenticity of a digital screen based image as a work of art when compared to its physical print manifestation.