# FRACTALS AS SURREAL ART

## Deviation Actions

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A few weeks ago, one of our friends and member sent us two great works, two fractals. The idea of publishing these works in the club and the discussion about them brought as result the next interview...enjoy!

PART I. Introducing the fractals by

Fractals might be said to have a prehistory: French mathematicians Gaston Julia and Pierre Fatou initiated the theory of complex dynamics in the early 20th century, but due to the computation required to study such iterative processes, the visual element of this work necessarily remained largely hidden until the 1970s. Benoît Mandelbrot coined the term 'fractal' in 1975 as a label for objects whose dimensional properties failed to correspond to the familiar integer-dimensions of Euclidian space. One practical upshot of this property is that Mandelbrot-type fractals have an edge of infinite length enclosing a finite area on a plane. It is at the boundary, often referred to as 'the edge of chaos', that the visual aesthetics are born and enhanced.

Another major fractal-type, the IFS or iterated function system, is created in an entirely different manner. The stochastic process now widely known as 'the chaos game' involves many thousands of iterations of the probabilistic distribution of a point between 3 given points on a plane (3 is the minimum required to define an area). What results is a pattern, previously hidden, in the space, governed by the mapping equation used. This process was greatly refined by Scott Draves in 1999 to produce 'the fractal flame algorithm', structurally identical with IFS but including radical amendments connected with the control of point density, colouring and smoothing. In short, these aesthetic changes lifted a fascinating mathematical curiosity into the realm of art.

Back-tracking a little, those who remember early images of 'fractal art' may recall only vivid primaries and recursive patterns. But the whole field has changed, and continues to change, radically and rapidly. Many non-fractal elements are now built into fractal generating software such that any former lines of demarcation are blurred out of existence. Exciting times for fractal artists!

PART II. Interview by HectorPineda, and

Kandinsky said "The process of creation is the same in art and nature", his statement seemingly discusses a new drive in science know as "Biomimicry", describes as "the emerging race to mimic natural processes"

Fractal art somehow mimic nature's templates?
The use of mathematics as a tool for analysing and describing natural processes is long-established. In the past, this was often limited to employing 'approximations' to fit Nature to the theory. Fractals, as part of the broader discipline of Chaos Theory, are closer to Nature in their non-linear sensitivity to initial conditions. More directly, the IFS has demonstrated a strong correspondence to many familiars from Nature: tree growth, leaf structure, erosion patterns and many others can be successfully modelled using basic fractal techniques. Clearly, the nett effect of Nature's forces corresponds to the iteration of simple mathematical formulae.

Fractal patterns have been found in the paintings of Jackson Pollock phys.unsw.edu.au/phys_about/PH… and Decalcomania, a technique used by artists such as Max Ernst, can produce fractal-like patterns.
What do you think about these patterns? Are these conscious or unconscious patterns?

It's important to retain the descriptor 'fractal-like' rather than 'fractal'. Returning to Chaos Theory, we can consider a non-linear dynamical system in equilibrium: as the system is 'stressed' by forcing it away from equilibrium, it may begin to oscillate between two and then more different equilibria. This is 'the edge of chaos', corresponding to fractal behaviour. Push it too far, and it 'degenerates' into randomness. Looking at these artistic techniques from the reverse direction, they cannot be said to be purely random due to human application/intervention. Perhaps this is the factor that draws them away from the soup of true randomness towards the edge of chaos, hence the emergence of 'fractal-like patterns'. These are not 'conscious' in that they are not will-directed, but perhaps an element of the subconscious has a definite influence.

Fractal programs have become increasingly sophisticated. Programs and algorithms have progressed from making simple Mandelbrots to patterns and shapes beyond most imaginations. Add to that the ability within some programs to have Photoshop like layers, coloring and blending options and fractals gain the ability to become much more. Flame fractals have also progressed into something way beyond the fluid motion they started out as, and have now grown into 3D and beyond.
Because there are so many options in these programs both conscious and unconscious imagery occur to the learned user. (The unlearned user can only expect the unconscious result)

Ian, When you're are creating a new fractal, what is the first idea in your mind? The final image or the title/concept of the work?
My own experience with fractal art is greatly varied. It's true to say that both of these approaches have been utilised, but perhaps more commonly, I decide on a stylistic approach, often beginning with an older parameter and applying changes, seeing if it leads in any interesting directions. From this, a concept often takes shape and I steer the work towards this until satisfied, or maybe abandon the line and begin again.

Could exist a relationship between the AUTOMATISM and some model to create fractals?
Since automatism attempts to directly express the subconscious, there is no reason why the technique couldn't be applied to fractal art. A degree of feedback (that is, observing the evolution of the image) may be considered necessary/desirable, an element to leave to the discretion of the artist.

Obviously fractals can be created in an automatic fashion, the question is do they have any artistic relevance. Artistic relevance is a question debated by many, where many in the world of fractals believe that simply generating a pattern is not art, but when masks, layers and coloring are applied, art will emerge.
I believe art is possible when these factors are applied, but this does not necessarily make a fractal art. I also believe a fractal can be art when the viewer’s attention and subconscious can be directed by the pattern to a specific thought, or feeling, simply put, when the fractal is seen not as a pleasing shape, but something entirely different, that has sunk into or sparked an imagination. Of course there are lots of examples where those same shapes have been made to be very pleasing and easy to relate to... most call that fractal art…I myself, am not so sure. Again, yes the application of intricate masks, coloring and layers can produce art…but not necessarily, it can produce an absolute mess with no redeeming qualities. Then again, those who are advocates of abstract expressionism or pop may think they are great, and could live with them. Art will always be a very personal experience.

And the relationship with the ABSTRACTIONISM?
Abstractionism can mean a variety of related but distinct things. I think fractal art may approach these as successfully as any of the visual media:

Representation of an abstract concept, such as an emotion.
Abstraction of a non-abstract concept, such as a season.
Purely aesthetic abstract visuals, based on the interaction of shapes, colours, textures...
Fractals are by nature abstract in themselves, but may also emulate traditional abstract art.

Making an abstract fractal is as easy as Jackson Pollock throwing paint on a canvas. Again art, and beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Personally I believe abstract, abstract expressionism and pop art has made a disaster of the classical art world, leaving a desert or abyss with nothing to hold onto as direction, morals or aesthetic.

Louis Markoya introduces the fractals as surreal creations in the club, this works are relevant for the history of the club:

"The undulating live metallic forms which converge in an alien manner, to make the zipper, so alike to H.R. Giger's work... now this form, in every sense of the word is surreal"

"For anyone to conceive a fractal to have the structure of flesh and bones, created by mathematics is in itself supremely surreal. To depict it as a corpse dives into the true roots of the subconscious and drags the viewer there"

Louis, Why and must be considered as surreal pieces?
The first point I would like to make is that the brain, and thought processes in particular are perfect examples of chaotic systems. This alone makes fractals deeply related to all humans, and alone can account for the great attraction to them. Simply look here on Deviant Arts as to how many fractals are uploaded daily, I would dare to say the numbers even exceed nudes, making one realize that not only can the fractal compete with the beauty of form in nudes, but can even in cases depict sexual bliss. Both passion and the depiction of ecstasy in particular are something relatively easy in fractals, where it would take artists from the Baroque or Art Nouveau periods (lets say Bernini)years to accomplish a work to depict ecstasy.
As for my two fractals noted, I can be mistaken, but I believe them to be of a new breed, not just because of their form, as the forms exist in other renderings by other fractal generators, but through my unique insight of the forms I visualized them as they are titled. By my assigning the titles as I did I have empowered the titles to direct the viewers conscious to see the images as I did, and give insight into my own artistic process. All while still viewing if not a beautiful shape, a unique one.
“Giger’s Zipper” has obvious ties and the palette of the famous dark surrealist H. R. Giger. The undulating forms which ultimately form the zipper are not only chaotic, symmetric and captivating, but upon closer inspection can be seen as convulsive and alive, a quality often reserved for Giger’s work. Close examination allows you to see that each zipper is formed by a thousand other zippers and those are formed by a thousand more... it is cosmogenic, holographic, and full of mystical implications.
“Fractal Carcass Stripped Clean by the Fibonacci Sequence” is in my mind, supremely surreal.
Simply the thought of a fractal (An algorithmically generated pattern, residing only in math space until you assign color values to certain pixels) can actually take the form of flesh, bones and cartilage to me is a sublimely surreal thought. That bloodstained bones can exist in an algorithm alone is a surreal thought. This image can and does repulse some viewers, yet through the connection we all feel to fractals as described earlier, the viewer is drawn into the spiral of torn flesh and cartilage to then recognize or subconsciously connect with the repetition of the harmonies of the fractal. One can be led to realize that the image does not necessarily reside on a computer screen, or in print form in front of them, but in actuality, resides within them, which in turn can lead to a tornado of thought, a high and lofty ideal for art.

Ian, Could be some fractals be categorized as surreal art? Louis said "No one could argue that these fractals are not surreal" I agree with him, but can somebody say yes and why?
It's perhaps helpful to view the relationship between fractals and Surrealism in terms of set theory: neither is a subset of the other, but they certainly have an intersection. To argue in general for the existence of this intersection, it's worth looking at important resonances:

Both are distinctly anti-rational, although in different ways. Surrealist imagery has always challenged the purely rational by juxtaposition and cross-grafting of unrelated elements, and by its philosophical roots in its emphasis on the dream-state. Fractals discombobulate the rationalist with their anti-reductionist cross-scale connectivity.
Both have strong links with the psychedelic experience. This may even work bi-directionally, in that some fractals and surreal art almost induce a pseudo-psychedelic experience.
Related to, but distinct from the above, there can be a similar common experience within the consciousness of the viewer, a kind of removal of mental restraints that frees the mind to take a fresh view of 'consensual reality'. This may manifest in the 'tetris effect', a kind of induced mental state in which the mind actively seeks correspondences with the previously viewed material in the current observation field e.g. seeing fractals in leafless trees, or a surreal canvas formed by combination of near and distant elements co-present in the visual field.

Louis,  Do you have a memory about what Dalí was thinking about fractals?
In 1975 Benoit Mandelbrot coined the word fractal. It was not until the early 80’s that computers were evolving enough to depict the Mandelbrot structures in color and not on paper. While I am certain that Dali knew of fractals as he was an avid reader of Scientific American, general access to fractals was not available until the 90’s. Dali grew ill and slowed working to a crawl in or around 1980, completed what is considered his last painting in 1983 and died in 1989.
With no access to computers, and certainly no access to fractal programs, it can be considered amazing that if one studies the works generated by Dali in these waning years, they are fractal in nature. Even with an unsteady hand (Parkinson’s) Dali was able to depict chaotic systems that indeed today can be reproduced with the software available, including 3 dimensional quaternions. Testament again to the genius of Dali, and his love of science and mathematics.
Dali never had the opportunity to see what fractal programs can produce, and I am certain, that if he had, he would utilize fractals heavily in his compositions... elements to his nuclear mystical imagery.
It is for this reason, and my own attraction to fractals that I have been taking classes to try and master some of their form possibilities. It has always been my intent to utilize fractals as elements of larger works, and I will. The fractals above were born in this exploration.

How the development of fractals will influence or was influenced by surreal arts?
Perhaps the strongest historical connections between the two areas lie in both the work of M.C. Escher and psychedelic art. For the future, I foresee some use of pure fractals by surrealists, and certainly the incorporation of fractal elements into mixed media work. From the other direction, some fractal artists may specialise in the more surreal side of the art.

I believe there was no influence either way, it has just come to the point where fractal programs can depict images well beyond the pretty spirals we are all familiar with and reside on countless calendars and websites. Specifically, these programs have evolved into tools which when used in the proper way, and the inventive or surreal mind applies them, can construct images of the conscious and the subconscious. I use my examples below to depict this thought.

Bill Beath is using traditional film photography with most modern digital techniques, creating a natural design and exquisite man-made design, is this technique used in the past or is a new tendency?
Given fractal art's relative youth, it's perhaps more relevant to focus on the nature of the cross-over. As with fractals and surrealism, there's a natural intersection between nature photography and fractals. As already discussed, fractals can act as a descriptor for, and emulator of, many natural processes and objects. Anyone who appreciates the beauty in natural structures may see their Platonic forms in fractals and be thus drawn. Or the movement may occur in the reverse direction. I think this illustrates the fundamental nature of fractals and suggests a fractal-based model for a worldview as more relevant than the currently predominating rationalist/reductionist scientific materialist view.

Ian, do you think some of your fractals could be considered as surreal art?
Although I haven't analysed my work in these terms previously, I feel the following selection exhibit surreal elements, as well as inducing a pseudo-psychedelic experience as mentioned above:

See Emily play
Hall of mirrors
Some enchanted forest
The alphabet factory
Expansion

CONCLUSION

Is the use of fractals by surreal artists a seed that begins to germinate?
Definitely! I think it demonstrates the open-mindedness of Surrealism, always seeking fresh influence and new direction rather than simply re-hashing old ideas.

As in all of art, no matter what the discipline, the act of seeing through the artists eyes and mind and the places that brings the artist and the viewer is what matters. It is up to the surrealist artist to pull the subconscious out of the fractal imagery to utilize it, tame it and bring it forth as his own. So in fractals lie unlimited seeds, which can lie there in the abyss, or be discovered and brought to light (or dark). The artists eye, connected to the algorithms of life, an angel or other unknown forces, including the paranoid critical method are the germinating force which can utilize fractals…as they reside within and outside of us everywhere. Part of the huge attraction to fractals, and why they enjoy an immense popularity, is that every breath you take goes through miles of fractal chambers in your lungs, you blood travels through miles of fractal arteries, veins and capillaries. Life, the universe, thought and everything around you has fractal properties... being human allows you the senses to realize that. Fractals are something seeped into every cell of your being, you cannot escape them, but if you choose, can acknowledge the miracle they provide in your every day life.

Thank you so much to Louis Markoya and Ian Anderson

FRACTALS CLUBS IN DA:

Published:
I enjoyed this interview alot, it was very insightful!
glad you loved our interview with two great artists
Very enlightening; covered alot of topics that I had been wondering about.
"Some enchanted forest" and "Giger´s Zipper" will be included in the book "IMAGINE THE IMAGINATION. NEW VISIONS OF SURREALISM"
What a treat this was. Thanks guys.
Science and math have been linked to the Spiritual in Art since the beginning of recorded Art History. Fractals are another means to behold the Sacred in Life.
Another take from an enthusiastic reader!
yes!, artist and scientific minds work in similar way.
When I create fractals & find myself looking at the resulting surreal images that often mimic reality I am quite astounded.

Sometimes fractal art can so approximate real things that the Mandelbrot origins, Julia sets & so on images are pushed back into what I think of as old school. That is not to denigrate them, old is good. But in this case the basic fractals have been manipulated into newly emergent images that are beyond amazing.

What is emerging in so many fractalists' images goes way beyond the spirals, fern forms & patterns, beautiful tho they be, and embodies the essential concept of su-real, potentiating the artform, taking it into the 11th dimension. The real genius is when it is all done in one fractal, with no composites in the final image.

So many fractalists using Apophysis have produced fractals that defy the mind to associate them with their fractal origins.

Those who use Incendia are another case in point. Take a tour of, for instance, IgneusIncendia [link] to see what I'm saying here - who'da'thunk this surreal art is fractals, in most cases here (except where noted) just one fractal !?

This is such a recent quantum leap in the evolution of fractal art that when I project into what could be coming my mind boggles.

Enjoyed reading this so much. Do love a bit of crunch in the munch
So many people ask me "You create art based on MATH?" as if it's an oxymoron, or maybe I'm a moron. It's so much more than that and this article captures the essence impeccably.

Nicely done!
Thank you.
It was a privilege to be invited to contribute to this fascinating crossover-discussion of art-forms. Many thanks to Héctor for making it happen, and to Louis for his great insight in its instigation. Whilst I appreciate that a Surreal Arts club cannot simply accept fractals as submissions willy-nilly, I hope that this may open the door for skillful use of at least fractal elements in surreal works.
wow quite amazing article it is always amazing wto see such supportive clubs
Excellent
A very interesting read over breakfast!

I also have an image which attempts to simulate decaying flesh, it was created in Ultra Fractal and is called CARRION:

Although it is does not depict blood there is an attempt to create an artistic interpretation of rotten carcass.

Thanks for putting the article together.
I'm usually not a big lover of fractals (I don't know why hehe), but the examples shown here are really interesting.

Do you consider every fractals as surreal? If not what are the criterias to be considered as surreal?

For me, most of the ones I've seen are rather abstract or decorative, but it's maybe because I haven't looked a lot in the fractal gallery.
silly! Most fractals in the fractal gallery are anime!

now if THAT isn't a surreal experience!!

How's you?
z=z*z*z*z*+c
Please Note: Accepting fractals in your club gallery is a significant change in club policy. It is not a new idea. If you are making this change, I suggest making a large, loud, highly visible announcement in your club's journal.
If you look at the reply to my post on this subject, I believe the editor is indicating that, despite this discussion, he/she really is NOT in favor of posting fractals as surreal art.
Yes, you're right. Hector is opposed to posting fractals to the club gallery, but it's a different ballgame now.
Excellent.
Thanks!
interesting interview!