An engine of art is a creative thing, something mechanical and non-human that creates something you can see. A cloud-filled sky is an engine of art and so is a computerized fractal program.
But we’ll deal with such tame examples some other time. Let’s jump right into the fourth dimension and consider a collage as an engine of art and your own creative interpretation as the creative mechanical device. The mind is a kind of machine when it acts unconsciously or automatically. You can’t make your mind think things, it makes you think things.
The rug shown above is a collage of somewhat unrelated ornamental subjects. It’s a bit like a musical chord, a multi-note sound, another collage of sorts, of musical notes. What springs to mind when one hears a complex chord is sort of what springs into my mind when I see a multi-image thing like this rug: a new singular sound, a sum of the parts. Unlike a musical chord, however, a large collage like this is viewed in parts and connected, like dots, one by one. I’m guessing how the mind works but since it’s my own mind it’s an educated guess.
Consider the “disembodied” pillars that nicely form a border on either side of the central palace images. And then there is the purely ornamental, Klimt-like patches of shapes flanking the central palace image which combines ornamental abstraction with ornamental realism. Top and bottom middle borders have scenes with people doing things and interacting while all four corners are nature scenes of silence and passivity. The people patches are historic events? Moments in time beside scenes without time.
The beauty of the carpet seems to increase the more I look at it instead of decreasing as I become more familiar with its simple pictures. I think this comes from the combinations and recombinations that the assorted images can form in one’s mind, assuming that one’s mind is in a state inclined to form such things. The carpet is older than the Rene Magritte painting below but contains the essential ingredients of that surrealist masterpiece below. The ingredients of the carpet I am guessing were not intended to evoke a surrealist impression but my main point is that a collage is like a set of visual dice which the viewer’s mind rolls, and plays with like an artistic board game. The collage artist creates an environment rather than a static work of art, a form of visual creativity similar to the richness and variety of a kaleidoscope . This complex interaction and variety of interpretation is the automatic quality to the carpet and works like one of those startling Magritte paintings that feature normal things in odd contexts just like, in music, the discovery of a new, mysterious chord.
Realism, symbolism and pattern; who would have thought they’d go together like this with such powerful effect? But doesn’t the Persian carpet have all those elements, in the form of a do-it-yourself surrealism kit? One other element: dis-proportion. The pattern in Magritte’s is bigger than the trees, and the pillars are even larger; this of course is a standard surrealist style but the carpet (and really any similar type of collage) at least suggests this sort of abnormal contrast although keeping each element in its own little container instead of allowing them all to jump into the same image together as Magritte has done. Perhaps Magritte spent some time staring at similar Persian carpets?
In a collage, like the Persian carpet above, the artistic effect, or what goes on in the mind of the viewer, is hard to predict because a collage is really a medium itself from which the viewer creates meaning and adds their interpretation. The viewer becomes the artist in this Alice in Wonderland realm of mechanical creativity.
I’m sure this creative collage experience is familiar to some readers when one considers that such items, like Persian carpets, are common, decorative household things forming the background and everyday environment many of us live in. One often ends up staring at such things while sitting in a living room or sitting at a kitchen table or waiting in a waiting room. We don’t decide to play a creative game of making a story from the assorted pictures, our minds start to play automatically.