Ghost of Monet

Water Lilies Agapanthus, 1914-1917 by Claude Monet

Monet’s water lilies are an interesting subject when it comes to understanding art in its essential form or prime ingredient.  What is the art?  What captivated Monet’s attention and energies?

It can be said that Monet’s water lilies introduced abstraction into the art world because he slowly transformed the essence of “water lily” into an abstraction.  Also, his work slowly evolves into something unrecognizable but still interesting.  But is this abstraction? or did he merely paint more realistically?  It’s a habit of painters to look closely at things and to meditate on the visual appearance and impression of things.  Just as with the theories of physics and chemistry, what is in fact the results of mere observation is often seen by outsiders as abstraction or “the ideal”.  If theory is in fact, reality to the observant, then perhaps abstraction is nothing more than visual theory, the essence of realism and not something categorically unique.  Science labs are generally intended to make science classes more realistic and to help you understand the theoretical “concepts” but without a clear understanding of the theories and principles you will never understand the reality you see in laboratory demonstrations.

Made in Kandid AffineIFS Gray feature

If you’re familiar with Monet’s water lily series you’ll undoubtedly see some sort of resemblance in this computer generated image above.  Iterated function systems actually work a lot like a pond with water lilies; one or two shapes repeated all over at smaller scales to build a big picture.  The reason computerized, algorithmic art is so creative is that it not only imitates natural processes, it is a natural process, just in a computerized medium.

Here’s another interesting point:

Water Lilies – Japanese Bridge, 1923 by Claude Monet

I’m a big fan of Monet’s water lilies, but not this one.  It’s intriguing to me that a human artist would “output” or “render” such a semi-senseless sludgefest like this.  Algorithmic computer methods do it all the time.  Again: what is the art?  What drove Monet to produce this?  The subjectivity to art, or, the wide, overlapping but not-in-common aspect to it is what I find intriguing because it’s probably the most common fault of computerized, algorithmic methods.  That is, algorithmic art often looks great to the person who made it and a few others but like junk to most others.  But Monet’s work was guilty of that too.  We just don’t say that when a human being makes junk.  Especially a great artist like Monet.

Mutational variants in breeding screen from Kandid

The image above is the “population” during one generation of breeding of the images of which the big one up above came from.  Kandid is a true genetic art program, reducing all aspects of an image to alterable characteristics which then, by mutation, random mutation, new variations are made.  Did Monet think like this?  while looking at his pond and browsing the variations of color, shape and pattern?  Did he dream like this?  after a long day of painting and studying water lilies?