We had the opportunity to talk to Studio Yorktown, one of the participating artists in our online exhibition Building Blocks, about his ability to generate exquisite complexity and depth from simple lines of code.
In Yorktown’s Geometric Infatuation, simple geometric shapes are repeated to conjure a convincing illusion of three-dimensionality. The perceived complexity arises from a systematic approach to algorithmic programming. Intricate patterns are seamlessly integrated into the composition’s foundational grid, striking a careful balance between algorithmic precision and artistic vision.
UL: How do you navigate the relationship between mathematics, generative code and geometric aesthetics?
SY: My foray into generative art and coding began in late 2021 when I gained a deeper understanding of what generative art really was – the ability for each person to create their own unique variation on a theme. This was an eye-opening epiphany for me, as it meant that I could create designs that were truly one-of-a-kind, within a specified aesthetic range.
Although I am not particularly mathematically gifted, I quickly realised that mathematics and code were essential tools for creating generative art. I began to develop an appreciation for the ways in which mathematical processes and functions could be used to get my pieces where I wanted them to go. While there was a steep learning curve, I found the process of exploring the connections between mathematics, coding, and generative art to be incredibly rewarding.
Through my work in generative art and coding, I have discovered a whole new world of creative possibilities. I am constantly inspired by the ways in which mathematics and code can be used to create intricate and or evocative designs. Though admittedly I did not start out with a natural affinity for maths and code, my journey into generative art has given me a newfound appreciation for the role they play within my creative process.
Geometric aesthetics also evoke deep feelings of nostalgia within me. It’s not so much the photorealism that is possible with today’s processing power that captures my imagination, but instead early 3D experimentations, renders and animation such as Tin Toy and Luxo Jr by John Lasseter and Ed Catmull from early pre-Disney Pixar, wireframe polygon graphics, and Amiga 500 graphics in the early days of personal computing. For me that is the magical era where I first became enamoured with computer graphics.
This sense of nostalgia has heavily influenced my approach to generative art and coding. I often draw inspiration from the early days of computer graphics and incorporate simple geometric shapes into my designs. I think this is the reason I intentionally shy away from too much detail. Most of the computer graphics I encountered were relatively low resolution, so one was forced to interpolate what things were supposed to be mentally. I think paradoxically, that opens a space for a viewer to engage with a piece by bringing a bit of themselves as opposed to being overly-descriptive, especially when dealing with more figurative pieces.
UL: Do any historical art movements resonate with you and your practice; Do you intentionally draw any parallels between your work and that of the past?
SY: As a historical movement, I am most drawn to the Bauhaus and mid-century modernism. I find these movements fascinating because of the attention to detail, craftsmanship, and playfulness that is made possible by using comparatively simple geometry. In particular, the Bauhaus movement emphasised the importance of simplicity, functionality, and geometric forms in design, and their focus on form and function continues to influence my work and creative process. Similarly, mid-century modernism utilised simple geometric shapes to create elegant and visually interesting designs that were both aesthetically pleasing and functional. I am inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of these movements and often try to incorporate their principles into my own work in as organic a way as possible without getting restricted by them.
UL: An exploration of spatial dynamics is characteristic of your practice. How do you present such a convincing three dimensionality on a two dimensional screen, is achieving this affect a main motivation when creating your work?
SY: Most of the sense of space is created with contrast and colour. By selecting the right colours offset against another, it is possible to draw attention to which object is meant to be in front of which. By remaining consistent while doing this, it is possible to create a sense of depth while working on a comparatively flat canvas.
I also like to position objects in a way that there is alternation between which objects are in front of which. I like making lines or shapes disappear behind or pass in front of each other, in a way like weaving. This gives an impression of dynamism and depth.
I also use very subtle transparency which is most visible when viewed close up. This is in a way a digital replication of print results, where ink is not always completely opaque. This gives the illusion of being overprinted and while subtle, it can create an impression of layering.
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Kwame Bruce Busia also known as Bruce or Studio Yorktown, is a multi-disciplinary creative and generative artist from London. With a background in architecture, his early experiences in spatial design and conceptual thinking laid the groundwork for his artistic pursuits. Notable generative collections by Bruce include Sabler, Lebras, Tesseract, and Perpendicular Inhabitation. Inspired by simplicity, modernism, and Eastern design philosophies, Bruce’s work often explores built environments and the human condition, abstracted through these lenses. His artworks have been collected and exhibited internationally, including at Art Basel Miami Beach, Proof Of People London by Vertical Crypto and at the NEAL DIGITAL Gallery in China.
UL: How did you formulate your dynamic and nuanced approach to geometry?
SY: I have always been fascinated by the underlying order and structure found in geometry, particularly in the use of proportions such as the golden and silver ratios. My approach to geometry is heavily informed by these ratios, and I use them as a foundation to create modular systems and clearly defined rules for my designs. I enjoy seeking inventive ways to play with and bend these often arbitrary rules, while still maintaining a sense of underlying order, repetition or connection at different levels within the same piece. This approach to geometry helps me to create designs that I feel are both visually appealing and conceptually interesting.
UL: Are there any specific artists who influence your work /practice?
SY: Yes, there are several specific artists who greatly influence my work and practice. As I mentioned earlier, I am inspired by the pioneering work of Bauhaus artists Anni and Josef Albers for their experimental use of colour and their exploration of grids and weaving. In addition, I am also influenced by the Swiss International style graphic designers, such as Josef Muller-Brockmann, who also worked within grids while pushing the possibilities of design. Perhaps this is why grids are such a common feature in my generative collections, whether visible or invisible.
Architecturally, I have been inspired by the elegant simplicity of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and traditional Japanese architecture. These artists and architects have shown me the power of using simple geometric forms to create visually striking and functional designs. Generally, I seem to be inspired by artists and designers who have found the ability to push the boundaries of their chosen mediums, while maintaining a strong sense of balance and order.
UL: Do your explorations in generative pattern have any underlying political or social significance, or do you prefer to focus on the aesthetic qualities of the work?
SY: At this point in my creative exploration, I have primarily focused on the aesthetic qualities of my work, with a particular emphasis on generative patterns. While my work is often inspired by historical art movements and design principles, I have not yet infused it with any overt political or social significance. Instead, the major theme in my work is based on nostalgia or the evocation of a mood. I am more interested in creating designs that are visually interesting and emotionally evocative, rather than making any specific political or social statements. However, as my work continues to evolve, I am open to exploring new themes and incorporating a wider range of influences into my creative process. I do believe generative art has the capacity to communicate across multiple iterations and this is a concept I have been actively exploring as of late.
UL: Some argue that generative art is hard to access since it requires a certain level of technical skill and expensive equipment. How do you respond to that and how do you ensure that your work is accessible to a wide audience?
SY: I would argue that code is simply a medium through which an idea or a result can be communicated. Coding is an extremely accessible activity which does not require particularly expensive equipment unless you are attempting something extremely intricate or processor intensive.
I believe a lot of the perceived complexity of coding is due to the fact that very dense, geometric and mathematical outputs are possible, and – at least in my experience, there is a cultural perception of anything that appears vaguely mathematical being ‘complex’.
A lot of results are actually simply the result of telling a computer to calculate a simple thing, then repeat the process albeit slightly differently each time, and the result of that can appear more complex than it might actually be.
I never like to feel the code is out of my control or in control of my results. I like to be very deliberate and transparent with my methodology. By ensuring this, I feel I can be very immediate about what I am presenting to a wider audience. I believe that a resulting image should be as simple as what one sees before them, while allowing them to experience whatever else the image may invoke in them.
I would also like to mention that I think anyone can code and that most perceived barriers in this respect (at least from my experience) are largely psychological. Coding is a skill like any other and requires some adjustment to one’s thought processes, depending on the programming language and the intended outcome. However coding is for everyone. The biggest step for me was overcoming the hurdle of thinking “I am not the kind of person that could ever code”, because this is not true – merely a matter of learning the programming language and practising until it begins to make sense.
Stay tuned for more exclusive artists interviews from all the groundbreaking generative artists featured in our exhibition!