The geometric abstraction of Lisa Orth’s They Wanted Us To Weave, speaks to her background in graphic design and illustration. Through layers, texture, palette and form she generates a convincing illusion of depth and texture on screen.
This series by Lisa was presented as part of our online exhibition Building Blocks and we are delighted to have had the opportunity to delve deeper into these works.
UL: How do you navigate the relationship between mathematics, generative code and geometric aesthetics?
LO: In my practice, these relationships are deeply interconnected. Mathematics plays a crucial role in determining what I consider to be the “parameters of possibility,” providing the fundamental structure for developing visual systems that can create intricate compositions. As my artistic approach is largely centred on experimentation with geometric primitives and exploring the boundaries of visual form and design, the code is entirely dependent on the algorithms to imbue their manifestations with a sense of character and movement.
UL: How did you formulate your dynamic and nuanced approach to geometry?
LO: My approach is influenced by a variety of factors, including my diverse history in the arts. One thing I’ve learned through my 30+ years of working in creative fields is that experimentation combined with intuition is more effective than predetermined thought for creating original art. Especially when creating art with code, I really rely on visceral reactions to tell me if and when I’m headed in the right direction.
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?
LO: Some may say that generative art is exclusive due to technical skills and equipment, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Like any other art form, it does require some level of skill and equipment, but with the increasing accessibility of technology, most people have access to basic computing. The internet is an excellent resource for free information and tutorials, making it super easier for anyone who wants to get started with creative coding. I found that p5.js was a perfect tool to take my previously limited coding knowledge, blend it with my art and design experience, and dive headfirst into learning how to make generative art.
While looking at art on a tiny screen isn’t ideal, all of my work is accessible for viewing on mobile browsers, and I make a conscious effort to share my projects on multiple social media platforms and online on my personal website. I plan to release more art as physical prints as well, that’s always really fun to do, and so great to see the work displayed outside of a digital screen. I’ve been working on a series of hand-made generative works, released some generative art as t-shirts, and even created a tattoo done by generative process.
Ultimately, my goal is to share my passion for generative art and hopefully inspire others to explore their creativity through it as well. Embracing technology as another tool to explore the creative process is really so exciting. I hope in sharing my passion for generative art, I can inspire others to explore the new and limitless possibilities as well.
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Lisa Orth is an American-based artist known for her work in the fields of generative art. She was previously the Art Director of Sub Pop Records, notable for designing Nirvana’s first records and their famous ‘logo’. Alongside graphic design, illustration and fine art, she has delved into a career in tattooing. While leveraging her traditional art and design background into the new digital art space, her abstract generative work explores the intersection of art and technology, utilising themes of colliding textures, movement and colour. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Art Basel Paris + par, NFT Show Europe, Seattle NFT Museum, Seattle Art Fair, and Tannhäuser Generative Art Museum, among many others.
UL: Can you tell us a bit about your background and journey into creative coding?
LO: My background includes a variety of art modalities, and I’ve always been fascinated with new technology and how it could play a role in the art I create. I’ve actually never had a job that wasn’t in the art field. I’ve been a designer, creative director, curator, musician, DJ, tattoo artist, and illustrator. Throughout all these diverse creative fields, I’ve always been fascinated by the potential of new technologies to enhance the art I create.
During the pandemic, I found that I had extra time and decided to explore digital art and blockchain technologies. When I discovered generative art, which was probably around April 2021, I became instantly obsessed. Although I had learned to code in the late 90s, when I was co-owner of a creative agency, I had to relearn so much as the technology had changed so significantly. I found Daniel Shiffman’s Coding Train channel and started to learn p5 so I could create these amazing code-based artworks for myself. The learning curve was admittedly frustrating at times. Luckily I have a laser focus when something piques my interest and the type of personality that thrives when presented with a challenge.
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?
LO: Aesthetics and social or political significance can certainly coexist in a way that makes art more powerful. I’m primarily motivated by aesthetic considerations, but I also make connections to the world at large and how the art I’m creating can fit into or speak to relevant narratives. Ultimately the work I create has to move me on an aesthetic level regardless of having a larger message.
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?
LO: I love art history and am a huge admirer of so many historical movements and artists. To name a few that might relate more to Unit London’s Building Blocks exhibition, I’m a fan of the work of Anni & Josef Albers, Marcelle Cahn, Sonia Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Alexandra Exter, Gego, Hilma af Klint, Agnes Martin, László Moholy-Nagy, Vera Molnar, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Gunta Stölzl, and the art within the movements of Constructivism,Suprematism, Futurism, the Bauhaus school, Dada, Surrealism, and much of the early abstractionists and European Avant-Garde from the 1920s through the 1960s.
I suppose it’s natural to draw parallels on an aesthetic level when the work in question is abstract and geometrically based. I also imagine the sense of excitement and discovery that comes from working in a boundary-pushing medium not yet understood or accepted by the mainstream would be a point of commonality as well.
I can see many parallels with today’s Web3 movement and Constructivism in particular, including the shared belief that technology has the potential to transform society for the better, the goal of art being accessible to everyone, the democratisation of artwork, and artists working with others in a spirit of collaboration.
Ultimately, I like to let the art I create speak to me with the intention of remaining open to whatever message it wants to convey, I think that’s one of the great powers of abstract art in particular.
UL: Are there any specific artists who influence your work /practice?
LO: Although I admire and respect so many artists, I consciously avoid seeking inspiration from their work when I’m creating. I much prefer to start with a blank slate and experiment with the code to see where it takes me. Of course, I’m sure that my subconscious is influenced by the artists I admire, but I try not to let that affect my artistic decision-making process.
Within my practice, I believe that while recreating existing art styles with code requires a high level of skill, I don’t find much value in simply reproducing established styles. For me, the real excitement in using code to create art lies in exploring new and unique possibilities that haven’t been seen before.
UL: How does your experience with graphic design, illustration and fine art play into your digital compositions?
LO: I’m sure that all my time spent in other artistic mediums has really helped to fine-honed my compositional sense, given me a strong foundation in using colour, and most importantly taught me to trust my instincts when it comes to decision making. I would also say that my experience in fine art has instilled in me a value for experimentation and exploration in the creative process, encouraging me to take risks and explore new ideas and mediums. I think the diversity of my artistic background allows me to bring a unique perspective to my code-based work that brings a recognisable visual identity to my projects, as well as a singular point of view.
Stay tuned for more exclusive artists interviews from all the groundbreaking generative artists featured in our exhibition!