December, Firenze Biennale
I have always thought as an artist and as a scientist, equally.
By 1979 I became aware that the way I think about art was not in tune with the dominant culture of Western Art and Art Theory, which I'd come to find linear and equationistic.
It was an awakening that leads directly to my Maps of Approximation.
I had happened that year on Benoit Mandelbrot's Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension. That discovery rocked my world as I recognized in Mandelbrot that someone else was out there, thinking algorithmically.
At first attempt, I used manufactured wallpaper-pattern rollers to suggest visually a complex imagery in a simple fashion, namely, a set of rules; the point of this early attempt was the elimination of the single point of the brush or pencil or knife.
By 1990, I'd started to carve images into these common wall-paint rollers so that I had editorial control over -- and the facility to show more complexity in -- the images I wanted to see and show.
Then, over time, I came to realize that for me to escape, totally, the Western Art mentality, I needed a new approach.
In 1998 I began the maps, the present manifestation of the algorithmic approach. I'm a map-maker, a creator of artifacts.
I make my maps with basic tools. I start with a map I see, usually in a current publication, and then approximate it.
I cover with wet stucco a wooden board I've cut and prepared, then, before the stucco can dry, inscribe the map I see using sticks, combs, my fingers. I then add layers and colors to create in essence a bas-relief, an artifact, a map of approximation.
I try to bring my interpretation of the work of many scientists and mathematicians to my maps. My most recent maps, starting towards the end of 2001, were inspired by my readings into Stephen Wolfram's New Kind of Science, specifically his liberating
A kindred spirit in truly understanding nature, Wolfram is the reason for and inspiration of my art and a direct link to Maps of Approximation.
Discovers Stephen Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science", which Singer feels -- and is basing his future as an artist -- will result in a 'critical opalescence' for science and art that will bring about an end to 'equationistic' art, to the 'flat, paternal art, an art of -isms', that's run roughshod over Western Art since 300 CE.
"I bought a copy of 'A New Kind of Science' and read what I could, skipped what I couldn't understand, but saw to the core, with its Rules and its cellular automata and how things move from the simple to the complex and it was like this flash went off. Here was someone dealing with the fundamental problems of science, namely,
"… from the origins of apparent randomness in physical systems, to the development of complexity in biology, the ultimate scope and limitations of mathematics, the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, the interplay between free will and determinism, and the character of intelligence in the universe."
click here to view: Wolfram Rule 30
Maps of Approximation - My first expression of algorithmic/fractal approach:
1. Make it simple, from something simple.
2. Use something already available.
3. Don't think about what one's doing; it's already there.
4. Express chaos of natural life in physical mode.
4. Portray self-similarity
5. Express irregularity.
6. Exhibit the complexity of what one's thinking
7. Enable it to coalesce into something to grasp
8. Allow it to be an approximation, ever 'just close', always in motion
9. Finished artifact: Topological expression of a specific place in time
By 1990, Singer realizes what he wants to do is was not so much create paintings but to create artifacts. He finds, in his readings, that early homo sapiens had reproduced images by taking bones, emptied of marrow, and carved designs, down to their hollow center, into them. They'd then fill these bones with carbon - probably charcoal from a fire - then rolled bark or dried skin around them. When they rolled them out, the design would appear on the bark or skin; furthermore, as they rolled out this 'canvas' the design would alter slightly with each revolution of the medium.
This sort of random art, taking a simple concept and making it complex, had great appeal to Singer, who adapted it by heading down to his local hardware store and purchasing dozens, in different sizes, of wall-paper and paint rollers. He'd then carve images onto a roller, dip the roller in paint, and roll the image onto a canvas. With each revolution of roller on canvas, the image would alter slightly.
He spent the next five years honing this technique. These images were, like their bone/carbon/bark ancestors, time-consuming to create, involving, first, the need to proportionalize the image to one revolution of the roller, then carving, using hobby knives, razor blades, image onto the roller itself. But once the image was on the roller, 'freeing the image from the blank cylindrical surface', rolling it out onto canvas imparted, as Singer describes, 'its own fractal signature, laying down an image of infinite visual variation. Each time I drew the roller across the surface, the image would change, albeit slightly: it was a self-similar iteration, reinforcing and returning to itself."
Discovers Benoit Mandelbrot's Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension; key to Singer's development as an artist and leading to Maps of Approximation
"Certain phenomena respond well to models based on surprisingly un-structured random processes." Benoit Mandelbrot.
Click here to view: Mandelbrot Set
Jon Singer, born November 1948 in New York City; raised in Rhode Island, without a television.