COME WITH US TO KNOW THE FRACTAL ART

Talking about fractals usually refers us to geometric patterns related to the golden proportion that nature offers in its immense variety. Discovering something that was already there and to name it is, though surprising, something very recent. Thus, the fractal concept is not new for mathematics, which already studied it in detail at the beginning of the last century within the theory of measurements; nevertheless, the specific name was not used until 1975 by the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot, who distinguished several types of fractals according to their greater or lesser accuracy in the copy and the possibility or not of infinite reproduction.

But what do we understand by fractal? The word was used to designate the patterns of forms that did not fit the traditional geometric descriptions despite keeping an ordered structure. A proximity analysis revealed that these patterns were composed of small elements equal to each other, composing drawings that repeat on a larger scale, keeping the same distribution. Nature is full of examples of this type, such as snowflakes or sunflower seeds.

3D design with fractals

The study of this concept had an immediate practical application to graphic design. The use of fractal structures in the clouds, the mountains or the sea gave the graphics a greater realism that significantly improved the final result. Likewise, music is full of fractals and many classical works by Beethoven, Bach and Mozart work with this concept in their compositions. With the constant presence of these patterns in our environment, although unnoticed for a long time, very soon this interest made the leap into art. The plastic transposition of this idea opened a world of expressive possibilities still to be explored, even more in abstract works, where the game of geometries seemed to be running out.

M. C. Escher, “Smaller & Smaller”, 1956

Among the first artists who worked with this concept, we must mention Escher. His production is difficult to classify, although there is a clear interest in drawing and engraving, with which he channelled his intellectual restlessness and expositions of opposite terms, like the infinite versus the limited, the black and white, the misunderstandings, the double reading symmetries... Although the most famous works of this author are those that present optical games and visual paradoxes, he also investigated fractals with works that synthesize this concept perfectly, even though it had not been first used yet.

Jackson Pollock, “Number one”, 1950

Jackson Pollock's painting is also said to contain an infinity of fractal structures. The fascination that this artist has always raised, with such a short life and such a large production, led Australian scientists Richard P. Taylor, Adam P. Micolich and David Jonas to undertake a detailed study of his work in 1999. The work of this representative of abstract expressionism bases on the technique "drip and splash", drawing lines and spots by dripping and throwing paint on the canvas. The conclusion is that the fractal proportion of his painting increases with the years and gains perfection, and thus, we keep the same chaotic sensation of spread pattern whether we observe a detail of one of his works or the piece as a whole.

Kerry Mitchell, “Jungle”, 1998

Beyond these examples of traditional art, many contemporary creators approach their works from computer-made compositions where the presence of fractal algorithms combined with the changes of colour originates shocking images. For this reason, fractal art appears intimately connected with computational art, a new trend in which creators who usually have a previous background in the world of science or computer science stand out. We can mention as examples Scott Draves, William Latham, Greg Sams or Kerry Mitchell.

 

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.