The F Word
Interview with ~s31415
Welcome to another edition of The F Word. On this edition, i have an honor to interview Samuel Monnier a.k.a ~s31415, a fractal artist who have a big passion in algorithmic art and devoted his time to create amazing algorithmic art. If you an Ultra Fractal user, you might already know him as one of the developer of UF formulas under the name of sam.ucl, sam.ufm, sam.uxf.
Can you please introduce yourself?
- I am Samuel Monnier, a theoretical physicist currently living in Paris. I have been creating fractals roughly since 1996.
What is the first thing that makes you attracted to Fractal Art?
- Before anything else, I enjoy the amazing visual richness and complexity of fractals.
I also enjoy their hidden simplicity: although their intricacies challenge the mind of the spectator, most fractal patterns obey simple rules (like for instance self-similarity), which reflect the simplicity of the mathematical algorithm which created them.
A very rewarding aspect of fractal art, and algorithmic art in general, is that as an artist, you get much more than what you put in when you create a work. In particular, the properties of fractals imply that there is always infinitely more to see in an image than what can actually be seen on a low resolution picture. After I finish rendering a work at high resolution, it is always a great pleasure to explore and discover its details.
The observation of a fractal pattern has multiple aspects. It can be intellectual, if one tries to understand the order behind the apparent chaos, as I alluded to above. It can be sensual, if one simply wander on the picture to appreciate the details. It can even be hypnotic or mystical, offering a direct contact with infinity through the self-similarity.
What kind of fractal that you like the most, and why?
- For a long time, I have been exploring "dense" bidimensional fractals, i.e. fractals which display details everywhere in the plane of the image. These fractals are the most complex and interesting in my opinion: there is something to see everywhere. Creating them and revealing their patterns can also be quite a delicate task.
Who is your biggest influence in creating fractal and art in general?
- I don't really have someone who influenced me in this direction. Recently though, I have been exploring new ways of creating dense fractal patterns thanks to Dan Wills. Check his blog [link] .
What does your art mean to you?
- It is an exploration of the richness and complexity of fractal patterns. I like spending time observing my past works, especially as high-resolution zoomable images. In a sense it is a meditative activity; getting lost in an image and finding each time new details and structures. I'm happy if others can enjoy it as well, but it's not my primary concern.
Can you please tell us about your creative process?
- There are always two parts in the creative process. In the first, one has to write the algorithms. With a pattern or an effect in mind, one has to translate it into an algorithm. This involves not so much programming skills as mathematical intuition and abstract reasoning. One also has to devise parameters in the algorithm which will later allow to create the largest possible diversity of patterns and structures.
The second phase consists in using the algorithm to produce an image. It takes some partly random exploration to find an interesting pattern. I often got stuck in a rut precisely when I started following some known easy rules that lead to good patterns in the past... So including some random moves in the exploration is important.
Once the pattern is there, one has to get the best of it. Paradoxically, I feel more and more that almost anything you can do destroys the original beauty of the raw pattern (this includes for instance layering, using fancy coloring algorithms, adding texture unrelated to the original pattern). This is especially true for the Ducks and Inverted Julia fractal patterns that I have been exploring lately. These patterns are also very noisy, what makes it quite difficult to make them look good at high resolution. They also make it very difficult to use anything but a very minimalistic palette. As a result, lately I've been going back to a cleaner and simpler style which suits best these new dense fractal patterns.
How do you see the future of fractal art?
- I guess people will always create fractal imagery. The recent breakthrough in the field of 3d fractals with the Mandelbulb, Kaleidoscopic IFS and others show that there are always new algorithms and fractals to be discovered, which is very encouraging.
As far as fractal art being recognized as a trend in contemporary art goes, I don't really know if this is coming. I think the first thing fractal artists who are serious about their art should do is write an artist statement. I learnt a lot about what I was actually trying to achieve with fractals when I forced myself to think about it and write a statement. I don't think I remember reading any artist statement from a fractal artist. If more fractal artists have a clear idea about their art, it will necessarily increase the quality of fractal art in general.
I feel that fractal art has potential. It can be an antithesis of the minimalist trend which has dominated abstract art in the XXth century. It provides new visual experiences which simply cannot be matched by traditional media. Moreover generative art is already well-established as a medium in contemporary art. Maybe what is missing are people who have a true artistic vision, as opposed to simply aiming at creating pretty pictures. This is where writing an artist statement could help.
Do you enjoy creating any other types of art?
- I play the piano.
If there were a single person you would give credit to for getting you started on your current path of Fractal, who would it be?
- I first read about fractals in Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Ghost from the Grand Banks. I devised my "pattern piling" algorithms, which I have been using in the vast majority of my works, after implementing Ken Perlin's algorithm for fractional Brownian motion into Ultra Fractal, first implemented by Damiens Jones. Not really a single person, I fear.
Anything else you'd like to say?
- Let me use this opportunity to make some advertisment again for zoomable images... Not only displaying your work as zoomable images can change the experience of the spectator, but it will change the way you approach the creation of fractal images. At least it did for me. All the info can be found in this old blog post: [link]
Samuel also have a website where he post some of his thought about everything. please take a visit to Algorithmic worlds.
Thank you so much Sam for the interview. It really such an honor to know more about you.