Computer art offers diverse, intricate designs
by JANET PURCELL
for The Trenton Times
January 9, 2004
If you're the kind of person who likes to be right there when something new is presented, make a point to see the "Polynomiography" exhibition at The Lawrenceville School. This is an art form that is not only visually exciting, it's like none other that has come before.
Discovered and developed by Bahman Kalantari, an associate professor of computer science at Rutgers University, polynomiography is a new medium of expression using a computer.
Kalantari, who is a mathematician, describes the genre as "one of the most minimalistic of art forms" and says "even as few as 10, 20 or 30 points can produce such a fantastically complex, yet diverse set of images no human being could produce in a lifetime.
Many of Kalantari's images resemble abstract art. The shapes are generally flat with little or no modeling. At times, the edges are so clearly defined that they appear to have been cut out and collaged onto a background. The colors are bright and true.
These characteristics can be seen clearly in "Summer Variations," where discs and petal-like shapes in primary colors are used to comment on the vibrancy of summer.
That's one kind of art that can be produced by this method. Another is freer and more playful--and excitingly dramatic. In images such as "Celebration," colorful "figures" seem gathered in a hall with balloons rising up to an off-center sweeping ceiling. And in "Circus 2000," the tilted image is rife with curves of color that seem to rise up from a "floor" to an infinitesimal height. Discs of saturated hue suggest strings of orange, purple and green lights.
There is nothing hit or miss about these images, however. There is a certain orderliness that, intriguingly, goes hand-in-hand with frivolity. This may be because, as Kalantari says, "there is meaning and human control behind the images, as opposed to umpredictable or random computer-generated images that may only look interesting."
He compares polynomiography to painting and photography in that the resultant artwork can be diverse and intricate.
Kalantari says he always has like art and aat one time wanted to be a painter.
"But as a child growing up in Iran as a teenager, I was led to believe that art was something you were born with--either you had it or you did not. Thus, I never bothered to take, say, a painting class.
"I was good at math, so when I came to the U.S. after finishing high school in Iran, I got into math. Polynomiography has made me realize that art and math are indeed so close. I can look at polynomiography quite scientifically, but I can also look at it artistically.
"I know some people think doing real art means you have to get real paint on your hand," Kalantari continues. "I disagree with that now. I think computer technology has changed all that."
Certainly images such as "Dancing Girls" and "Waltz" fit well into the category of art. Measuring approximately 7 inches square, "Dancing Girls" is a delightful picture of red dancing shapes that brings to mind the Rockettes in the annual Radio City Music Hall Christmas show. And in "Waltz," abstract shapes that appear to be blue and fuchsia couples wearing yellow headdresses seem to stream on stage dancing against a happy green backdrop.
Kalantari says these images came to him by trial, error and luck.
"Sometimes the discovery of the images reminds me of Michelangelo's saying which is something like, 'the sculpture is in the rock and all one needs to do is carve it out.'"
He addresses a serious note in "Life" and "Death." "Life" is described as three conelike circles with sharp joints connecting them to a center triangle against a field of saturated red. Black is the support color in "Death," where three white skeletal forms are connected by a deep blue central shape.
He presents pure design in a Mandela-like circle in the colors of a peacock set against vivid lavendar. Kalantari calls this "Carpet Design," but it also brings to mind standing under a great dome in a cathedral and looking up into the intricacies of design and color.
Kalantari likens polynomiography to photography or painting in which, he says, the photographer or painter may alter an initial image in order to create or enhance desired effects. Polynomiography also offers a great deal of creativity and choice.
"One nice feature of polynomiography for me is that it has brought me close to artists," he says, adding there are other aspects of it that are important to him. "Not only would I like to use it myself as an artistic tool, but I would like to bring it to the public as an artistic tool as well as an educational and scientific tool. I will be more pleased when others will learn to enjoy it artistically, educationally, or scientifically," he says, but adds that in the meantime, "I am having my fun."
Reprinted with permission from The Trenton Times