This is part 6 of a blog series where I share some thoughts on “art and creation”. I have prepared various blogs inspired by a range of sources from Kabbalah to Artificial Intelligence. Do not expect to find definitive answers. The aim here is to raise questions and offer entertaining thoughts.
Fractals are self-similar geometrical patterns that repeat themselves ad infinitum. A fractal can be scaled infinitely and will always contain the character of the whole image.
Each artistic creation is a fractal in a sense. It is comprised of multiple parts each of which can be divided into further parts. These parts are not independent. They are organic elements imbued with an aura that provides structure and synthesizes the parts into a coherent whole.
In its turn, every artwork is linked to time and space, as well as the psycho-synthesis of the creator. This means that the artwork can be understood as a fractal of the society, the creator, or both.
Let’s take Turner’s painting Snow Storm: Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps as an example.
At a first glance, we instinctively approach the image as a whole. Then we realise it is divided into two parts; the struggle of Hannibal’s army to cross the Alps in the bottom, and the wildness of the natural landscape in the rest of the painting. The latter is also divided into other parts; the light of the sky on the left, the angry dark tones of a snowstorm at the right, and the rocky land of the bottom.
We can keep on this process. The lighter part of the painting is divided into the orange yellow of the sun which blends with the dark of the snowstorm, and the bright yellow-white which also includes islands of white clouds.
If we keep on dividing the artwork in more parts, we will eventually reach its atomic level which cannot be divided further. At this level, we find brushstrokes of varying qualities. Each brushstroke is an entity of its own and, at the same time, a part of the artwork. Each brushstroke is its own creation, its own artwork with unique qualities and lasting effects.
In reality, the brushstrokes are understood as the least divisible monads of the artwork, only because we choose to interpret them that way. Motions of the hand, blending of colour, preliminary sketches, and ideas that came before the final product are all equally satisfying pretenders. I think the choice here is arbitrary but not useless. Choosing to see a painting as a sum of multiple microscopic parts, in this case brushstrokes, helps us study its making more easily and work towards a more comprehensive understanding of the artwork (maybe this could be the topic of a future blog)
In a macroscopic level, Turner’s painting can also be understood as a fractal of greater sums. It can be viewed as part of English Romanticism, British 19th century painting in general, historical painting, and a lot more.
As a result, Turner’s painting is not only a whole divisible in fractals. It is also itself a part of larger sets. In both cases, the fractals can be both material (acts and their product) and immaterial (ideas and concepts).