Pieces of the Whole - Fractal Art

All throughout college and through almost every art history course I've ever had, there has always been this tension surrounding the question of what qualifies as art.  I have friends in the game industry that could model a figure in Modo/3DS just as beautifully as someone working in clay, yet have been told that video game art isn't in fact art.  During Andy Warhol's time, fine art critics protested that his work was meaningless because it was commercial, yet now he's a prized artist who fueled a pop culture movement that inspired many other industries of expression, such as fashion, film and even advertising.  Although the foundation for my work began with pencils, oil paints, chalk and other deemed traditional mediums, the majority of my work now exists in the digital realm.

I think with the progression of technology, the mediums in which we express ourselves through art have transitioned into new realms as well.  Although the term "art" may conjure thoughts of just aesthetic matter, in a world where something has been done before and originality still comes from inspiration, I think that intention, expression and the creation process of art is equally as important as the final product.

Last week I received an invitation to attend the first USA gallery exhibit for fractal artist Flo Li.  For those that don't know what fractal art is, fret not, it doesn't hinder your ability to appreciate the art form or experience each piece.  In short, fractal art is the method by which digital visualizations are created by varying mathematical calculations. The practice reminds me of the immaculately complex data visualizations I've seen created off of vast quantities of data.  The idea that a form of expression and art can be traced back to something methodical, absolute and logical, transcends the idea that art and science are polar entities.   

Prior to meeting any artist or attending a gallery showing, I like to review the artists work and develop observations without influence from specific arrangement or lighting, or explanation from captions and titles. My initial impressions, based on the images I saw in the online video, were quite mixed.  Perhaps it could be the way the colors render, or the speed of the transition between images, or the slideshow like scaling, but all these components combined with the digital element of the art, made some pieces appear like  the music visualizations in a music player. But every so often, a certain piece would be so structurally captivating among the busy details of the others, that I would stop, look, and want to understand more about how something so random came from numbers. 

The exhibit took place in a quaint penthouse suite located close to where Hillcrest ends and where North Park begins.  I was surprised to see that the artist herself was greeting guests, as many gallery exhibits I go to, the artist is always either tied up with press, being busy creating artwork live, or tucked away in some hidden corner, until the moment arises to deliver the statement of the evening.  

After making one complete round and seeing all the pieces together as a hole, I began my habitual second round, targeting specific pieces and reading the titles and short captions.  During a calm moment, I got to speak with Flo Li and ask her a few questions about her work.  Being that this was her first showing in the United States, it was interesting to learn that she originally worked as an engineer and practices in martial arts, painting and calligraphy.  Although digital art is my most favored medium, I'm a strong believer that we must all start with the basics in traditional art forms.  Although most of the artwork being displayed originated digitally through complex calculations, Flo takes the abstract visual product and on quite a few pieces applies mix mediums to convey an expression.  Some pieces included spiritual sayings written in calligraphy, while others were overlaid with photographs to create a new aesthetic.  

What captivated the evening was Flo Li's heartfelt artist's statement, and personal life altering story about what inspires her art.  One of the questions I asked was "If your art is created by formulaic methods, and since you've created many pieces, does it ever get to the point where the outcome of the piece is predictable, and do you ever create a piece with a visual intention in mind?"  She replied saying that in fractal art and even in engineering, there are formulas to which you know will create specific shapes, but the piece as a whole is never entirely predictable and every-time she has ever intentionally wanted to create a piece to look a certain way, it never works out.  "Whatever comes out is a blessing."

While the pieces are vibrant, spiritual, meaningful and accent a wall beautifully, for some I felt the captions, emotion and flowery words were unneeded to explain the piece.  In fact during the artist statement, Flo even said herself that to go into detail about a specific piece would ruin it's essence.  She was kind enough to gift me with her artbook, Microsopic Expressions of Spirituality, which is now available on Amazon.  

The book in itself is understated with black pages, captions translated in both English and Chinese, and one art piece per page, centered.  With each caption, the main title of the art piece or thought of focus would be bolded, and while it serves it's purpose and offers an inspirational uplift, again I feel as if some of it may have been too much.  The beauty of abstract art is allowing the viewer to experience first without bias.  

Here's what others had to say:
There seems to be a symmetry in the sporadic shapes, like a tree in nature that grows in form, but has varying leaf patterns.  - Basil

Her work invites people to experience it, some of the pieces are awakening and can bring out imagination. -Renee

In a generation that needs to be coddled, the flowery words seem to cloud over some of the art.  What I enjoyed most of all is the artists humanity which is very apparent in her intro, statement and work.  -Gonzalo

While the variety of work is abundant and each has it's own meaning, there were a few pieces that stopped me for just that moment to think and wonder, which is what I think art should do.  Whether an art piece is visually stimulating, a pop culture phenomenon or a bridge between two polar methods of thinking, sometimes the importance is in the intention and expression and how the viewer experiences it.  Though I love beautiful art, and saw glimpses of what spoke to me, I was more impressed at the artist's honesty and passion.  

You can learn more about Flo Li and any new showings at her website  

and for those of you that want to create fractal work but may lack the mathematical mindset, here's an entry level tutorial on creating basic patterns in photoshop.  

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