Four years ago, I decided it was finally time to graduate from small sketches, take myself more seriously as an artist, and make my oil on canvas debut. Not too seriously though, for I only allowed myself to use cheap black, white, and primary colored paint.
I called my first oil painting Rule 130 — Gourd. My creative capacity seemed to expire when it came time for naming, but let’s unpack the title anyway. Rule 130 is part of a set of rules in a mathematical model called a “cellular automata” model. I first grew excited about this type of model after reading Steven Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science. When the rules play out on a grid, they generate patterns by turning cells on (black) or off (white). The patterns can be surprising, random, and in some cases very aesthetically pleasing.
Rule 130– Gourd contains a yellow and orange gourd in the foreground, and the cellular automata model for Rule 130 in the background. While the bright, disease-like bumps on the gourd contrast with the stark geometric background, both images have something in common: irregularities in pattern.
In addition to the gourd painting, I included three more pieces in my Cellular Automata Series: Rule 45 — Pineapple, Rule 110 — Nude, and Rule 101 — Ice Cream. Artists may not expect to find their muse in the produce shelf of their local grocery store, but the Cellular Automata Series is centered around irregularity after all! I gravitated towards the pineapple because, unlike the gourd, it exhibited a consistent pattern. The octagonal shapes, which fit together like puzzle pieces, provide a great contrast to the Rule 45 grid behind it.
Hanging proudly in our dining room lies my favorite work, Rule 101– Ice Cream. The scoop of chocolate atop the vanilla, which is hiding behind the waffle cone, captures ice cream in multiple phases of matter. The texture of the cold scoop peeks out from under drips of melting ice cream. The combination of smooth and rough resembles a scab on skin, or a footprint in wet sand. While the gourd and the pineapple experiment with irregular vs. consistent patterns respectively, the ice cream cone deals with both: the orderly waffle grid becomes one with the uncontrollable ice cream separated too long from its home in the freezer.