Richard Purdy

New York, New York, USA

For my most recent work I’ve written a JavaScript routine that produces a set of cellular automata. Those unfamiliar with the term “cellular automata” will find a wealth of information about them on the web, but typically they are grid-based formations where the identity of each successive element is dependent on the identity of its immediate neighbors.

In exploring the patterns that result from running this routine, I join other artist/programmers who find themselves fascinated by their inability to pre-imagine the outcome of a very simple process. Ordinarily the results tend to be symmetrical, but occasionally the outcome is irregular and as unexpected as throwing dice and getting something other than a combination of what was shown on the die faces. That this is possible provides a very small, but solid, piece of evidence that a path entirely constrained by what amounts to a dryly rational, seemingly inflexible boundary can produce real complexity.

Translating any single formation into an encaustic painting amounts to an act of devotion. Each individual work is offered for whatever qualities it can provide on its own, even to those with little knowledge of the core ideas that make it possible. At minimum, I hope viewers will get a sense of curiosity from the intricate order, and be led to consider the strange ease of its origin from a very simple set of initial conditions.


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