Alex Russell is an artist and creative coder. He works with code (computer programming) and digital/analogue media, using generative systems that assemble libraries of his images into one-off printed artworks. His code combines algorithms that model compositional methods (from art and design) with complex systems theory (from science and maths), creating unique outputs each time they run.
Alex’s work explores concepts of non-repeating, infinite pattern, blending the capabilities of mass-customisation technologies with generative processes to create ever-changing images from each block of code. He translates traditional methods of arranging content within an image (such as armatures or balanced pattern repeats) into networks of algorithms that influence each other’s relative behaviour. The rules governing this behaviour employ complex systems (such as cellular automata or genetic algorithms) to determine the characteristics of each element of the final image. The code works in two stages, using the biological concepts of genotypes and phenotypes to firstly create the instructions for the output and then to build it.
The work is produced in collections, each with its own unique themes, code and image library. Overarching all the collections is a conceptual approach to pattern; this includes design patterns (from software design) and pattern language (from architecture). It explores at what point an image can be described as pattern, and how perceptions of this alter when the content includes traditionally decorative elements. Alex’s practice operates in a unique space where code, hardware and hand-drawing/painting work together, questioning the boundary between analogue and digital.
‘Chester Art Beat’ Group show/residency at various venues, Chester (UK). Curated by Julie Mitchell and Canon Jane Brooke. Jul 2022.
‘Summer Art All Dayer’ Art fair at Hallé St. Peters, Manchester (UK). Curated by Domino Panton-Oakley, Cotton On MCR. Jun 2022.
‘Drawing’ Group show at Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield (UK). Curated by Michael Borkowsky and Sharon Mossbeck. Jun 2022.
‘#Genuary2022’ Group show at Symbiocene Gallery, online. Curated by Tristan Sauer. Apr 2022 – ongoing. Visit the show.
‘Cheshire Print Fair’ Print fair at Chester Cathedral, Chester (UK). Curated by Alison and Vince Patterson. Apr 2022.
‘Spring Art All Dayer’ Art fair at Hallé St. Peters, Manchester (UK). Art fair curated by Domino Panton-Oakley, Cotton On MCR. Mar 2022.
Pre-2022 shows/outputs (selected)
‘The Fundamentals of Printed Textile Design (second edition)’ Sole author, Bloomsbury, London (UK). Oct 2021.
‘Practice talk’ Presentation for Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester (UK). Jul 2021.
‘#Genuary2021’ Group show at Symbiocene Gallery, online. Curated by Tristan Sauer. Feb 2021 – ongoing. Visit the show.
‘Practice talk’ Presentation for Leeds Art University, Leeds (UK). Feb 2021.
‘Creative Code Festival’ Group show at Lightbox: New York (US). Curated collaboratively by Never Knows Better, New Media Art, XRE Ensemble, Celeste Journal and Creative Code Art. Nov 2020.
‘Print Portfolios’ Presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester (UK). Mar 2019.
‘BBC Digital Cities’ Group show at Media City, Salford (UK). Nov 2017.
‘The Fundamentals of Printed Textile Design’ Presentation/book signing at The Fashion and Textiles Museum, London (UK). Jul 2017.
‘Repeatless: combining complex systems and traditional design methods to create generative print and pattern’ Academic paper for GA2016: XIX Generative Art Conference, CRF Foundation, Florence (IT). Dec 2015.
‘Repeatless: innovating print and pattern design with generative systems’ Academic paper at ‘Innovation’, the 8th Manchester Metropolitan University Post-graduate Research Conference, Manchester (UK). Nov 2015.
‘Creative Industries Showcase’ Presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester (UK). Oct 2015.
‘Repeatless: combining science, technology and design to re-think print and pattern for the future’ Presentation at ‘Transition: Re-thinking Textiles and Surfaces’, Huddersield University, Huddersfield (UK). Nov 2014.
‘FTC Associate Research Event’ Presentation at Manchester School of Art, Manchester (UK). May 2014.
‘Repeatless: transforming surface pattern with generative design’ Academic paper for Shapeshifting: Fashion and Textile Design, Auckland University of Technology (NZ). Apr 2014.
‘Building Launch Event’ Group show at Manchester School of Art, Manchester (UK). Nov 2013.
‘Practice talk’ Presentation for MA Digital Futures Unit, Manchester School of Art, Manchester (UK). Nov 2013.
‘Seamless: The Digital in Design’ Group show at Museum of Architecture and Design: Ljubljana (RS), curated by Dr. Annie Shaw, Fabrizio Cocchiarella. Sep – Nov 2013.
‘Repeatless: the use of digital technology to extend the possibilities of printed textile design’ Academic paper for First International Conference on Digital Technologies for the Textile Industries, Manchester University (UK). Sep 2013.
‘Digital Innovation’ Presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester (UK). Feb 2013.
‘Practice talk’ Presentation for Manchester School of Art, Manchester (UK). Nov 2013.
‘The Fundamentals of Printed Textile Design’ Sole author, AVA Academia SA, Lausanne (CH). ISBN 978-2940411474. Jul 2011. French translation: ‘Les fondamentaux du design textile’ (2013) Pyramyd Editions, Paris (FR). ISBN 978-2350172736. Spanish translation: ‘Principios básicos del diseño textil’ (2013) Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona (ES) and Naucalpan (MX). ISBN 978-8425226403.
‘CODE Creatives’ Presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester (UK). Mar 2012.
‘Printed Textile Design’ Chapter co-authored with Professor Amanda Briggs-Goode in Briggs-Goode, A. and Townsend, K. (eds.) ‘Textile design: Principles, advances and applications’, Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge (UK). ISBN 978-1845696467. Apr 2011.
‘Power of Copying’ Group show at Xuzhou Museum of Art: Jiangsu Province (CH). Curated by Dr. Tongyu Zhou. May – Jul 2010.
‘Surface Design Technology and Tradition’ Group show at Kulturcenter Huset, Aarhus (DK). 2003.
Further presentations at a range of university, colleges, museums and other institutions including Nottingham Trent University (UK), Salford University (UK), Sheffield City Museum (UK), Stockport College (UK), University of Central Lancashire (UK).
Pattern and print designs shown internationally from 2002 to 2019, chiefly with the Amsterstampa agency (NL). Selected fairs include Premiere Vision (Paris, FR), Direction (New York, US), Heimtex (Frankfurt am Main, DE), Printsource (New York, US), Surtex (New York, US).
Examples of Alex Russell’s work feature in a number of publications. These include:
Repeatless generative design project in Sue Carden’s ‘Digital Textile Printing: Art, Design, Culture’ (2014) Bloomsbury (London).
Feature and selection of pattern and print designs in Bradley Quinn’s ‘Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge’ (2009), Laurence King, London (UK).
Selection of pattern and print designs, plus an interview in Martin Dawber’s ‘New Fashion Prints’ (2008), Batsford, London (UK).
Interview and selection of pattern and print designs in XFUNS magazine’s ‘Wallpaper Special Issue’ (June 2008), Johnson Publications, Taiwan (TW).
Selection of pattern and print designs in Drucilla Cole’s ‘Patterns’, Laurence King (London), 2007.
Employment and education
2022 onwards: Art, creative coder (self employed)
Generative art and creative code one-off prints and other artwork. Manchester (UK).
2018 to 2021: Designer, graphic artist, creative coder, writer, educator (self-employed).
Generative art and design, printed textiles and surface pattern design. Online shopkeeper. Author/writer. Sessional lecturer/educational content provider. Manchester (UK).
2007 to 2018: Programme/Pathway Leader and Senior Lecturer
MA Fashion and Textiles, BA Textiles in Practice/Textile Design for Fashion. Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University (UK).
2001 to 2018: Designer, illustrator (self employed)
Freelance textiles, surface pattern, print and fashion graphics designer, illustrator and trend / inspiration book producer. Client list includes Alexander Henry, Almedahls, Bjorn Borg, C and A, Carven, Eco Tapeter, Etam, European Library, H and M, Intersport, Kendix, Lee, Lego, Levi Strauss, Matinique/InWear, Moschino, Nanso, Nokia, Oilily, Roberto Cavalli, Schiesser, Speedo, Tom Taylor, Thomas Pink, Tommy Hilfiger, Vero Moda/Jack and Jones and Vlisco.
Studios in Brussels (BE), Amsterdam (NL), Leicester (UK), Manchester (UK).
1994 to 2001: Senior Lecturer
BA Textile Design. Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham (UK).
1992 to 1994: Artist and designer (self employed)
Freelance textile artist, graphic designer, theatre set designer. Sessional lecturer. Manchester (UK), Salford, (UK), Sheffield (UK), Bournemouth (UK).
1988 to 1992: Student
MA Textiles, Manchester Metroplitan University, Manchester (UK).
BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles (First), Manchester Polytechnic, Manchester (UK).