The Connected Play art series grew from the Genuary 2022 prompt “Architecture”. Alex was intrigued by the complex results achieved from very simple content and decided to explore the possibilities of developing the concept further. It was also an opportunity to test some new coding skills; much of the editing that he would previously have done in Photoshop is now processed on the fly within the code. This is partly a good thing (his Processing/Java skills are improving) and partly a bad thing (he spent silly time obsessing with getting the lines to perfectly join).
The code (computer programming) reconfigures eight hand-drawn, straight lines into a complex system of interwoven shapes. The work draws on the biological concept of genotypes and phenotypes. In the genotype stage (the data within DNA), the code produces numeric data that corresponds to the composition and content of the output. In the phenotype stage (the physical manifestation of the genotype), the data is converted into visual content, using the lines to build thousands of interlocking forms. The work alludes to the complex patterns of synaptic connections that allow humans to learn and form memories.
The title “Connected Play” is a term from Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein’s book “Pattern Language“, which has had a very significant impact on Alex’s practice. He’s revisited this quotation in particular again and again:
‘The elements of this language are entities called patterns. Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.’
The idea that existing structures (i.e. code that models composition methods) can be used to generate original new work (one-off prints) is central to his process. The term “Connected Play” seemed especially appropriate to the way the image is built up in modular sections in the series.
The development process involved testing a few different ways of assembling everything and experimenting with the weight of the lines and their proportions. The code alters the tone depending on the scale of the particular section, converting it to isometric perspective and adding it to the image piece-by-piece.
A visual grammar
The work also explores the concept of visual grammar as proposed long before Alexander and co. by Quatrèmere de Quincy, applying compositional rules (the grammar) to arrange the simple drawings into a complex whole, as well as Owen Jones’s “The Grammar of Ornament” (a key text on decorative design). In it, he proposes:
‘general laws [appear] to reign independently of the individual peculiarities of each [style].’
This maps well onto Alex’s practice – the code is the ‘general laws’ and the ‘individual peculiarities’ are the image library the code uses.
Buying or commissioning
Connected Play art is available as a series of archive-quality prints on paper. Browse and buy here.
If you’re interested in commissioning Connected Play at a different size or on another surface/substrate, please get in touch.