1999 - The Fractal Art Manifesto - Kerry Mitchell

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As a genre, Fractal Art (FA) has been around for approximately 15-20 years. Its first major public display may be considered to be an article about the Mandelbrot Set published in "Scientific American" in 1985. Since then, many advances have been made, both in fractal rendering capabilities and in the understanding of fractal geometry. Perhaps now is an opportune time to make a defining statement about what is (and what is not) Fractal Art.

Fractal Art is a genre concerned with fractals—shapes or sets characterized by self affinity (small portions of the image resemble the overall shape) and an infinite amount of detail, at all scales. Fractals are typically created on a digital computer, using an iterative numerical process. Lately, images that are not technically fractals, but that share the same basic generating technique and environment, have been welcomed into the FA world.

Fractal Art is a subclass of two dimensional visual art, and is in many respects similar to photography—another art form which was greeted by skepticism upon its arrival. Fractal images typically are manifested as prints, bringing Fractal Artists into the company of painters, photographers, and printmakers. Fractals exist natively as electronic images. This is a format that traditional visual artists are quickly embracing, bringing them into FA's digital realm.

Generating fractals can be an artistic endeavor, a mathematical pursuit, or just a soothing diversion. However, FA is clearly distinguished from other digital activities by what it is, and by what it is not.

Fractal Art is not:

Computer(ized) Art, in the sense that the computer does all the work. The work is executed on a computer, but only at the direction of the artist. Turn a computer on and leave it alone for an hour. When you come back, no art will have been generated.

Random, in the sense of stochastic, or lacking any rules. Being based on mathematics, fractal rendering is the essence of determinism. Apply the same image generation steps, and the same result will follow. Slight changes in process usually lead to slight changes in product, making FA an activity which can be learned, not a haphazard process of pushing buttons and turning knobs.

Random, in the sense of unpredictable. Fractal Art, like any new pursuit, will have aspects unknown to the novice, but familiar to the master. Through experience and education, the techniques of FA can be learned. As in painting or chess, the essentials are quickly grasped, although they can take a lifetime to fully understand and control. Over time, the joy of serendipitous discovery is replaced by the joy of self-determined creation.

Something that anyone with a computer can do well. Anyone can pick up a camera and take a snapshot. However, not just anyone can be an Ansel Adams or an Annie Liebovitz. Anyone can take brush in hand and paint. However, not just anyone can be a Georgia O'Keeffe or a Pablo Picasso. Indeed, anyone with a computer can create fractal images, but not just anyone will excel at creating Fractal Art.

Fractal Art is:

Expressive. Through a painter's colors, a photographer's use of light and shadow, or a dancer's movements, artists learn to express and evoke all manner of ideas and emotions. Fractal Artists are no less capable of using their medium as a similarly expressive language, as they are equipped with all the essential tools of the traditional visual artist.

Creative. The final fractal image must be created, just as the photograph or the painting. It can be created as a representational work, and abstraction of the basic fractal form, or as a nonrepresentational piece. The Fractal Artist begins with a blank "canvas", and creates an image, bringing together the same basic elements of color, composition, balance, etc., used by the traditional visual artist.

Requiring of input, effort, and intelligence. The Fractal Artist must direct the assembly of the calculation formulas, mappings, coloring schemes, palettes, and their requisite parameters. Each and every element can and will be tweaked, adjusted, aligned, and re-tweaked in the effort to find the right combination. The freedom to manipulate all these facets of a fractal image brings with it the obligation to understand their use and their effects. This understanding requires intelligence and thoughtfulness from the Artist.

Most of all, Fractal Art is simply that which is created by Fractal Artists: ART.


The Fractal Art Manifesto fue publicado en el año de 1999 con la intención de explicar y definir qué es el "fractalismo" o "arte fractal" (1), corriente artística que hace uso de la computadora y formulas matemáticas para crear obras que replican patrones que es posible encontrar en elementos la naturaleza (2). Con el paso de los años el manifiesto se ha vuelto un texto importante entre la comunidad de artistas y académicos enfocados en el fractalismo quienes tienen opiniones divididas sobre la postura de Kerry Mitchell y consideran que éste "exagera el papel del artista y minimiza el rol de la computadora en la creación del arte fractal" (1).


My work is composed primarily of computer generated, mathematically-inspired, abstract images. I draw from the areas of geometry, fractals and numerical analysis, and combine them with image processing technology. The resulting images powerfully reflect the beauty of mathematics that is often obscured by dry formulae and analyses.

An overriding theme that encompasses all of my work is the wondrous beauty and complexity that flows from a few, relatively simple, rules. Inherent in this process are feedback and connectivity; these are the elements that generate the patterns. They also demonstrate to me that mathematics is, in many cases, a metaphor for the beauty and complexity in life. This is what I try to capture.

Julia Descending a Staircase 40 x 50 cm digital print on aluminum panel 2014 This is my first attempt at a cubist style of fractal image. It was inspired by Duchamp's famous painting,"Nude Descending a Staircase." I created it using the embossing technqiue to get the minimal sense of the Julia sets, like Duchamp’s painting resembles sketches of the woman. The parameter changes slightly with each step, so the shapes vary down the staircase. Also, the lighting angle changed each step, to add more variation and to help distinguish the eight different Julia fractals. None of them are entirely visible in the stack, like Duchamp's figures all kind of running over each other. But I went from a more gray palette at the back (left) to black/white at the front (right) to help separate them and to give a sense of motion.

Last Days and Time 25 x 50 cm digital print on aluminum panel 2014 This apocalyptic view was created by combining six different fractal functions: two Mandelbrot sets, two Julia sets, and two Newton fractals. They were combined by interpolating between the six using a Bezier polynomial. The title is taken from an album by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Quarter Radian Dark 40 x 50 cm digital print on aluminum panel 2014 This is a standard Julia set fractal, in which the Julia parameter is located at one-quarter of a radian along the boundary of the main cardioid of the Mandelbrot set, a point with a chaotic orbit. The interior of the set is rendered black and the outside according to the iteration count. A large number of iterations was used to highlight the detail associated with the chaos.


(1) http://orbittrap.ca/?p=2889

(2) http://www.infinite-art.com/index.about.comparison.php

(3) https://www.fractalus.com/

(4) http://kerrymitchellart.com/

(5) http://gallery.bridgesmathart.org/exhibitions/2015-bridges-conference/lkmitch



Primera Edición:

URL: https://www.fractalus.com/info/manifesto.htm


Traducción al español: http://kairosart2007.blogspot.com/2007/11/manifiesto-del-arte-fractal-by-kerry.html

Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20181004231632/https://www.fractalus.com/info/manifesto.htm