Berkshire Eagle Press September 2010

Patterns of life emerge at the edge of chaos

By Andrew Roiter, Berkshire Eagle Staff


GREAT BARRINGTON — Roger Johnston sits down at his computer and begins to make adjustments. The untrained eye would have no idea what he was doing. What he’s doing is playing around the chaotic barrier — a phrase he created — in an attempt to make art. One false move and the image will shatter into random dots.

What may seem impossibly complicated to some is Johnston’s passion: “algorithmic art,  fractals”.

His day job is chief technologist at LightWorks Optics: His experience in optics — he helped develop equipment used to test the Hubble telescope when it broke down — has aided his skill in algorithmic art, a form of fractal art. He begins from a series of mathematical instructions that draw random images, which he then attempts to control. Equally exciting, classical composer and Visual Music multi-media artist Michael Luckman, a pioneer in his own right will be showcasing his next generation of Visual Music “Fractals in Motion”, where he merges Johnston’s exquisite fractal still images into animations of moving art, played in sync with the music of Bach and his own mesmerizing compositions, that often appear intertwined, complimenting each other, in a lyrical dance where both mediums together enrich one’s enjoyment of the total artistic experience. This unique exhibit of both artists ‘ works will run through Nov. 15 at Wingate Ltd, in the Old Jennifer House Commons.

Johnston creates a form of fractal art beginning with an algorithm, a series of mathematical instructions; each algorithm sets a pattern for an image, which he then adapts.
Johnston explained that while he has complete control over the color palette and most of the small details of each image, he has very little control over the general shape: That’s where chaos comes in. “In the mathematical sense of the word, chaos describes action that is non-linear, meaning that it after a certain point it is unpredictable. Scientists have used chaos research to track weather patterns, the spread of disease and even the micro to macro mapping of the Brazilian Rain Forrest.

But why does Johnston go anywhere near the chaotic barrier if he runs the risk of ruining one of his pieces? He says that the closer he works to the barrier, the greater the response he gets. Working close to dissolution is the way he creates intricate, organic designs and avoids the geometric patterns that appear frequently in fractal art. He avoids not only common geometric shapes but also the spirals that often emerge in algorithmic art. His works tend to look like living creatures, plants or even woven cloth; the figures come from chaos, but tweaked and twisted into a recognizable shape.

He added that many fractals appear in nature, which may explain why so many of his works look like living things. “I try to make mine look unique,” he said. To develop the shape usually takes about an hour, he said, but the details can take days or weeks for him to be satisfied with them. The work is fluid and fast — Johnston compared the process to dancing. When the final high-resolution image is finished, it can take up to six hours to render on an average computer and if printed out could fill a 20-foot by 30-foot space.

Luckman hopes to announce new venues for the Exhibit in NYC shortly after the New Year. Interested parties may contact the artist directly at: 516 690-4376, or email: or through the contact page on their website   Representation is being sought!

About Michael Luckman

Visual Music multimedia artist Michael Luckman, features the fractal art gallery of Roger Johnston as his palette to create moving works of art "Fractals in Motion" merging the mediums of music with visuals into a lyrical art form with each medium interpreting, supporting the other…. a counterpoint of sight and sound. To sample DVDs go to:
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