23112019 aka Elements (2019) is a significant piece for me in two key ways. Firstly, it addresses something I had been thinking about for a while – the selection of my colour palettes. Secondly, it is the start of a mapping between colours and sounds for new multimedia works – every colour I use will have a defined sound.
The colour question is something I was asked a couple of years ago. My response then was simply to say that I choose colour combinations that I like aesthetically. While this is true, it made me think that colour selection was something that I needed to work on some more. In artworks such as A Cybernetic Ecology (2016) and Circles (2017), each instance of an artwork starts by generating random colours from a constrained HSL (hue, saturation and lightness) palette.
This "constrained randomness" approach gives my artworks a degree of colour consistency but also means that every artwork needs a random number generator and is not "deterministic" (the nature of randomness or pseudo-randomness in computers is a big topic). This matters to me because I want my work to be "complex" in a systems sense and I have often felt that in many digital artworks randomness is used to give the impression of complexity when no such complexity actually exists.
While 23112019 aka Elements (2019) does use a random number generator to generate its colours, it is a reproducible pseudo-random sequence using a well-defined random number algorithm ("Alea') and a fixed seed number ("23112019"). So every time it is run, it produces the same sequence of numbers – and, therefore, colours.
A total of 4,096 colours are produced and then organised into a 64x64 colour grid, from which 64 horizontal and 64 vertical colour palettes are produced. The random number algorithm ensures that the distribution of colours is approximately even throughout the HSL colour space, and I make sure that there are no two colours with exactly the same HSL values.
These are now my "elements", from which my future artworks will be constructed. I can still apply selection rules on the colours within the palettes to reject colours that I don't think are right for the piece, but my work will now be grounded in a set of common colours that can be either generated by the artwork or provided as a data file.
Although my work makes use of colour, and it's important to me that the colours used are aesthetically appealing, It's not really about colour. It's more about the relationships between parts and how they combine to form wholes. The parts could just as easily be sounds, and the wholes could be soundscapes or music.
23112019 aka Elements (2019) begins to explore this by defining a sound to go with each colour. At present this is very simple. The position of the colour's hue on the colour wheel identifies it as being one of the twelve notes on the chromatic scale, and the saturation defines the frequency of the scale. This will no doubt get developed in the future, but it does allow me to ask the questions, "Which colours look good together? Which colours sound good together? Are these the same combinations?"
You can explore the new colour palettes and associated sounds by clicking on the image below. It is optimised to run on a mobile device, but will also work fine on a desktop web browser. Remember to click on the speaker icon if you want to hear the sounds. Also, be aware that it is noisy.