77 Million Paintings


Saturday evening, yesterday, felt like a fall evening, so dark so early with rain thundering on the skylights. Desiring some cocooning, we set up our favourite game of Liverpool Rummy on the table, with hot cups of gen-mai cha (roasted rice green tea) beside us, and the laptop playing Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings for the first time.

I mentioned this piece by prolific electronic music and video artist Brian Eno many months ago, and was lent the DVD and book some time ago, but only now made the time to view it. The program is installed on the computer from the DVD in order to utilize the computer’s unique capacity as a generating processor to produce original visual compounds out of a large quantity of hand-painted elements.

Our gazes were mesmerized by the slow transformations of the images set to the gentle electronic music, very meditative and calming as we played our game. I think we would have found it too slow to watch with full attention, though I believe there is a way to speed it up. From time to time I read out loud some passages from the accompanying little book. First came the introduction by Nick Robertson Painting by Numbers. It’s too long to quote, but it’s about how each viewing is unique, never the same for each viewer. Some excerpts:

The audio is processed in a similar way, containing layers of sound, ensuring you never hear exactly the same thing twice, even if running 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. The title “77 Million Paintings” reflects the possible permutations of the piece.
The original in art is no longer solely bound up in the physical object, but rather in the way the piece lives and grows. It is moving in time and each moment is an original. As a fluid fusion of traditional painting techniques and computer coding, this is truly painting by numbers.

My Light Years, Brian Eno’s own story of how this work came about from his explorations into light as an artist’s medium makes for interesting reading along with the printed images, which I’m still slowly savouring my way through. There’s also a DVD with an interview of Eno that I look forward to viewing.

This is very inspiring! I wish I had the skill and the equipment to set up my own generating software so that I could use my own artwork to create something like this! I know some other artists are doing this kind of work nowadays, hmmm….

Eno has had many museum shows of his projects including this one. Recently when checking out a few Second Life blogs, I learned that Brian Eno also had an opening tour of his multi-installation/collaboration of 77 Million Paintings with them. This is all very new and a bit incomprehensible for me at the moment.
(Image from 77 Million Paintings)

July 22, 2007 in Music, Other artists by Marja-Leena