Abstract art and AI

Gepubliceerd op 31 maart 2023 om 10:00

To begin with: what is art?

What art is seems to mean something different in every century. Nowadays, even a toilet bowl can be art, if only it is placed with that purpose. New genres and other art forms are emerging, changing the idea of the function and nature of art. Relevant here is both the rise of digital art and the rise of AI in making art.

Nevertheless, there are a few sensible statements to be made about it. We once again grabbed Wikipedia for a current description. The article on art begins as follows:

Art is the conscious creation of something beautiful or meaningful using skill and imagination. It encompasses a wide range of human activities, including painting, drawing, graphics, sculpture, modern media art, [ .... ] In Western aesthetics, the work of art as a result of the conscious use of skills and creative imagination transcends the mere functional.

Stable Diffusion v1.5 : Harmanna Screen print, pop art, splash screen art, triadic colors, digital art, 8k resolution trending on Artstation, golden ratio, symmetrical, rule of thirds, geometric bauhaus

From the artist's point of view, art is about expressing ideas, passions or emotions.

Seen from the viewer, art evokes a feeling, or an imagination. Art is often 'beautiful', but it can also be deliberately 'ugly' in order to shock. The viewer can escape from his daily reality through art, and be taken to another world, or experience daily reality from a different perspective.

<< Adjacent is a conscious attempt to make an abstract work of art based on my name. In an earlier article I already showed that the AI doesn't know what to do with 'a harmanna', so my name lends itself well to an abstract representation. Also in this case it seems to be the letters that are displayed - find my favorite letter of the alphabet: the big H.

Only the red is a bit too pronounced for me; I can still adjust this in a drawing and image editing program such as Krita.

A work of art is "a kind of representation that has its own purpose, but nevertheless promotes the mental practice of social communication." Immanuel Kant in 'Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790)

Line drawing of Manhattan skyline by DALL-E2

With a semi-abstract work of art, the work makes an abstract impression, but there is a representation to be seen. Here are two examples made as a line drawing. The first was created with DALL-E2 and represents the Manhattan skyline. The second was created with Stable Diffusion v2.1 and depicts an owl on a branch - this one was further edited by me after creation by AI.

Modern media, advertisements and icons on all kinds of applications are full of such semi-abstract representations of reality. As a result, they are also included in the training data of the AI - making this accessible to a large audience.

Contour drawing of an owl on a branch

So what is abstract art?

Some more from Wikipedia:

Abstract art is a direction within modern art. This does not always try to represent objects from the natural world and does not necessarily have to represent things from the real world. Underlying principles can be made visible with shapes and colours, rhythms and contrasts.

Modern art was succeeded from around 1960-70 by Contemporary art, in which the various art movements and art media increasingly overlap and are continuously renewed and expanded. The distinction between high art and low art is no longer as sharp as it was at the beginning of the last century. The intention of the maker is therefore increasingly central.

That intention is packaged in the prompt, the command to the AI. The first image of this blog had three brothers << made with the same assignment. The AI itself has no purpose, and can generate infinite variants, but I do have a purpose. I want to portray 'Harmanna' and the fourth of the set is most 'me'. Both the bright colors, the gradient between them and the geometry-like lines and symbols suit me (except for the bright red). The other three I'd have to edit much further in Krita to get them to my liking - or I'll just ignore them.

"Art is a way of connecting people, through shared feelings, indispensable for the well-being of individuals and humanity." Lev Tolstoy (1828–1910)

"Harmanna abstract cubism Euclidean Georgy Kurasov Albert Gleizes"

Michel Seuphor, who made abstract art himself as well as published extensively on it, defined it as follows: "All art that can rightly only be viewed from the point of view of harmony, composition, order - or disharmony, decomposition, arbitrary disorder - to be judged is abstract, in which colour, formal structures and lines take the place of the figurative object, both in painting and in sculpture".

It is precisely because of this that you distance yourself from reality and invite the imagination of the viewer. And that's exactly what abstract art is all about.

Not all abstract art is for me. Something cubistic like << is too busy for me, even if the colors are nice. Then I prefer to see something half abstract like 'the eye of the galaxy' >> below. Which shows once again that nature or the cosmos also has its own levels of abstraction.

"Milky Way eye in deep space, portrait aquarel, by Jean Baptiste Monge, Hergé, Erin Hanson, Arthur Rackham, cinematic intricately designed, Intricate digital detail; 16K Octane Render photorealism sharp focus clear contrast beautiful light shadows."

"Risk is the defining element of art. If you don't take a risk, how can you make something beautiful that has never been seen before? It's like expecting a baby without having sex. You have to take risks." Francis Ford Coppola (1939 - now)

Abstract themes

In addition to an abstract style, there are many abstract themes: words that express intangible matters such as time, space, love, chaos, number, infinity. Things that you can't point to, but that we've come up with words for, because we want to express them. Also express in visual art.

How does an AI deal with these kinds of concepts? That very much depends on how you ask. Some examples.

<< "The fabric of time" by Stable Diffusion v1.5

This prompt has no style specified at all, which gives the AI guidance in other cases. This turns out to be so abstract that the algorithm tries to take both 'fabric' and 'time' as literally as possible. We see different kinds of tissues and we see clocks. The top right image is the most mysterious yet, as if a metaphysical attempt had been made here after all.

It is now up to the artist who gave the assignment to determine which image best represents what she is looking for.

<< "The fabric of time, by Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, Andre Breton, Anatole Krasnyansky" by Stable Diffusion v1.5

By specifying a combination of artists of surrealism, the result also becomes surreal. I myself cannot detect any fabric or time in this, although there could be something about the transience of life. See for yourself.

>> "The fabric of time, aquarel, painterly, granular dripping running, muted colors, iridescent highlights, by Jean Baptiste Monge, Hergé, Erin Hanson, Arthur Rackham, cinematic intricately designed, Intricate digital detail; 16K Octane Render photorealism sharp focus clear contrast beautiful light shadows." by Stable Diffusion v1.5

A snapshot, and decisive moment, represented figuratively by a style mix of famous illustrators.

Abstract art is not a party for everyone, but those who are interested can certainly get along with the AI. All abstract art movements of the last century are included, and with clever combinations you can generate your own, completely personal style. Choose your own themes and get started.

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