Generative Art: The Artists Defining the Space
|— The generative art scene is exploding! Generative art isn’t new but the blockchain has given it a platform for unprecedented adoption and exploration and we’re seeing some amazing art and artists emerge.|
— Some of the key themes we see in generative art explore concepts of time, reality, and the harmony that can exist in art between nature and a rapidly changing world of technology.
— Generative at offers creatives and artists a way to build and curate their own career without relying on traditional means to get there.
Generative art is a genre that will define the next generation of culture, and we’re watching it come to life right now.
The rise of blockchain-based ownership – in the form of NFTs – has made it possible for a new generation of artists to truly “own” and monetize their work. This has enabled new genres to explode in popularity, with eager collectors now able to meaningfully own these digital pieces for themselves. Among these thriving new artistic ecosystems is the generative art world.
Here,we guide your first steps and walk you through the gallery of some of the most popular generative artists in the space (in no particular order) giving you a taste of what is happening and where this world of digital art might go. From there, the rabbit hole is yours to fall down!
What is Generative Art?
Generative art is the culmination of expert coding and creative expression. It happens where an artist draws parameters and works with technological systems to create unique art with an interactive element, be this that the art itself evolves according to external factors or that it is shaped by AI or some other form of digital intelligence.
One of the most exciting, distinctive elements of generative art is how engaging and dynamic it can be. Depending on how the artist decides to code the piece, the artwork itself might only be revealed once it has been minted and it could change over time. This is part of its beauty.
Let’s take a look at the artists making waves in the emerging space.
Leading Generative Artists in 2022
Dmitri Cherniak didn’t set out to become an artist – but some things are meant to be.
His first brush with generative art came during a programming class, where he created a code-based image of Taylor Swift as part of a project. This small touch was a joke between him and his friend, yet it was to be the accidental basis of his career. Years later, as he sought a creative escape from his job at a New York hedge fund, he proposed the piece to a San Francisco art gallery – and they snapped it up. So began his transition to the generative art space, where he is now one of the defining voices.
Cherniak is best known for his project The Ringers, which is hosted on curation hub Art Blocks. The collection features 1,000 generative art NFTs based on different combinations of “strings and pegs.” The unique feature of this collection is that it is driven by an underlying code (created by Cherniak himself) that generates each unique piece from a different seed. The Ringers stands as a leading body of works on the space, positioning Cherniak as a big name in the ecosystem.
More recently, he’s been letting fate decide where his artwork ends up – by sending newly minted generative works to random wallets, a project he says is a “celebration of birth life and death”.
And in fairness, there’s much to celebrate: he recently sold Ringers #109 on OpenSea for a cool $7.1 million USD.
You can see more of the artist’s work – and perspectives on his Twitter profile @dmitricherniak
Tyler Hobbs journey into generative art is a very modern love story.
As a programmer, he “fell in love with the idea of writing a programme that creates a painting” – this was to be the genesis of one of the most successful generative art careers to date.
Hobbs first broke onto the scene back in 2014 with works like Black Lines showcasing the beautiful intersection between human and machine based art.
What makes Hobbs’ art so special is the level of detail he puts into each piece, taking anywhere from two to thirty hours to finish an artwork. One of the flavours Hobbs throws in the mixing pot is the curiosity in his exploration – bringing to life an intricate piece that comes from something mundane.
His most notable work, Fidenza, for example, is an algorithmic approach which exhibits versatility with simple sophistication. The Fidenza series, which features 999 NFTs, originally picked up $400,000 after its original exhibition on OpenSea but has since made a massive $150 million in secondary sales.
If you’re interested in following Hobbs’ work, from drawing at small scale to massive generative creations, you can find more details on the artist’s Twitter profile @tylerxhobbes
Kevin Absoch is no stranger to raising eyebrows. With a professional legacy based in photography, sculpture and installations, he’s best known as the man who sold a photo of a potato for just over $1 million USD back in 2016.
But his blockchain career kicked off a little later, in 2018. His first collection mixed physical blood sweat and tears with digital art…literally.
IAMA COIN collection features 100 physical artworks, and 10 million virtual counterparts of them. Each physical piece is stamped with the blockchain address of one of the counterpart coins written in his blood (yep, you read that right), linking the artwork with a corresponding digital currency. The approach is avant garde for sure, particularly back in 2018 when generative art was yet to peak, making him one of the early pioneers in crypto art.
IAMACOIN by Kevin Abosch
A month later, he took one single ERC-20 token to the blockchain as a Valentine’s Day special – the Forever Rose – and it was sold to a group of ten art collectors for $1 million; a record-breaking figure at the time.
Not only is he an OG in the space, but he’s also consistently looking for ways to change the game and stir things up in the generative art. A cryptic, creative thinker, his work addresses identity and value and his work represents ontological questions and responses to the world we live in.
Follow the artists on Twitter @kevinabosch
In his early twenties, Kane left the traditional-gallery-exhibition-world-of-art to pursue work as a web developer. Moving to a new field, but maintaining his love of art, he taught himself how to program and code and made active career choices to keep art in his scope. Mixing the two, he now devotes his vocation to both and has developed special software that he hand-coded (!!) to make works of digital art that tell a unique story.
What makes him so important in the world of NFT art is that he fights for the artist’s rights – past the initial sale, ensuring the smart contracts governing the NFT pieces pay royalties to the creator with every secondary sale.
In September 2020, right in the thick of the global pandemic, Kane was put on the digital map with the record breaking sale of his art piece “Right Place, Right Time” which went for 262 Ethereum (more than $100k USD, the highest grossing NFT to date at that time).
Each piece in the series generates a new composition daily, echoing the price undulations of Bitcoin. It has 24 layers that make up the piece and every day they change according to the price of Bitcoin in the previous 24 hours, meaning each one tells a unique story.
More recently, Kane dropped his new collection, Gazers, on ArtBlocks. Gazers is a series of 100 NFTs based on the cycles of the moon; every 24 hours the smart contract of each NFT gives different instructions on how that NFT should display or move that day, meaning each the story of each one unfolds day by day like the moon itself.
Volatility Art: Right Place, Right Time
If you’re interested in following Matt Kane, check out his Twitter profile @mattkaneartist
UK based Brendan Dawes is one of the Godfathers of the generative art scene, using data, machine learning, and algorithms to create interactive, nature driven pieces. Already a big hitter in the modern art scene, his work – which carefully considers consistent themes of time, space and memory – has been featured in MoMA, and the artist himself heads up the design team at cutting edge digital creative firm Houdini.
His ascent to prominence in the NFT world lies in the 60-minute sale of his Genesis NFT on digital art marketplace KnownOrigin (which went to none other than the legendary collector WhaleShark!). From there, his next NFT collection was sold out in sixty seconds flat.
In 2019, he created 99,999 unique variations of snowflakes for the Field Notes pocket memo books winter 2020 edition, rendering exquisite numbered art pieces that were printed on limited edition notebooks. The work highlights the way generated art can mimic nature in its random, but careful creation that aligns creativity with algorithms.
From Field Notes by Brendan Dawes
Take a look at Dawes’ art , opinions and new projects on Twitter @BrendanDawes
Not only does he have an amazing interactive website where you can create your art with a simple click of a button (yep, give it a try!) but Shvembldr is also the founder behind The Blocks of Art project, a platform that unites connoisseurs of generative art with the artists defining the current space.
Starting his career as a front-end developer, Shvembldr found generative art when he got the idea to put lines on the screen in random order and see what transpired. The fact that a line of code, with set parameters, could lead to a random, unique outcome every time intrigued him and launched him into exploring and experimenting with creating art with code.
The Blocks of Art #400 – Art Blocks
The Blocks of Art, the Art Blocks hosted project that Shvembldr dedicates a lot of his time and energy to, is something that sets him apart as an artist. The concept is simple: panels of blocks are laid on a screen and the algorithm generates unique moving pieces, which change each time they are clicked.
Shvembldr has also been busy building a profile as one of the leading artists on the Tezos blockchain, with his recent collection on Tezos art marketplace HicEtNunc featuring a series of ethereally expanding holes, each of which changes whenever it’s clicked. The hugely successful artist is one of the key voices in the generative art scene, both as a creator and as an advocate for the emerging space. Shvembldr is absolutely one to watch if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the movement.
Follow the artist at @shvembldr
His most prominent collection, Meridian, is featured on Art Blocks, and recreates organic, stratified landforms using thousands of tiny strokes of colour.
Another of his most interesting works, LUMOS, takes a look at how coding and art can interact with the human touch – the piece itself is a digital interactive light sculpture that responds to body heat.
DesLauriers has established a name for himself with a take on physical traits in traditional art (such as charcoal and paint) combined with code to create a series of landforms. His work pushes the boundaries of the natural world and computational creation to explore art and interactive activity under unique, programmable systems.
Follow Matt on Twitter to keep up with his latest projects @MattDesl
Known as Quasidmondo in the space, Mario Klingemann has been coding since the 80s and has been working on digital art creation since before it took off. He has expressed the appreciation of how generative art has the ability to surprise and display “almost autonomous creative behaviour” when an algorithm is given what it needs – and aims to capture this creativity. His background not only has artistic flair in visual creation (along with experience working at the Google Arts & Culture Lab) but he also has worked with words as a creative copywriter.
Klingemann made headlines when his piece ‘Memories of Passersby I’ sold as one of the first generative artworks to be auctioned in a traditional auction house (Sotheby’s). The piece, which sold for £40k at the time, used artificial intelligence to create a constantly changing, and somehow melancholy, string of portraits seamlessly stitching together a dynamic piece.
The piece now stands not only as the art itself but holds a spot in the space as an important historic landmark as the world enters the acceptance of computer-generated art.
Klingemann is a prominent creator on the Tezos blockchain, with his collections featuring on native art marketplace HicEtNunc.
Follow the artist on his Twitter profile @quasimondo
Lionel Radisson (aka @Makio135)
Radisson is an OG when it comes to design, style and culture – his tastes are born from an adolescence that spanned the 90’s, when rollerblading and hip hop were his key influences.
Here began his love affair with graffiti and street art, an influence that echoed through his career; his pseudonym Makio comes from a well known rollerblade figure from the era. In a fitting nod to his digital evolution, the 135 part relates to the programming language that later made his art famous.
His generative work Loops is (unsurprisingly) best known for utilising digital loops to animate complex patterns with flawless liquidity.
Yet, when asked, the artist says his proudest achievement is his Growing Space series, a collection united by the themes of busting colours and dense linearity, which Makio says bring him a sense of serenity and drowns out his background noise. And collectors share the sentiment – his highest grossing Growing Space piece (#1 shown below) sold for around $25,000 USD.
Growing Space #1
Born and educated in New York city, Zach Lieberman started his artistic journey on more traditional terrains, with a degree in fine arts. But his talents always had a strong intersect with technology and the idea of human expression; in 2003 he worked on a project called Messa di Voce with Golan Levan, a project that combined humanity, art and technology by combining vocals and digital visuals, triggered by the vocal patterns themselves.
For Lieberman, coding is just another paintbrush, even describing his renderings with code as “sketches” or “short poems”.
He co-founded the School for Poetic Computation in 2013, a small faculty that explores the intersection between art, coding, hardware and theory. With creative technology such a mainstay of his work, it was inevitable that blockchain would unleash a new chapter for Lieberman.
“As an artist, you think about different ways to make something permanent, and it’s really magical to think the work we make together through this project will be permanently recorded.”
A prominent artist on Tezos, his NFT based art plays predominantly with light and colour. Having captured the aesthetic zeitgeist of the moment, he’s recently been a key collaborator on the Adidas by Prada collection, creating NFT art from thousands of unique design tiles that can be bought by fans wanting to own a small piece of the overall composition. The collection can be found on SuperRare.
Check out his progress on Twitter @ZachLieberman
When she was studying abroad, Jen Stark struggled to buy expensive art supplies and took to experimenting with colourful construction paper to build up art pieces. She built up 3D pieces from the 2D medium, taking inspiration from the geometry found in the natural world and distilling it to form smaller, intricate pieces that retain the complex patterns in nature.
Drawing inspiration from the iconic paper sculptures, her work has transitioned from the hand-cut to the generative digital medium. Stark’s introduction to generative art was an Art Blocks project, ‘Vortex’ (on Ethereum) that features an interactive NFT collection of 1000 unique pieces that came from the creation of specific coding parameters. She has also launched her own currency, $STARK coins, which is designed to foster the emergence of communities between creatives and their fans.
This collection is particularly interesting because Stark sets the parameters and the collectors, the person or people that buy the NFT, are the ones who mint it. As they buy the art piece, it comes alive. With 22 design sets, each with a particular look and specific rarity, there are enormous possibilities of how the art can turn out and what the collector might get upon minting.
What makes this so interesting? Well, it’s kind of like going to an auction and bidding on a mystery piece. You have a rough idea of what it might look like, but only when you buy it, is it unveiled – to both you and also the world – for the first time.
Follow the artist @jen_stark to see her work progress.
Thomas Lin Pedersen
Thomas Lin Pedersen started his career as a bioinformatician, computational biologist, from there he became a data scientist, then a software engineer with a focus on enhancing the way researchers can interact with their data. With a rich background in coding and a love for data, Lin Pedersen took to creating unique pieces, focusing on exploring the way dynamic systems can create works of art.
“For me, the sweet spot of generative art lies in creating a system that you know well enough to set it up for success, but is so complex that you still get surprised when you see the result.”
His work had some pretty minimalist beginnings, with collections such as “Unwind” and “Unfold” both playing with ethereal, smoke-like forms against a blank canvas. But his style evolved significantly as he gained prominence: his latest collection, Screens, is a series of 999 bauhaus inspired renderings using lurid colours and geometrical forms to channel a constructivist digital composition that mimics Pedersen’s previous work with screen painting.
Meanwhile, his long-form series Rapture which was released originally on ArtBlocks, is the final conclusion of the coding system he’s been improving and perfection over his years in data and the collection itself is completely autonomous.
Keep up to date with the artist on Twitter @thomasP85
Generative art: a story about ourselves
Far from the dusty galleries and tight-knit club of gatekeepers we’re accustomed to, generative art is an exciting, surprising and thought provoking new arena, where the pieces are the product of a relationship between man and machine.
In short, generative art tells us a story about ourselves and how we are evolving.
You might think Ledger is about technology, but our vision is centred around humans – the more our lives become digital, the more new cultures will be able to emerge and flourish. And at a minimum, you should be safe to explore that environment. So stay secure, keep learning and enjoy this truly exciting moment, where the culture of tomorrow is just emerging.
Knowledge is Power.
Keep on learning about this new space! If you’re just getting involved yourself, and want to know how to stay on top of the regulation side of things, this School of Block episode is exactly what you need.