Japanese programmer ‘KYND’ generates watercolour simulations that revitalise age-old creative tools. Featured in our partnership with WeTransfer
How do you paint with code? One artist is bringing pigment and colour to life onscreen, defying the easy categorisation of roles – he is at once designer, engineer, animator and programmer. Going simply by the moniker of ‘KYND’, he creates simulations of watercolour paintings, dabbing bursts of colour that collide and blend into new abstractions. Using openFrameworks, his computerised paintings are brought to life through the layering of multiple scenes, in which small tweaks can give rise to spontaneous experiments.
The process of sketching becomes a performance in itself, as KYND also shapes his abstract watercolours into the familiar forms of the flora and fauna of the natural world. Taking direction from the classic textbook representation of insects, flowers and animals, they stretch out and bloom before our eyes in a newly contemporary lease of life. The digital and the physical begin to blur, as the language of the computer joins together with the age-old tools of creative expression.
The process of sketching becomes a performance in itself, as KYND also shapes his abstract watercolours into the familiar forms of the flora and fauna of the natural world.
POSTmatter: Do you come from a traditional painting or a digital media background, and what first led you to combine the two distinct disciplines?
KYND: I majored in oil painting. When I was experimenting with different techniques, I found it very intriguing to reproduce the quality of painting and physical paints that I've been familiar with for a long time. It is like verbalising what I had been doing unconsciously into the very explicit form of (computer) language.
PM: What do you see to be the future of painting as an art form in an age when digital tools are able to render competitive images?
KYND: I think that painting is in the category of products that are created by the human hand, which now have less use and value simply due to the many alternatives that can be more effective. However, while painting as an art form might never get the authority it used to have, painting and drawing as practice and their unique quality will remain interesting and valuable. Be it a piece of work itself or a part of larger process, there is something irreplaceable in the lines and shapes drawn by a human as an expression of their thoughts and perception of the world. I really enjoy the recent studies of AI, with the machine learning to replicate Van Gogh. I’m trying to run some experiments myself. Nevertheless, it doesn't satisfy the same curiosity as seeing someone actually draw.
Be it a piece of work itself or a part of larger process, there is something irreplaceable in the lines and shapes drawn by a human as an expression of their thoughts and perception of the world.
PM: You’ve recently been presenting your work in live VJ sets, collaborating with sound designers to create audio-visual experiences for your audience. How do these develop in the moment and what influences the outcome?
KYND: These live performance were based on the tool that I originally made for creation of the video ‘Locus of Everyday Life’, which is composed of many different "actors" that share the same canvas. Each actor behaves and reacts to the sound differently, resulting in drawing different shapes on the canvas. These actors can be manipulated in real time through tweaking various parameters. Also some attributes of the paint and canvas, such as fluidity, decay and amount of noise, can be adjusted. I designed the tool in such a way that it can create a video without any cut, post editing and processing, which naturally made it suitable for live performance too.
While I know exactly how all these parts are programmed, the result is often very unpredictable when they are mixed together. It is like mixing different chemicals and seeing what happens. A slight change can end up in very different result, like the butterfly effect. It is also spontaneous process as I usually don't know what exactly the sound artist is going to play.
PM: Much of your work includes representations of flora and fauna in the shapes, colours and movement of your pieces; the designs bloom as flowers do. What appeals to you about the natural world for your designs?
KYND: I think there are several reasons. I love pictorial guidebooks of flowers, insects, animals and so on, and seeing them catalogued. Plants and some relatively primitive animals have features suitable for algorithmically generating. I enjoy creating a variety of species, and different motions or physics in a parametric way.
Plants and some relatively primitive animals have features suitable for algorithmically generating.
This may sound odd, but the fact that they are sort of banal and stereotyped motifs attracts me as well. I sometimes want my work to look as if it has been there for a long time and could have been made by anyone, like a postcard with a painting by an anonymous artist that you would find in a touristy place or an antique shop, or an illustration in a picture book.
PM: In generating code for your designs you are committed to using openFrameworks. In what ways is this community important to you?
KYND: While I use many other tools and libraries for daily work, openFramework has been the primary tool for my experiments mostly for its great convenience and malleability. It is perfect for starting something very quick. There are so many examples and plug-ins that I can just grab and use. It lets me go deep and do anything if I want. Since I met with the core developers of the framework for the first time at the developer conference in YCAM, I've been amazed and inspired by the lively discussions and active engagement of the great contributors, though I haven't been able to contribute back us much as I have wanted so far.
PM: What would be a dream future collaboration for you?
KYND: I’m interested in working to various timescales, from the even more spontaneous – like I’m playing a musical instrument live – to over a very long period – maybe to the extent that the process is so slow and hardly noticeable at a glance. It would be fascinating to design an environment, in an old building or somewhere tranquil, where the image develops itself slowly. I’d love to be surprised by visiting the place from time to time. The project could involve sound and the physical rendering of the image instead of computer monitors or projections, in order to be freed from limited resolution.
This interview is published in partnership with WeTransfer, as part of our series exploring the creatives who push the boundaries between digital and physical space in new and surprising ways. See KYND's work custom moving image pieces on WeTransfer here and here.