Principles of Nature: towards a new visual language
© copyright 2003 Wayne Roberts. All rights reserved.

A 'genetic principle' is anticipated by scale structure theory as assuming increasing importance in future artistic composition and practice

This section is based on sections of my book (W. Roberts, 2003), edited and reformatted with supplementary commentary for the web..

‘Genetic’ principles applied to artistic composition

How might these principles be applied to visual composition? We need at least as a starting point, a means of bringing a covert orderliness or regularity into the act of expressive composition. Something which is not so much deterministic as probabilistic: a bias, a partial determinant. Something akin to genetics, and which we might describe as ‘genetic composition ’. In the patterns of heredity, genes are not always expressed. Sometimes they are silent and sometimes they are only partially expressed. Likewise, determinants in a visual composition, such as the node-points of the geometries which divide the plane, may or may not be algorithmically linked to the external surface form(s). If they are not, then they are like ‘silent genes’. Music is constructed in a way which echoes the 'partial-patterns' of genetics: not all notes in a scale are necessarily 'expressed' or used by the composer, nor is every bar-line observed; sometimes notes tie-over a bar-line giving a feeling of syncopation and suspension of symmetry and temporal flow.

Having identified overarching principles to be included within this new type of visual composition, we can state the following as a preliminary encapsulation of the conceptual idea behind such compositions:

Covert scale structure art combines and partly links* (algorithmically, programmatically, geometrically and/or syntactically):

  • covert ‘scales’ or ordering principles, with,
  • overt (surface) irregular, asymmetric, intuitive expression and form

In other words, order is covertly present beneath, and partially linked* to, the overt irregular (apparently haphazard) surface appearance. This partial-link is achieved through syntactical or algorithmic means. The covert scale structures are holistic ordering principles: they operate throughout the picture plane or a range of parameters. (For instance, placing a point of emphasis on the Golden Section is not enough in itself to qualify as covert scale structure as I am defining the term.)

Images created this way are 'representations' of nature in principle, as opposed to facsimiles of external surface appearances.

We have seen in the earlier part of this text, how scale structures undergird the entire cosmos. We have further seen how through the syntactical exploration of preliminary scale structures, civilization has advanced beyond mere counting to discover an 'abstract' realm of interconnected resonant scale structures we know as ‘mathematics’. This 'realm' does not seem to have a material form, yet it parallels what we understand as the material (physical) universe in a way which is truly amazing. This abstract mathematical landscape is still being explored today. It appears to be boundless. And abstract travel through ‘mathland’ enables us to predict not only things on earth but things in the heavens too. In short it has extended our thinking and awareness and therefore, our consciousness.

Music too has affected every culture in profound ways. Why should such abstract sound move us to our core? Among the many answers, must be one recognising that music resonates in us biologically: we are in a strange way like music ourselves, covert scale structure art. The various interconnecting scale structures of biology from the scale of amino acids all the way up to the neuronal architecture of the mind echo the covert scale structures of music, and more generally, of the universe itself. Yet on these arrays, and orders, dance the whim of thoughts and melodies.

Likewise, a visual art based on covert scale structures and employing new syntaxes of visual forms will ultimately resonate deeply in the minds of viewers. And because the universe itself contains scale structures syntactically organised and interconnected, such a visual art, may, like mathematics, become an extension to thinking and a metaphor of universal phenomenology .

It remains for the visual arts to synchronise with the cosmic metaphor, which I believe is in any case virtually inevitable. This new art will reflect universal organisation and unfolding. It will syntactically explore provisional scale structures and will ultimately elucidate resonant scale structures. These will then be employed asymmetrically and irregularly in renewed syntactical combinations. In this way a new visual language and visual art will emerge and will ultimately complement other forms of thinking as they are known today.


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