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 Bogdan Soban 

Sempeter pri Gorici

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Gallery Direct Interview with BOGDAN SOBAN

Bogdan is a revolutionary artist whose art is entirely computer generated and based exclusively on the aesthetic ability of mathematics and generative designed software. His geometric abstractions are magical creations of color and design that represent his emotions during the creative process.

abstraction C/18 by Bogdan Soban
Artwork-ID: 98-9409
abstraction C/18

I understand you have a degree in mechanical engineering and this was your chosen profession. Did you show any interest in art or graphics at any point in your life prior to obtaining your degree and becoming involved in generative art?

Before discovering the concept of "generative art" I never had any interest in artistic graphics as art except perhaps in primary school during art class. At that time, the teacher thought I had some "feeling" for art, but no one ever encouraged me so it remained hidden inside me for a long time.

I pursued the mechanical engineering field because of my love for physics and mathematics. At the time, mechanical engineering required a lot of precise manual work on technical projects and designs without the help of computers. I liked this work very much and this could have been the seed for my future activity.

During my military service, I had some free time and I designed some ten letter-format pictures of pure geometrical abstractions. I composed these with small black and white or colored squares. I now beleive these early works were the real beginning of my creativity, even though at the time it was without the use of a computer.

abstraction C/06 by Bogdan Soban
Artwork-ID: 98-9397
abstraction C/06

At what point did you discover that the computer could be a creative tool to produce generative art and when did you pursue this process as an art form?

A great part of my professional career was in some way connected with computers, software development, and information technologies. I sometimes felt that data processing was too banal a task for computers and that the abilities of a computer may be able to be used to simulate human creativity. In 1983 I developed my first "generative" program using a Commodore 64 computer. With the help of the computer's random generating functions, the program was used to create geometric abstractions composed of different colored shapes and forms. I recognized immediately that these creations had similar characterists of "human" artwork, and decided then that it would be a good idea to continue to develop more complex programs. At this time, I was not aware that others were developing similar ideas throughout the world. Years later, when the Internet became accessible, I was surprised to find out that the same ideas were born at the same time by different people in different parts of the world! It was a wonderful feeling.


Where did your interest in the arts come from, were you or any of your family members involved in the arts prior to your involvement with computer generated art?

My primary interested began as trying to make a computer become "creative". My interest in the art was a consequence of this. By defination, any creation could be considered a type of art, so I decided to use visual images to represent the computer's creative ability to show that artificial creativity really does exist. It is accepted that there is a deep connection between art and science, and I started with science to produce art.

While developing software algorithms and seeing the artistic results of them, I found I had to learn a lot about art, aesthetics, composition, color, and form harmony. This is were my inborn feeling for aesthetics played an important role. I discovered that there was an artist inside me, afteral! There were no artists in my family's history, past or present - so this is another reason that my love for science, technology and mathematics caused a turnabout in my soul which made me more sensitive to beauty.

abstraction C/12 by Bogdan Soban
Artwork-ID: 98-9403
abstraction C/12

When you first started producing these computer generated artworks did you show them to your colleagues and how were they received?

In the beginning, my work on the computer seemed to me to be nothing more than interesting fun. My family members were the first to see my experiments and support me in continuing. Later, I showed my work to my colleagues and some of them were enthousiastic and began to encourage me to continue and present my work to the public as an exhibition. A friend of mine, a known photographer, offered to take photos of my work as shown on the TV screen. Color printers did not exist yet at this time. The photos did not produce good enough prints in large sizes and the idea failed. It took more than 10 years to gather up enough courage and in 1995 I realized my first exhibition. The artwork was printed in A4 format using an HP color printer. It was the 1st Festival of Computer Art in Maribor (Slovenia). The responses were very different: form decreed rejection as art but an enthousiastic reception eventually accepted this as a new form of art. It made me feel a little confused but still I didn't loose my will.


Because mathematics are integral to the generation of these artworks have you used what you learned creating fractals in your profession as an engineer.

When writing software to produce "creative algorithms", knowledge of mathematics is key--especially when producing complex fractal forms. My first programs used simple mathematics to produce simple shapes using geometric equations. Programmers strive to develop the smallest and simplest programs to perform more and more complex a task. This approach to creating my art requires lots of mathematical knowledge and original ideas. My love for mathematics supported by my educational training helped a lot in producing creative work.


With your extensive training in programming you have been able to produce a number of programs to produce your generative artworks. Do you use more than one program to produce each piece?

In the beginning, I usually used one program to generate one type of image. Each image being unique but yet similar. My newer software has been developed to generate very different image types. I create and test several different programs, each designed to do different manipulations, extensively test and perfect them to my liking, and then combine them in a way that is pleasing. Some parts of the program are used to create the shapes, some for the coloring, some a combination of both. Combining the results in different ways or repeating the cycle multiple times can produce very good results.

abstraction C/07 by Bogdan Soban
Artwork-ID: 98-9398
abstraction C/07

Since these artworks are computer generated, you could easily create thousands of these images in a short amount of time. By what standard do you determine the results you want to keep and how do you limit the amount of artwork you want to use to represent your artistic inner-self?

There are two difference scenarios where I decide what images I want to keep. In the first case, I do not have any preconcieved idea about what the results are going to be. My programs have a lot of "creative freedom" built into them. In other words, I can change a lot of the parameters of how the images are generated. I will let the program run in an infinate loop and as it generated image after image, if I see one I like, I will save it.

In the second case, I start off with a more defined idea of the results I want to get. Sometimes the original concept is based on something I just think of on my own, but sometimes it is the idea of one of my customers whom the artwork will be for. I set parameters for the software allowing the results to be more predictable and I let the software generate the images. Images I like I save and the final selection is made by the customer.

abstraction B/9 by Bogdan Soban
Artwork-ID: 98-7014
abstraction B/9

How long does it usually take you to complete an artwork and do you ever go back and work on a completed piece and change it to produce a new work?

It takes a lot of time (days, weeks or sometimes more) to develop a new algorithm or to complete a new generative program. I have to underline that I develop my generative project in my free time after I finish my regular every-day job. Once the program is finished and I am satisfied with its operation, it may take from several seconds to several minutes to generate a new image. The processing time depends on the complexity of the program and the image size. For example: to generate an image sized to 1600 x 1200 pixels which is based on a complex mathematical algorithm with millions and millions of individual operations could take five minutes or more. Keeping in mind that this process is used to create an entire selection of generated images, sometimes it takes hours to "find" a good artwork.

Once the image is generated I don't change it any more. It is my basic approach not to make any kind of intervention on the artwork using other tools, such as PhotoShop, for example. I respect the "creative ability" of my programs and prefer not to save an image if I don't like it. Sometimes using a previously generated image as an input to produce out of it a new artwork is another story dealing with technological and programming approach. The new image has nothing visually similar with the first, although it can be programmed to maintain colors, tones, or whatever I decide I want. It can also be used only as an outside coloring palette from which the program algorithm takes original color points, mixes them and creates an entirely new image.

abstraction A/3 by Bogdan Soban
Artwork-ID: 98-3416
abstraction A/3

Who or what has given you the inspiration to pursue fractals as an art form and have there been people who have discouraged you.

When searching for digital art on the Internet I found a great number of galleries with works based on fractals technology. In the beginning, the beauty of geometry, symmetry, and colors fascinated me. I made some experiments using programs downloaded from the web. I didn't feel satisfaction generating wonderful images using a program developed by another. From the early beginning I have sworn to myself to develop my own software although, at first, the results were not satisfying and not comparable with others. I wanted to follow my own way--different as much as possible from others. So, I began to apply a kind of deformed fractal technology in my programs with the aim to eliminate the self-similarity as the most characteristic property of fractals. Zooming in to my fractal is a kind of diving into the image and discovering the third dimension of it. Traveling through the image is like having walk around the country side and photographing interesting views. One image, until the program is alive, could be an immense base of details and each of them could be presented as a unique item of work in itself.

The knowledge about fractal and the use of them to generate artworks was not very known. Because of this, I think, no one tried to discourage me along my way. For most people, I have found, that it is a little bit unbelievable and they do not understand how the "transformation" of mathematical formulas into visual images can produce such artistic results. To most, the only criteria in viewing an artwork is the positive or negative feeling they get from viewing it.

abstraction C/08 by Bogdan Soban
Artwork-ID: 98-9399
abstraction C/08

Is there a way that you produce your fractals that you feel to be unique or unusual?

To develop proper software represents a real chance to be different from any others. It is nearly impossible for two authors to write identical programs using the same mathematical formulas and the same programming concepts. Home made software enables to apply "crazy" ideas which often can't be realizable using commercial software products. This is the reason that I feel free and independent of other existing solutions and some of my "products" could be defined as unique or unusual. There is another very important fact: generative programs are "innovative" by definition. One basic idea I have could be developed in an immense number of solutions, some of which probably would never been created by a human alone. Somewhere I read: "We can describe the generative art as a method for developing ideas and creating new solutions in a field of human creativity". In short, proper program development and "creative ability" of generative programs can assure originality which is demonstrated by unique and unusual results.


Are all your works produced as an original artwork or do you produce some of them as Limited Editions.

I never produce my artwork as Limited Editions. All my printed works are unique items warranted with autograph and should be treated as original artworks. Once an artwork is sold, I move the file into another folder and I don't print it any more. It remains saved as a witness of my generative project evolution but is never resold.


Is the software you use to produce your fractals a continuous work in progress and do you have new ideas for the future that you want to share with us?

I have developed more than hundred programs and my project could be defined as a continuous work in progress. Recent programs are becoming more and more complex. Actually, I work on the integration of interesting partial solutions used in different programs. Further, I have discovered that the use of the color components of the image being created could act as variables themselves and be used to further control new parameters to manage the program algorithm as it progressed through the image generation--often producing surprising results! Another area where I'm experimenting in is creating imagery using outside coloring palettes which can be in many forms, including color gradients or even a previously generated image.

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