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The Contemplative Brush (2006)


A digital Pointillist painting of The Wizard of Oz.



The Contemplative Brush is an analytical digital imaging software that creates neo-impressionist video paintings. In this screen-based work, the Contemplative Brush will paint the entirety of The Wizard of Oz, Victor Leming's infamous 1939 film featuring Judy Garland, frame by frame onto the prototypical contemporary canvas - a high-resolution LCD screen. This magical film is ideal for this installation because its vibrant Technicolor-process colors lend perfectly to the vivid nature of Pointillist painting.

George Seurat, the master of Pointillist painting, would create colors using hundreds of miniscule dots of varying primary colors. From a distance, the human brain would perceive these dots as a single secondary color. In other words, Pointillist painters left the human vision mechanism to do the mixing. This method of painting color, which followed the relatively-new scientific notion of complimentary contrast introduced by French chemist Eugene Chevreul in the 19th century, actually created more vibrant images than using the traditional method of mixing paint.

The Contemplative Brush transforms the scientific methodology of Seurat's Pointillist brush stroke technique to the systematic approach of a computer algorithm. Digital images (still or moving) are broken up and analyzed based on their color and rendered as Pointillist dots. Before painting each each and every brush stroke, the software analyzes the surrounding frame, with the intent of painting larger areas of color before moving on to more detailed areas. And when it finishes one frame, it will move on to the next, painting over the previous one.

This screen-based work presents image processing as a meditative and contemplative time-based medium. This stands directly in opposition to a typical Photoshop or Final Cut Pro filter, which takes milliseconds for a fast computer to complete and can be rendered 30 times per second (in the case of digital video). In other words, a painting by The Contemplative Brush could actually take months to complete. That's fairly reasonable, considering that it took Serurat approximately 2 years to create his masterpiece "Sunday Afternoon at le Grande Jatte". The Contemplative Brush is slightly faster: it will take only 5 weeks for it render the entirety (every single frame) of The Wizard of Oz.

There is another advantage to this slow and methodical approach. In viewing a Pointillist painting at the MOMA, MET or at the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago (where "Sunday Afternoon" actually hangs), we can appreciate the final outcome of Seurat and his contemporaries' painstaking process. But in this presentation, we can actually experience the production of the work and make sense of the Pointillist's unique process in real-time.

Exhibition History

Department of Film & Television lobby. Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. New York City. 2008 - 2009.


Video painting, procedural painting, color, Neo-Impressionism, Pointillism, Seurat, software, process, pixels, slow, The Wizard of Oz.


Flickr Photo