Complexity from Simplicity

The Underlying Structure of the Work

The artwork on these pages comprise an investigation into the concept of the generation of complexity from simplicity. As a result the series is provisionally titled 'Complexity'.

The series approaches its goal by exploring the interactions between overlapping simple forms - frequently regular arrays of shapes such as circles, squares, hexagons or octagons arranged in uniform chessboard-like layouts, but sometimes mapped onto spherical surfaces or twisted to form rings, as shown below.

The overlapping forms within any one piece are frequently (though not always) identical, and are usually offset relative to each other around a central axis. The example at the top of the page shows the interactions between two identical grids of black octagons, while the example below shows the interaction between four identical grids of black octagons. The same grids are employed in both images.

The work in Complexity takes as one of its starting points the phenomenon of Moire patterns, in which two overlapping patterns generate secondary optical effects. Unlike Moire patterns however, the elements in Complexity actually interact with each other rather than simply overlap. In the examples on this page, for example, the areas where black overlays black result is areas of white.

Due to these interactions between the grids the resulting patterns are capable of acquiring a much higher level of complexity than is possible with Moire patterns. This is particularly the case if there are multiple grids overlaying each other. In the case of Moire patterns, multiple overlapping forms eventually blot out all of the spaces between the forms, imposing a limit on the degree of complexity attainable. The patterns in the Complexity series however create more complex effects with every extra layer, as there is no straightforward eclipsing of space - new spaces (such as at the white in the images above) are generated with each overlapping grid. Significantly, the multi-layering of patterns exposes not a limit to the complexity achievable within the structure of the resulting patterns, but a limit to the human brain's ability to discern all of those levels of complexity.

The image below shows a detail indicating the degree of internal complexity that is generated in some of the work.

The videos that are in black and white are particularly effective at drawing the viewer's attention to the process by which the patterns created by the overlapping layers are generated. This is especially the case in examples where one of the layers is static, emphasising the fact that the complex patterns observed are the result of nothing more than one form rotating above another one.