#LumenInFocus: Andy Lomas

By Charlotte Lee September 6, 2016

Andy Lomas won the 2014 Lumen Prize Award with Cellular Forms, an exploration of biological forms that can be produced from a digital growth system. Lomas, a self-confessed code junky, uses his own software to explore the numerous aesthetic possibilities opened up by the code he writes. Charlotte Lee interviews Lomas about his award winning work and what he’s been up to since winning the Lumen Prize.

What was your creative practice up to The Lumen Prize?

I’ve been working on ideas of creating things through simulating growth for many years, but until recently it was what my friends described as my ‘extra-curricular activities’ along side working in visual effects and animation. My art practice was my space where I could explore my own work without the demands of clients, but very much something that worked in tandem with my production work where I could learn the craft of working with computer graphics and animation.

What was the inspiration behind Cellular Forms? 

The idea that many of the intricate forms that we see in living things could be the natural types of structure that emerge from growth processes has been one that has intrigued me for many years. Probably the main original inspiration was reading D’Arcy Thompson’s book ‘On Growth and Form’ about 30 years ago, where he looks at commonalities between the forms of many living things as well as how simple repeated rules could create beautiful structures like seashells. Next year is the centenary of the publication of On Growth and Form, which is definitely worth celabrating.

Since winning the 2014 Lumen Prize, what have you been up to?

The big change is that I’m now working full time on my art practice. There have been a lot of things going on, including being invited to give one of the keynote presentations as well as an exhibition of new work (Hybrid Forms) at last year’s the European Conference in Artificial Life. I’ve also recently had my first major solo exhibition in London at Watermans. That exhibition seemed to created a lot of additional interest, including from some major collections.

You’re a self-confessed code junky, but what is it that draws you to the medium? 

What draws me to the medium is the huge potential of computation to do things that wouldn’t be achievable by any other method. If you take an algorithmic approach, computers are the ultimate blank canvas. You can definine a process and repeat it hundreds of millions of times. Alan Turing’s idea of universal computation, which leads to the idea that a suficiently complex digital machine can simulate any formally describable process to any desired level of approximation, is both humbling and empowering.

Where has your work been heading most recently?Any exciting new developments? 

I’ve been working on a lot of background work, learning new techniques and refining directions that I’ve already been working in. In particular I’ve been exploring the possibilities of digital fabrication (such as 3D printing) as well as augmented and virtual reality. In the exhibition at Watermans I was showing the first 3D printed sculpture of one of my forms, as well as using 3D stereo viewing techniques for the installation that was at the centre piece of the exhibition. I’ve also been doing quite a lot more work on the tools and techniques that I’ve been using to find the combinations of values that create the results that I’m looking for when working with systems that are driven by many parameters. I’m using a combination of machine learning and genetic algorithms to explore the space of possibilities. I presented a paper about that work at a conference in July and it appears to be getting quite a lot of interest.

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