“Looking back at my accomplishments over the years, I think I’ve had a continuous drive for structural condensation.”
In Holger Lippmann’s pioneering career as a generative artist, spanning decades, there’s a persistent theme of order and chaos, structure and decay, expressed through code.
With “Fractal Tapestries,” Lippmann pushes this exploration even further. While on the surface we easily perceive simple shapes and patterns, each output challenges us to look once more and examine what we thought we saw, again and again.
“Fractal Tapestries” has been in development for many years. It’s an unreleased project that Lippmann finally feels is ready to release. In some ways, it is a grand distillation of the themes that have defined his generative career.
“This is actually quite an old, unreleased work that I’ve previewed at different times but never felt was fully ready. I’ve literally spent years on “Fractal Tapestries,” to the point that who knows — maybe it’s completely overdone now? But I don’t think so. When I first started, it looked very simple and minimalistic, but now it's more like a painting with many details and small brushstrokes that have refined it.”
He continues: “With this project, I wanted to push this idea of ‘structural condensation’ up to a point where the shapes depart from their usual meanings and are not clearly perceptible anymore. Using superimposition, the structure and order we think we recognize descends more and more into noise. But the line here isn’t obvious, and both the structure and chaos create a kind of beauty. In this void an entirely new playground comes into being — an abstraction of fissuring and reformation.”
Speaking from his light-filled studio, Lippmann’s easy manner and cheerful smile bely a decades-long career of technical and artistic exploration into these ideas.
“My process feels like walking a tight-rope between concrete and depictive dynamics on one side and the white noise of ambient, transcendent harmony on the other, representing the eternal game of creation and decay. Said in a sober and technical way, I’ve been exploring the eternal balance of meaning, magnitude, colors, shades and properties in order to make sense of all the chaos.”
The basic structure of the project is derived from screen divisions (i.e., dividing a canvas into 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, or 64 sections) that break down each output into increasingly fine iterations. A feedback loop places objects with random or partly random repetition rates, playing with the balance between predictable and unpredictable frequencies. From this, complex structures with fractal characteristics are created through iterative overlays. The addition of 10 different form classes and a large number of color arrays help achieve even greater variation.
“For coloring, I'm working with a set of predefined color arrays, which have a slight scope of randomness, but follow certain color groups. As in nature one can see many things mainly in color groups; let's say a meadow has many shades of greens, next to it a rotten trunk of all sorts of browns. I wanted to apply this principle graphically in a greatly simplified form and also with a wider range of randomness to make things a bit lively and surprising.”
Lippmann expresses a deep admiration for the vibrant and unexpected elements in generative art, drawing parallels to historical paintings. He remembers personal revelations in studying the details from classical paintings, where an incongruous touch of a contrasting color challenged his perception of mediums. This experience early in his career helped inform an appreciation for the surprising elements in generative art — unexpected uses of color, form, and pattern — and helped highlight instances where traditional art falls short.
With “Fractal Tapestries,” Lippmann aimed to increase the variability of the work, in part because it will be an open edition — there will be no limit to the number of mints available for 7 days — allowing thousands of potential mints.
Lippmann lights up as he explains this process of creation, drawing parallels between the challenges faced by painters and generative artists.
“To create a really broad array of outputs, I embraced a deliberately messy aesthetic to refine it. This felt akin to my background as a fine art painter where unplanned colors or elements emerge and lead the creative process. This mindset also applies to my coding. I find excitement in unexpected outcomes that result from experimenting with different code elements and often lead to surprising discoveries.”
Lippmann speaks of the importance of embracing mistakes “and even ruin” in the pursuit of artistic freedom, a sentiment he shares with many friends that are renowned painters. With a nod to the versatile nature of generative art, he discusses the balance between expected outcomes and the exhilarating potential for unprecedented, oftentimes wild results, which feeds his creativity.
Lippmann’s artistic journey commenced at a young age, fueled by the encouragement of a supportive teacher. His early passion for traditional painting and experimentation with various materials guided him through art school. Transitioning to computer-based work, he found inspiration in electronic music, a fascination that led him to embrace the inherent capabilities of machines while drawing parallels to electronic music's experimental, ever-changing nature.
In the late 90s, Lippmann foresaw the digital art shift, predicting the rise of websites and even NFTs. However, the NFT market's emergence took more than two decades, highlighting the separation between traditional and digital art spheres. He compares this division to past paradigm shifts, where old and new worlds coexisted for years before converging.
He eventually shifted fully to generative art, marking a departure from traditional mediums. He navigated the challenges of this emerging field with a network of artist connections across art forms that have sustained his practice to this day.
Zooming out, Lippmann reflects on his two-year journey into web3, still so recent — a tiny fraction of his career as an artist.
“Maybe the whole thing with NFTs is a bit like the creative process with coding. You make some mistakes, and then you realize ‘Oh, man — this is actually great.’ Something unexpected works and then you follow it and keep following it. You see something you weren’t planning on and you keep experimenting with it. We’ll just keep creating and mixing until we figure out something new.”