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A Magazine for Sheffield

Chris Godley: Chasing the shapes that numbers make

A departure from the doodle this month. This month's feature is entirely generative patterns - numbers and code that produce line, form and colour. Chris sits in the Gleadless gloom, coffee and cigarette firmly in place, flickering monitors reflecting in gleaming eyeballs. He means it. Godley is Sheffield born and bred, a fact that's clearly obvious for me in the way he approaches his work and the industrial and technological shapes that he produces. The new flesh - art with machines - is a strange one, and I look forward to seeing where he ends up in the future. What made you want to start creating art? Pure selfish entertainment. I think like most children of the Eighties I was robot obsessed and could usually be found either dismantling something that wasn't broken or drawing Optimus Prime in HB pencil. Getting the badass pose right was even more important than the big shiny guns, and that's a mantra that remained as time passed - make it look badass. Can you describe the process of starting a new piece? From a certain point that depends on the piece, but the preliminary ritual is a vat of coffee while waiting for various computers to boot. For procedurals like fractals, I'll start by getting the formulae to produce interesting results then finding a viewpoint to do them justice. Sometimes this takes moments, sometimes hours. It's a lot like nature photography, except you can change the shape of the whole environment and you won't know if it will look better until a few hours later. Getting comfortable is important too. Where do you get your inspiration from? Anything busy, tessellating or epic in scale. Undulating flocks of starlings, bar codes, circuit boards, universal shipping container ports through Google Earth. Vertigo. Guilloche - those complex little spirals and swirls on banknotes. Brutalist architecture. Mucha, Domenig, Vignelli, Fuller, Foster, Crouwel, Spiekerman, Anderson, Insa, Delta and Astek. Tools - what do you use regularly and what's your favourite? My toolset changes constantly, from educational modellers for visualising molecules to the use of Javascript for directly editing SVG vectors. I use purely open source software for work and play, so I'd have to say Inkscape is my favourite single tool, followed by Blender. I'm always researching and compiling ever more obscure programs to work with, as well as putting together new processes using existing tools. [imagebrowser id=13] What other artistic media have had an effect on your art? Architecture, graffiti and cinematography. Print design made me very conscious of negative space and web design scaled my working tolerances down from inches to pixels. How do you spend your days? Usually sat in front of too many screens. My time is split between freelance graphic design and programming work - and since September, fatherhood. I spent from 8am yesterday till 3 this morning hacking fractal formulae to pieces and rendering the results, but the day before it was all websites. I enjoy both the aesthetic and the logical, and try to spend roughly equal amounts of time on each. Which of your recent pieces have you enjoyed making the most? Twilo, a non-fractal A0 poster, drawn manually in Inkscape over a couple of months. I used thousands of layered, semi transparent circles of different colours to give the impression of volumetric light penetrating a thick atmosphere. I also got to use the vectors I'd traced from scans of old motherboards and a photo of one of our cats. Awesome. How has your art evolved over time? I think I have a better aim. I used to try to please the largest audience possible and my work bore the scars. Looking at it must have felt like being pestered into doing something. Experience has made me more confident in what I see as beautiful, which has in turn made me enjoy the whole creative process. I'd never feel the urge to put one of my own posters up. Clearly there's something wrong with that. I also used to be incredibly reluctant to try out new techniques, whereas now I consider the discovery and naturalisation of new tools essential. How has art in general changed since you started? I started with vector graphics years before almost everyone had a computer on their desk, never mind in their pocket. Digital art represented a future that we knew we were headed toward, and like all burgeoning tech, it was expensive and exclusive. The domestication of computers devalued the producers of digital art and design, simply because suddenly everyone had access to the tools, and by proxy to this career choice. However, since then I think we've reached a place where most people can spot an overused Photoshop filter. We're a much more design-aware public who deserve to be addressed as such. What are you currently working on? Tiny pixel art for website icons. Vertigo-inducing, abstract architectural posters and a few album covers. I might learn processing next for some live visualisations. I think I know a few people who'd be interested in such a venture. Any tips on how to survive making money from your art? Do you find it important? It'd be more important if I cared more about money. I undersell myself if left to my own devices and get told off about it. Don't undersell yourself. What do you dislike in art? In my game? Power cuts. What makes you smile in art? Geometry, tessellation and rhythm. Good advice you wish you'd been told earlier? I was told to always do what I think is right, and I interpreted that as doing the most logical thing, but I've since realised that it means to trust instinct, so that's how I'm editing it. Trust instinct - especially if it goes against advice. That last part was mine. )

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