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22 March 2024

Ornamentation in Crypto Art

by Anastasiia Spirenkova

Ornamentation in Crypto Art

In the meta-universe, an artist can create ornamentation out of anything. Moreover, AI makes it quite easy to do so. Ornament could be a way to demonstrate the infinity of space and time. In the case of crypto art, the question is, how and why artists may use it? And does ornamentation have the potential to become a medium itself in this particular field?


From a purely decorative element to a conceptual centre, the role of ornament in an artwork may vary. In sacred art, ornamentation serves to express fundamental ideas such as the world's infinity and divine omnipresence, where “harmony is central” as Daud Sutton wrote. Instead in geek aesthetics glitch art, that uses software errors as a medium, artists may create vivid ornaments from the point of computer program mistakes and disruption, in other words, out of something opposing the very idea of harmony.


When it comes to crypto art, we see that anything could become an element of a pattern and could be turned into an ornament. An artist can pick any kind of data in order to construct an ornament. And then express it in various forms. Repetitive visual, textual or music loops can show a perpetual expansion of space and time. The curiosity towards ornaments is expanded towards commercial crypto art presented by luxury jewellery brands such as Bulgari


From optical illusions to quirky kaleidoscopes


Tyler Hobbs - Fidenza #58

Tyler Hobbs, Fidenza #58

Some crypto artists as Tyler Hobbs (b. 1987) prefer minimalist and abstract patterns, some stick to letter or geometric forms as the pioneer of generative art Vera Molnar (b. 1924). Inspired by organic patterns of crystals, natural stones or microscopic images of cells, certain artists as Jason Sims (b. 1981) explore the limits of optical illusion and the perception of space.


London-based artist Funa Ye took the elements of Chinese ‘Smart’ (or ‘Shamate’) subculture and state propaganda to create utopian and campy landscapes, ornamentation plays a significant role. In her Neo-Mastr series members of the Smart community and the visual elements that surround them make up a quirky kaleidoscope where ideology and underground culture are combined. Ornament here is the way to show the social complexity and the existence of an individual in modern China and the simultaneous presence of various aesthetic elements in everyday life.



Funa Ye - Neo-Mastr Portraits

Funa Ye, Neo-Mastr Portraits, Available for purchase on TAEX via the link


How ornaments may affect identity? Jason McGrath sees digital multitudes as something that “begins with sameness” in the contrast to mass human ornaments that aim, as he writes, to ‘make what are organic and different—individual human bodies—look, as much as possible, mechanised and identical’. However Funa Ye’s NFT drop is neither of those things. She uses ornamentation as the tool to show agency of the members of a subculture community.


Ornamentation has always been associated with decorative art i.e. applied art. Which by many may still be considered as secondary or even not art at all. For Victoria Salinger ‘the argument that beautiful or interesting patterns are not art—along with the corollary idea that “mere ornamentation” is not art, not valuable, and not interesting—lies at the heart of discussions of abstract art from the early twentieth century, including from the very artists so many 1960s and 1970s computer artists showed interest in and emulated, such as Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee.’. 


Ornament as a result of labour or observation


Thanks to several generations of female artists, finally such media as embroidery or needlework, which previously were often labelled as secondary or considered as ‘female crafts’, have taken their rightful place among other techniques and are less and less questioned. Hopefully ornamentation as an idea will follow the same path and all the prejudices will stay aside. Salinger argues that the process of calculation may and should be perceived as a kind of human labour. She suggests looking at numerous handwritten tables of numbers created by a German conceptual artist Hanne Darboven as a ‘consciously political choice, engaged with questions about the changing nature of labour, authorship, and responsibility in the information age’.


Hanne Darboven

Hanne Darboven, Section of the Century Calender


Most of the ornaments that we see in crypto artworks are software generated, however there is always a place for ‘found patterns’. Moreover crypto art may be seen as a source of a ‘new organic’, i.e. in Mat Collishaw in his project ‘Heterosis’ offers collectors to cultivate animated digital flowers, by combining floral genetic coding with computer algorithms. The collector can impact the final result, but Collishaw aims to encourage collectors to interact with each other through cross-breeding digital flowers with each other. The artist has laid down recessive genes that can produce unpredictable results in certain combinations. This opens a participative potential of crypto art and manifests how synthetic can transform into organic and backwards.


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How it went. Multimodality: The Audiovisual Avant-garde

TAEX had joined an intense programme of London Digital Art Week by presenting a one-day exhibition Multimodality: The Audiovisual Avant-garde by Massimo Magee, curated by Aurora Garrison. We were delighted to see our fellow partners and collectors at Cromwell Place in the heart of London and present digital art in all its polyphony. The show featured the installation 3 Colours in 3 Modes including six digital and three physical artworks by Magee. The digital pieces were generously powered by Muse Frames.

30 April 2024