Kaleidoscopic Tilings #1


This could be part of the Facebook posts series, but it kind of got bigger than that. It all started last January, when I saw some unusually ornate and convoluted ice crystals on the roof one morning, which I simply had to photograph:

David Chelsea is watching:
Grey Gardens


Their brocaded appearance made me wonder how they would look tiled and repeated in Photoshop, so I took a photo, cropped a section and created this image file, which to my eye looks like a Persian rug:


That got me wondering how that Photoshop technique would look applied to similarly nonobjective images, so I tried it out on a few paintings by people like Franz Kline and Willem De Kooning:



I then went through a heavy phase of applying this technique to everything from coffee stains to photographs of naked mole rats. There was a period when I was posting at least one example a day to my Facebook page, sometimes putting my own spin to images in the news. Here is my version of the leaked self-portrait by George W. Bush:


I have long been a philistine about abstract art, but once I gave it the kaleidoscope treatment, I could start to see the appeal. A Jackson Pollock action painting makes some fine stoner psychedelia. John Updike once remarked that abstract artists must have to work very hard to avoid any pattern suggesting a human face, but once you introduce mirror symmetry, faces and figures are impossible to avoid. To my eye, Pollock’s painting teems with samurais and Buddhas:



The aesthetics of kaleidoscopic tiling are sideways of what I ordinarily like. I’ve been putting images from artists I admire through the treatment, and in many cases the results are blah. Maxfield Parrish looks dim and watery, Norman Rockwell looks like a delft tile, E. J. Bellocq looks like a test pattern. What comes off best in this more or less random selection is the Laocoon (bottom row, third from left), which has a nice H.R.Giger grossness, a Polaroid of an ex-girlfriend with plenty of decay caused by spotty toner (second row left) and a beige and gray pattern just below it that was formerly a Philip Pearlstein. The Lucian Freud example to the immediate right is typical; the forms in the twisted sheets are far more visually interesting than the slice of naked model.


I’m not sure where I take this idea next. Textile patterns? Wrapping paper? In the selection below you have sculptures by Jeff Koons, photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin, George W. Bush and Scarlett Johansson’s self-portraits, and an image from Paris Hilton’s sex tape (shot in night vision, hence the nice green):


My Facebookfriend Andrei Molotiu posted a student drawing of his a while back, highlighting its accidental resemblance to a Pollock drawing:


(Molotiu on the left, Pollock on the right.)

To amuse us both, I tiled the image to show how easily it converts to a flooring design, then Photoshopped it back into its natural environment:



All of this kaleidoscoping has gotten me to pay more attention to random textures out there in the world, and at home. Here is my studio sink:


The geometry of kaleidoscopic tiling is interesting. Although there are an infinite number of possible radial patterns (any even number will work), there are only four shapes of tile that can form patterns that repeat infinitely; a rectangle and three kinds of triangle- equilateral, 45°-45° right triangle, and 30°-60° right triangle (an equilateral triangle cut in half). Each produces patterns with a different character- a rectangular pattern forms into strips that look like wallpaper, while a 30°-60° triangular pattern has a very pronounced radial appearance, and the other two are somewhere in between. The basis can be anything you choose- an original design, a portion of a photograph, a scrap of dirty napkin, or as in this case, a Monet painting of water lilies:





Maybe my favorite so far is this image of Pope Benedict, because his head is just about visible if you look twice:

Bye, Bye, Benedict
Bye, Bye, Benedict

Still to come: my first kaleidoscopic tiling commission.