From Technological to Virtual Art (extract), by Frank Popper

(…) Geometric considerations are at the heart of the iterative hyperstructures and the abstract digital wall prints of French artist Pascal Dombis. Dombis has an engineering background which has helped him to develop his own programming technique as he writes his own algorithms using computer language and a fractal iterative loop. Through this programming technique, Dombis manipulates computer-generated visual hyperstructures which he then synthesizes into abstract digital wall-print fields. These visual fields overthrow, or at least displace, modern rationality in favor of unpredictable emergences of patterns.
Pascal Dombis began to use the computer in his artwork in the late 1980s. At that time, he started to manipulate the computer file as a printmaking plate – using computer prints as a substitute for traditional prints. But the computer output was just one element in his mixed-media work then – work that included all kinds of elements like painting materials, ropes, and metal elements (all assembled to form rather theatrical installations falling somewhere between painting and sculpture).Then, in the early 1990s – through his discovery of fractal geometry and its unlimited possibilities for computer generated geometries – Dombis gradually got rid of all traditional painting and sculpture material and concentrated on exploring the new conceptual space that emerged through self-programmed iterative hyperstructures. We are here already at the heart of the virtual sphere.
Today, Dombis methodically uses an elementary warped prototype as his computational starting point to achieve self-programmed iterative hyper-structures so as to advance a complex pictorial space in which he addresses a miscellaneous collection of network issues such as complexity, perpetuation, enrichment and chaos. By commencing with a singular and uncomplicated warped constituent (a lonely curve or a diminutive portion of an arc) and by reproducing it computationally with perseverance, Dombis achieves an intensely elaborate geotectonic optic structure rich in associative significance. Into Dombis’s virtual matrix rushes a relentless machine-logic bent on achieving a contemporary techno-hyperirrationality.
To achieve this hyperirrationality, Dombis always starts with a singular rational and uncomplicated geometric element and then reproduces it in an iterative loop. During the first loops of the iteration, the starting element can still be recognized. But a structure is soon created than contains a large number of this starting element.
Using the computer’s calculational power, Dombis can generate structures made up of tens of thousands to several million single elements. The resulting configuration would be impractical to generate by hand. Indeed, it would not be possible to anticipate what the final structure would look like after the completion of the calculation process without the computer’s calculational power. This is the unforeseeable result that first attracted Dombis when he discovered the fractal loop’s potentialities. Just a tiny change can generate completely different visual results, leading to infinite combinations of geometric structures.
One of the interesting elements in Dombis’s work is the extreme variety of the output he can generate with his simple algorithm. Because he can add some randomness into his work, Dombis can produce an endless number of combinations and chaotic images, depending on the random calculation used. Hence, from the same file, Dombis can produce an infinite variety of structures – because at each calculation the random seed is reinitialized, leading to a different output.
Dombis terminates his loop process at the point just before what Severo Sarduy called the « black out » (fulfillment of all possibilities). According to Sarduy, in his book Barroco, if a structure is developed incessantly, it will end up as a perplexed all-black facsimile of itself and thus attain its own « black out ».
Once calculated to a point prior to black out, Dombis uses large-format digital printers to output his germinated hyperstructures. Dombis’ work then invades the gallery or museum space in site-specific installations where his hyperstructures are designed to fit on the walls. Moreover, Dombis has developed several large pieces for outdoor urban sites – the largest being in 1999 in Metz, France for a thirty-meter window in an art school. This piece, which could be seen from the city center, was composed from an arced ribbon interlaced and flowed in such a way as to give a baroque rhythm to the architectural setting. From far away, people could follow the lines of blue, red or purple curves. Getting closer, Dombis’ work generated a vertigo where the viewer got lost in a chaotic accumulation of details.
Dombis’ work is truly optic and the observer’s position is important in his work. In front of Dombis’ monumental pieces, the observer can feel a vertigo and immersive sensuousness by moving back and forth.
This multiplicity of networked rhizome worlds is reinforced in Dombis’ s 2001 works through the use of lenticular material. Lenticulars are optical lenses that allow several images to fit into one : when looking at a lenticular image, as the observer’s angle or view changes, the observer can see first one image, then another – revealing progressively the different images. This technique is employed by Dombis in large print works that generate different potentialities for his intense geometric calculations. Here he shows the progress of his mathematical iteration loop in which the original motif disappears into the scrolling network (just before the black out) or he explores the different status of his structures, at different scales – all integrated in a virtual collection of networked images.
In a 2001 installation for a Paris event on the computer virus theme called Festival Virus (organized by Artekno), Dombis installed a printer in the middle of gallery room and continuously printed the same file. Because the file included some randomness, each printout was a different variation on the same formula. The printouts were then hung on the gallery wall – creating a room-full of nearly one hundred different variations.
It is interesting to note that Dombis sees his iterative computational methodology as a kind of arte povera within the new technology. Certainly, Dombis uses the computer for its original and primitive essence: a powerful computational tool that can reproduce simple calculation incessantly. But because Dombis writes his own algorithms and programs, he can control over his germinating art work. It helps him too in his creative process by exploring other computer language techniques and making programming mistakes that turn out to be new explorations in his geometric hyperstructures. (…)

 

Frank Popper, 2007
A leonardo book, published by MIT Press, http://mitpress.mit.edu