The Curvaceous Computational Paintings of Pascal Dombis, by Joseph Nechvatal

In our era of the late-capitalist circulation of digital signs, the French artist Pascal Dombis’ computer-assisted paintings seem to try to overthrow, or at least displace, modern rationality in favor of a digitally debauched version of some vaguely remembered disordered non-mathematical emergence; now numerically manipulated and prefigured. This techno re-inventiveness of emergence is accomplished by Dombis manipulating computer-generated visual hyper-structures which he synthesizes into abstract digital “paintings”. Indeed, to my eye, within the borders of his painterly spectacle, Dombis’ tottering and circuitous fabrications nearly automatically hasten an elaborate visual irrationality via rational means. Just as antediluvian groups attempted to deal with their repetitious cosmos through irrational excess; so seemingly does Dombis’ computer-performed simulations operate to make the rational/geometrical world move inexhaustibly towards a post-structuralist perverse recovery of its own fallacious nature.

Consequently, Dombis’ hyper-geometric art leads us to a teeming process of rational expurgation through supra-rational excess.To do so, Dombis methodically uses an elementary warped prototype as his computational starting point so as to advance an inhumanely 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 fragment of a curve or a diminutive portion of an arc) and by maniacally computationally reproducing it, Dombis achieves an intensely elaborate geotectonic optic structure rich in associative significance. Into this elastic virtual matrix rushes a relentless machine-logic bent on achieving a contemporary techno hyper-irrationality of the sort which is becoming more and more familiar to us in all aspects of our lives.

This process of irrationality is ironic in that Dombis uses the computer in a simple, fundamental, computational way so as to incessantly compute the curved geometric element (the resulting intricate geotectonic configurations would be impractical to generated by hand as they are made up of tens of thousands to several million bowed constituents). Indeed, Dombis sees this methodology as “a kind of Arte Povera within new technologies”. Regardless, Dombis uses the resultant manic geometric hyper-structures so as to create an illusionary space that plays with the ambiguity between the mathematic structure produced by the computer and its metaphorical elucidation on a pictorial surface; elucidations in which the original motif disappears into the scrolling network. Dombis terminates this hysterical process at the point just before what Severo Sarduy calls the “black out”. 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”.

So long as Dombis’ bowed fabrications can mathematically multiply and permutate undisturbed by any apparent rational restraint (short of “black out”) there is no impeding them or, by implication, our own supra-rationality from attaining ever amplifying spectral capabilities. Hence I am delighted to see his bent simulacrums proceed to blast away prior rational geometric pretexts so as to bring us closer, not to our own limiting geometric “truth”, a category long ago shattered by post-structuralism, but to the denuded realization of our own supra-rational coercive animus, now purified of all non-fantastical, non-multiplying delusions, including, finally, our own inelastic actuality.


Joseph Nechvatal