top of page
  • Æther Cavendish

Écluse: A Commissioned Generative Artwork

A behind the scenes conversation between Atelier and generative artist, Nicolas Lebrun

Écluse is the skillfully constructed evolution of Aqueduct, a generative art series by Nicolas Lebrun, curated by Atelier for Chapter I of the Outliers’ group show, and released earlier this month on fx(hash). On a more significant level, Écluse is the work of an artist exploring the possibilities of dancing between the digital, plotted, and hand painted expressions of an algorithm. The Atelier curator duo, Pixel Symphony and Æther, were immediately struck by the originality of this incredibly versatile project. They agree that Écluse warrants creating a novel, bespoke offering for the small group of collectors who will receive a 1/1 token of the generative artwork, as well as a 1/1 hand painted physical artwork signed by the artist.


PS - It’s great to be having this ongoing conversation with you, Nicolas! We are looking at this beautiful algorithm with you again, and wish to support you in exploring ways in which the code can evolve into a fuller and somehow more nuanced expression of the concept initially investigated with Aqueduct.

We’d like to finetune the specifics of Écluse, which on the generative side, presents as any long-form series, but allows for only 6 to 8 mints because of the exclusive nature of this project, where each token grants access to a physical watercolor edition, hand painted and signed by you. Because of the medium, I think you will want to collect a limited number of palettes that you feel confident you can replicate with your watercolor technique.

NL - Yes, it’s a delicate matter, because some palettes are quite difficult to replicate. Furthermore, watercolor can be fickle: the slightest change in concentration affects color and accidentally mixing two colors results in an undesirable murkiness. I worry that certain palettes might be especially challenging.

PS - Yes, that makes sense. You will probably want to start from the physical water colored plots, and then scan them to digitally capture the exact colors. This will allow, as much as possible, for the creation of digital color palettes which can subsequently be rendered in the medium of physical water color. I suspect that’s the best approach to ensure consistency between the physical and digital iterations.

Left: A handpainted edition of Écluse | Right: Detail of the handpainted artwork

NL - That’s certainly a good approach, but I’m a bit concerned that collectors may be surprised if the physical, hand painted artwork doesn’t match the digital token. This seems to be the expectation.

Æ - Yes, I can see how that departs from what we’ve seen in the digital art space so far. Having said that, as a collector running out of wall space, it’s my experience that I have a number of physical plots sitting in unopened tubes, waiting to be framed. Now if I received a plot that might be subtly different from my digital piece, I would be in a hurry to open that tube, precisely because there is a quality of uncertainty there. I find it thought provoking that there is a quality of randomness that is carried over into the physical, analog world in this way. For me, that’s where the magic resides in this project. 

We’ve spoken a lot about collaboration between Man and the Machine these past couple of years, and of course that’s fascinating. What I love here is the back and forth, the conversation that you are having with the algorithm, a brainchild from which digital iterations are born, before becoming plots, and later physical artworks. There’s something truly alchemical going on here!

PS - Yes, I agree! I can see how a collector also becomes a party to this atypical process. In collecting the digital token of Écluse, a collector is really commissioning you, Nicolas, to create a generative artwork in physical form. The digital artwork, while stunning in its own right, also serves as a voucher, or a certificate, granting rights to a precious physical artwork.

Left: A handpainted edition of Écluse | Right: Detail of the handpainted artwork

NL - Yes, and from this perspective, the entire process being rules driven, the physical piece is so much more than a regular plot perfectly mirroring the digital iteration. An Écluse physical artwork is a bit like an emanation of the algorithm, but with its own specific rules. In fact, the edition is revealed twice, first at the time of the mint, and then when the tube containing the physical artwork is opened. What I find especially interesting from a theoretical point of view, is that an initial protocol is generated by the code, and that the collector then creates a second protocol, a protocol which in turn I go on to interpret, first with the plotter, then with a physical paintbrush in my hand!

Æ - Yes! Very well said, Nicolas, and this is precisely why within the framework of these rules, there is ample wiggle room for each of the physical artworks to have its own particular flavor. 

You can certainly attach a note for collectors to the physical artwork, outlining the conceptual thought process behind Écluse. I don’t think anyone else has done this quite in this way before, where different protocols come into play and where the collector becomes an active participant in the unfolding of the artwork.

PS - Agreed. And yes, collectors love personal notes. I like to include them when I send out plots. 

Æther and I are both delighted to see this coming together!. We can’t wait to see all the different pieces!

Nicolas - Thank you both for your support and friendship, this has been a terrific ride. I feel really good about the unique conceptual qualities and the execution of the work.


Release information:

Écluse on Foundation | Nicolas Lebrun x Atelier

on 12/21/2023 at 17:00 CET

6 handpainted editions


bottom of page