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  • Pixel Symphony

The Generative Grammar of Tiller's Art: A Deep Dive into 'Hash Pop'


Hey Tiller, it's exciting to have you join us for Atelier's 'Visual Poetry' show. Your work, particularly how you've played with typography and minimalism, really caught our attention—it has a depth that speaks volumes. We're eager to dive into the conversations and ideas behind your art as we prepare to showcase what you've been working on.


Let's dive right in—could you kick us off by sharing the conceptual foundation behind your upcoming generative art project ‘Hash Pop’? How do these core ideas manifest in your approach to this project. And along the way tell us a bit about your background and the journey that has led us to this point.


The foundation of all my art lies in the utilization of space and the deliberate intersection of design—to communicate—and art—to express. We're given only a simple canvas, and how we utilize that space fascinates me the most. My background in typography and marketing design significantly influences everything I create, not just from a typographical standpoint but also through the intentional use of space and the desire to communicate through both design and language. I couldn't put it any better than John Maeda did in his blog post "The Bermuda Quadrilateral," where he discusses freedom versus constraints. Having worked long in a world constrained by markets and clients, my generative art serves as an outlet for seeking greater freedom in expression. Maeda's blog post also facilitates a discussion on generative art approaches from both a theoretical and cultural standpoint. Generative artists might lean into different sections of the quadrilateral or mix them in intriguing ways. An example of this is the phrase "the code is the art," which I interpret as the notion that the complexity of code equals quality. Is that accurate? :) It's fascinating to see how generative art uniquely merges these disciplines and tests market theories and collector interests.


'Hash Pop' is heavily inspired by pop art, poster art, and propaganda art. Some of the most impactful artists are designers who possess the unique ability to convey an idea through artistic expression. Interestingly, this is why memes (and well-crafted billboards!) serve as powerful modern-day propaganda tools, communicating an opinion or stance through art, design, and well-structured words. I find it compelling to hear artists discuss their work as a means of expression to communicate something—be it an idea, feeling, opinion, etc.—while also maintaining a certain purity in their approach. This presents a conflict between artists and designers, often referred to as the "disciplinary divide." Are we creating art simply for the sake of expression, or are we aiming to communicate something? Is the level of directness in communication what differentiates art from design? My art approach can probably best be described as an extension of my design (applied) background, which allows for more expression but is generally influenced by typography, the use of white space, minimalism, structured spacing, and symmetry.


I realize my thoughts are somewhat scattered, but I hope this provides a glimpse into my background and the thought process and inspiration behind the art I create, including this piece.


Absolutely, diving a bit deeper based on what you've shared about the interplay of design, art, and space in your work—how do you see this blending challenging the traditional boundaries of poetry? And, what new layers of understanding are you aiming to add through the generative nature of your project?


To me, poetry involves using words to convey a feeling, anchored in a specific time and space. Like any piece of writing, the reader must be in the right frame of mind—or space—to fully appreciate poetry or any text. A book becomes meaningful to a reader only when they can connect it to their actual or perceived experiences. This is why recommendations for books, poems, or any literary work are highly subjective. The consumer of the words, and the one interpreting their meaning, must be positioned closely to the author's intended message. The concept behind 'Hash Pop' is to capture a specific moment through the printing of a Hash, which is not only a crucial part of the generative art piece but also signifies the era and space of the art's existence—the blockchain era. The poetry is in the hash, serving as a timestamp for the work that communicates directly to those engaged with this space. I make it a point to include the actual hash in all my artwork as a bridge between the physical and the virtual worlds. When a piece is printed, it forms a subtle link through the hash to another existence in a different realm that many are yet to discover.


Moving on from that, in our previous conversations you've mentioned a few names that have inspired your approach. Could you share more about how these visual poets and their unique uses of typography and space have influenced your own creative process?


There are so many artists who have left a mark on my approach to art, some of whom I've regrettably forgotten over the years. I've always been particularly drawn to the typographical work of Vera Molnar, from her early experiments to her more recent "Themes and Variations". Her deliberate use of whitespace, along with the careful balance she strikes between color and shapes, has always stood out to me. Mimmo Manes is another artist whose use of words to convey meaning has been a source of inspiration. Similarly, Nanni Balestrini was a master at delivering messages through typography, as seen in works like "We Want Everything". Rida Abbasi's creative fusion of words in art and design has also influenced me deeply, as has Paul Prudence's work, which uses typography in visually compelling ways. Mark Webster’s work, with its strong use of typography, structure, and color, has also been incredibly inspiring. Additionally, propaganda artists like Norman Rockwell, considered by some as the first large-scale creator of memes, along with other mid-century propaganda artists, have influenced my perspective

You've touched upon the fascinating aspect of randomness and controlled chaos in your work. How does this element play a critical role in distinguishing your artwork from the traditional structure of poetry? Moreover, how does the integration of random elements, like the hash, enrich the narrative you're trying to convey?


The hash itself, and its representation within the typeface, embodies chaos. It can consist of any combination of words and numbers, ensuring that no two pieces are identical. Their arrangement is controlled within a grid layout. Personally, I don't perceive poetry as something structured but rather as an endeavor to impose structure on what must inherently remain interpretive and chaotic, varying with the audience. My aim is to highlight the uniqueness of the era in which generative art exists, emphasizing the concept of randomness through the hash. With 'Hash Pop', choosing colors presented a challenge, as I aimed to keep the selection process as open as possible, avoiding predefined color palettes. This necessitated extensive experimentation with code and color theory to achieve the right color contrasts in the final outputs. Moreover, the inclusion of four random background shapes introduces a layer of uniqueness and complexity, further adding to the piece with influences from pop art.


Delving into the elements of color, form, and motion, you've shared some insights into how these aspects are integral to conveying the poetic narrative of your pieces. Could you elaborate on how the specific choices in these elements contribute to the overall atmosphere and message of your artwork?


I believe I've already touched on this in my previous answers, but the main idea is to capture a specific moment in time for those who are ready to understand, interpret, and embrace it. The colors, forms, and textures in my work are inspired by pop art and propaganda art, notably from artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roy Lichtenstein. The texturing aims to replicate the look of mass production printing techniques, such as screen printing and risography. I find texturing particularly challenging, as code-based texturing methods like paper backgrounds and noise often appear inauthentic once printed, giving off a faux appearance. To counter this, I use subtle transparencies to create variations in the printed artwork, influenced by the characteristics of the physical papers and inks used. My goal is for each piece of art to not only be designed for printing but to also retain authenticity as a printed piece, guiding my design decisions after many tests with different printing methods.


You've highlighted the significance of the hash as a symbol within your project. In the broader context of visual poetry, what do you hope this symbol, along with the other elements of your work, communicates to the viewer? How does it connect them to the specific time and cultural milieu of the blockchain era?


The hash symbolizes a unique element, representing the specific period when the artwork was created and first encountered. Similar to the purpose of early propaganda, it communicates a message deeply connected to the cultural and temporal context of its creation. This is akin to poetry, crafted to express a particular aspect of life that encapsulates the shared experiences of both the artist and the audience. The hash uniquely links the artwork to its era and context, echoing how propaganda art was designed to elicit a targeted response or convey a message pertinent to its viewers. The background imagery and texturing draw inspiration from a range of pop and propaganda art styles.


Language and text play pivotal roles in your artwork, serving as a bridge between your background in design and your artistic expression. How do you balance the communicative and expressive potentials of text in your work, especially considering your interest in minimalism and clarity of message?


Typography, simple yet meaningful shapes, and the strategic use of words to express an opinion will probably always form a substantial part of why and how I create. My goal is to communicate a shared aspect of our collective experience. I'm endlessly intrigued by how seemingly simple concepts like memes, along with propaganda art, pop art, comics, and advertising, can profoundly impact generations, movements, and cultures—both positively and negatively. Early in my design career, I learned the importance of brevity in messaging. For instance, a useful tip for billboard writing is to fit your message on your thumbnail; if it doesn't fit, it's too long. Conveying complex messages succinctly is a formidable challenge, yet it's increasingly crucial given the shrinking attention spans today. My background in design has significantly influenced my art and the compromises I choose to make.


And considering your background, how do you think underlying principles of rhetoric and marketing might subconsciously influence the visual and poetic impact of your artwork?


This one's a bit tricky. I'd say I'm not actively employing rhetoric in this specific piece, though that might spark some debate. My journey into generative art has been more about embracing expression over mere application, hinting at a deliberate pivot away from traditional rhetoric. Nonetheless, rhetoric has been a pivotal part of my evolution as a designer and artist. Early on, I delved into "The Boron Letters" by Gary Halbert, a monumental figure in marketing copy, whose strategic use of the AIDA framework (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) is fascinating for its breakdown of human psychology to drive action. It's very likely that these lessons have subtly influenced my artwork, often without me even realizing it. While I'm not trying to convey any hidden messages in Hash Pop, the idea has certainly become more intriguing to me. On a related note, the modern necessity for artists to manage their own marketing, PR, and business affairs is quite the juxtaposition, pushing them to apply their creative skills in new ways. It's a reminder that the worlds of designers, artists, and marketers aren't that far apart.


Lastly, considering the technological aspects of creating generative art, how do you navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by your coding skills? Do you see these skills as a boundary to your creative expression, or do they perhaps push you towards exploring new artistic frontiers?


Indeed, my current coding abilities significantly influence my capacity for full expression, but I see this as part of the creative process. Having spent decades immersed in drawing and designing, I'm constantly overflowing with more concepts than I can possibly bring to life. At the core, my motivation is simply the act of creation, utilizing any material at hand, whether it's wood, paint, metal, concrete, or code. The thrill of bringing something new into existence, something that wasn't there before, is my true driving force. The notion that art requires a specific purpose or underlying narrative seems absurd to me. Why can't we create just for the joy of creation itself? Is there really a need for a profound message or intent for societal influence in every piece? To me, that's an unnecessary complication. Art, in its essence, is about playfulness and exploring possibilities to elicit a reaction, be it from others or oneself, without the need for it to be any more complex.


In closing, I hope that this is helpful. This was challenging, as it's difficult to remember how I got here over a 25-year span of creating. There have been so many people, ideas, concepts, tools, and inspirations over that time span that undoubtedly brought me here, to this point in time and given me my current ability and opinions. Cheers to the journey and thanks for the opportunity to think this through :)

This was a conversation between Tiller and Pixel Symphony.


Release information:

'Hash Pop' on FXHash | Tiller x Atelier

April, 2024

100 editions


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