Mathias Isaksen - Gumbo #359

Gumbo #359

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Gumbo is an intricate long-form Art Blocks Curated series that explores the technicality and aesthetics of fragment shaders and ray marching. Isaksen uses fragment shaders to achieve effects that are otherwise impossible with traditional geometric-based creative processes. The shader takes the position of each pixel on the screen to render and determine its color, allowing for unique variations of palettes and textures. To create the geometric form of each piece, Isaksen purposely misuses traditional ray marching techniques to create a looser and more stylized look by limiting the steps of the system. The project was inspired by an array of sources, including Cold War-era propaganda posters and Japanese ukiyo-e. Isaksen was captivated by the color work of artists like Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Yashima Gakutei and their methods of imprinting colors step-by-step.


Gumbo is, as its name suggests, about simple ingredients coming together, emerging into a stew greater than the sum of its parts.

Early in the development, mindful of my tendency to overengineer, I decided to work under a set of constraints:

  1. Approach any problem from a position of complete ignorance and try to find the simplest way to solve it.
  2. Make the most with as little as possible and avoid introducing complexity unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Accept that intuition often falls short in predicting the best way forward (especially when creating generative art), and entertain any idea that presents itself.

Staying mostly within the confines set by these rules, the development of Gumbo ended up taking me on many unexpected journeys.

At its core, Gumbo explores the diversity of form that can be achieved by combining simple shapes, such as spheres, donuts, boxes, and cylinders. Despite the basic components, the final arrangements are strangely familiar, some reminiscent of space stations, others of internal organs. By painting these structural canvases in an indiscriminate fashion, an intricate interplay between colour and form arises, emphasizing the spatial nature that underlies both. Texture, a subject I deeply appreciate, stars as the main character of Gumbo, celebrated both as a reference to the material world, and, especially, as something with uniquely digital characteristics. Present throughout the project, it is primarily used to illuminate the structures and add life to otherwise flat blocks of colour.

While working on Gumbo, I've found inspiration from a diverse set of sources, ranging from the vibrant and captivating colours of Cold War-era propaganda posters and Japanese ukiyo-e to the texture-heavy work of artists like Virgil Finlay and Bruce Conner. In addition, Gumbo utilises a rendering approach that can be described as a digital equivalent of physical methods like silkscreen and woodblock printing, a connection that was not recognised until the project's later stages.

: Gumbo requires WebGL2 and is computationally expensive to render. Older devices will probably struggle! To save a high-resolution render, press "p" while in live mode and enter the desired size (or add "?resolution=your-size-here" to the end of the URL). Once finished, the image will download automatically.


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Date of Mint

July 19, 2023

Date of Acquisition

July 19, 2023