William Latham

Mutator1. Zapx6red-13, 1990 - 2023

Print on high grade paper and original digital file

100 x 100 cm

Created whilst Latham was Artist in Residence at IBM UK Scientific Centre in the late 80s and early nineties, it shows a mutated organic FormGrow / Mutator form (ZAPX6RED-13) carved out of a single block of synthetic marble with pinkish, white and reddish bands. This form is Raytraced with “head-on” lighting and cast shadows gives the illusion that it is real. It belongs to a series of works described by Latham as “Ghosts of Sculptures” – pseudo-photographs of organic sculptures that never existed in the real world. These works celebrate the creative potential of Fractal geometry and Perlin Noise and uses a clean 3D Renaissance perspective aesthetic with a single central vanishing point. The rendering and lighting and in photo-realist style is reminiscent of Dutch still life painting.

Latham’s work during this period builds on his early FormSynth evolutionary ideas and presents the idea of “artist as Gardener” with the artist working in partnership with the computer picking, marrying and breeding forms using a genetic system to evolve extraordinary organic forms. This work is a direct result of Latham’s early collaboration with mathematician and programmer Stephen Todd, a collaboration which has continued to this day. Stephen was the creator of ESME (Extensible Solid Model Editor) at IBM, a programming language which allowed William to explore the procedural generation of complex forms in his evolutionary system, which came to be known as FormGrow and then Mutator.

Up to this point, ’s solitary evolved Mutator forms from 1987 to 1990 had floated in a black void, which was described by the artist as “floating free from gravity in the “Infinity of Computer Space”. This piece showed a creative shift towards filling the whole picture and also using brighter and richer colours, which continued after William left IBM and produced his Rave Period images and later again would be present in his immersive Mutator VR works from 2016 onwards. Referencing Magritte’s Listening Room (1952), William’s image has a similarly claustrophobic feel and, as well as recalling Magritte’s trapped forms in closed rooms, also calls to mind the bold wood-grained texture employed by Magritte, for example, in his painting The Restless Sleeper. These Mutator and FormGrow images are deliberately unsettling and timeless, presenting a strange world of synthetically natural forms. The works also look to reconcile Systems Art with Surrealism. This surrealist influence on Mutator was also strengthened by William’s friendship at that time with the painter Matta whom he met in Monte Carlo and visited in his studios in Paris and London. This Surrealist influence persisted in William’s later works and can be seen in particular in his new Computer Gothic B+W Infinity Drawings from 2022 onwards.
ABOUT William Latham

William Latham is well known as an early pioneer of Generative Art through his Mutator Evolutionary Art created at IBM in the late eighties and early nineties. His work, which shows strange organic, often serpentine, forms, is produced using his “alternative evolutionary software system” (developed with Stephen Todd and team), which Latham uses to pick and breed 3D forms freed from the limits of the human imagination.

His work was widely shown in museums and touring shows in UK, Germany, Australia and Japan at that time. Latham’s work is focused on using evolutionary processes to create art centred on the idea of “Artist as Gardener,” an idea which originated from his time as Henry Moore Scholar at the Royal College of Art in the early eighties where he created his FormSynth drawings and etchings which were to become a blueprint for his later Mutator work. On leaving IBM in the mid-nineties he set up a studio in Soho and moved into working in Rave Music where his organic art had built up a big following in the emerging Rave and Cyberculture scene. After three years he and his team of around 70 people then moved into developing games working with Warner Bros and Universal Studios, in 2002 they created the hit game The Thing based on the John Carpenter movie which used his organic style.

In 2007 he moved away from entertainment and become a Professor in Computer Art at Goldsmiths where he restarted his creative collaboration with IBM mathematician and programmer Stephen Todd. They resurrected and extended their old Mutator code and pushed the technology into VR creating highly novel organic immersive experiences for the public. The VR work has been shown in many touring exhibitions in China, Japan, Peru, Belgium and UK. Mutator VR uses his core evolutionary ideas but also shows strong influence from Rave and interactivity from games. Recently he has worked on his Fantasy Virus Mutator series and more recently again has been working in B+W on his Infinity Mirror series of images that can be described as “Computer Gothic”, influenced by Durer’s engravings on the one hand and electron microscopy on the other.

Latham’s work is in the permanent art collections of The Pompidou Centre Paris, The V&A, The Gulbenkian Foundation and The Henry Moore Institute.

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Mutator1. Zapx6red-13
Mutator1. Zapx6red-13