Repetition, variation, generativity

Masjid-i-Jami, Isfahan
Alhambra, Granada
Alhambra, Granada

More images here
Although decorative patterns have been employed by Greeks and Romans, Islamic artists achieved an unprecedented degree of mastery due to discoveries in Mathematics and aniconic precepts. (geometric, calligraphic, floreal).

For a modern reinterpretation of ancient geometric knowledge, you can check the business / community Naked Geometry, by CMU alumnus and instructor James Gyre.

And of course patterns emerge in textiles throughout cultures.
Example Rich symbology embedded in the traditional Kente cloth.

Ghanaian kente cloth
Ghanaian kente cloth

The modularity of textiles made them an early subject of automation. The Jaquard Loom (1804) is one of the first programmable machines and the inspiration for early computing architectures and punch cards.


But flash-forward to machine-influenced or machine-derived ideas of repetition.

In August 62 I started doing silkscreens. I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was all so simple quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it.
– Andy Warhol

Sol LeWitt, Successive Rows of Horizontal, Straight Lines from Top to Bottom, and Vertical, Straight Lines from Left to Right, 1972

In Op-Art (60s)
Abstract subgenre, short lived but influential all across interior design, fashion and advertising. Op-artists were exploring the limits of perception, creating visually tense images and optical illusions.

Victor Vasarely, Boglar II
Victor Vasarely – Titan
Bridget Riley – Movement in Squares
Balm by Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley – Cataract 1967
Bridget Riley looking mod in 1964
Edna Andrade – Black Dragons 1969
Edna Andrade finale 1979
Edna Andrade

Repetition + variation in textile design:

Anni Albers Second Movement – 1978

In minimalist music:

Steve Reich – Clapping music 1972

In early computer art:

Manfred Mohr Cubic Limit 72-77

In «Cubic Limit,» Mohr introduces the cube into his work as a fixed system with which signs are generated. In the first part of this work phase (1972–75), an alphabet of signs is created from the twelve lines of a cube. In some works, statistics and rotation are used in the algorithm to generate signs. In others, combinatorial, logical and additive operators generate the global and local structures of the images.

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
From the Commodore 64 manual

In generative art

Every Icon (1997) John F. Simon, Jr.

Dynamic version. Can you reverse engineer it?

Generative artist LIA

Jared Tarbell – click to see it in real time
Jared Tarbell – Quarter Round


Casey Reas

Same principle applied to rotational symmetry:

Marius Watz – Illuminations B
Marius Watz – Illuminations B



Generative art by Mario Klingermann

Next gen Generative artist Manolo Gamboa Naon

A short history of Generative Art

In level design
Modular generative systems are often used in games to generate levels procedurally:

Forget me not


and also beyond the 2D grid

The problem with the hype, and the media understanding of procedural generation:
No Man’s Sky Is Like 18 Quintillion Bowls of Oatmeal

No Man’s Sky and the trickiness of advertising a procedurally generated game