Art From Code: A Response to Vera Molnar

Some artists might start out their process toward a work of art with rules, with a grammar, but Vera Molnar tries to develop rules as she goes. These rules are derived through repetition, a process she calls “experimental methods of physical science”. She adds that she does not mean to imply that art will become science (Molnar, 185, 1975). (This clarification was probably added because Molnar was weary of the suspicion in the art world against computer-generated art.)

In my response to Vera Molnar, I experienced something similar to experimental repetition happening in my process, that instead of starting with an idea or a vision which I am then bound to realise, the image told me how it would like to be made and rules started to form. The process could become focused on seeing, from trial and error, what of interest was happening on the canvas. Arriving at Response 3, I recognised the moment “when a good approximation (had) been achieved” and thus “smaller changes (were) introduced in the succeeding drawings produced by the computer,” as Molnar states in her text Aesthetic Guidelines for Paintings with the Aid of a Computer (Molnar, 187, 1975).  The last image was a discovery for me, and freed me up towards the end result, which was different from my initial idea of the image and felt more alive, more figurative than the first one. And to me, aesthetic pleasure was derived with the help of the computer. I could also recognise a moment when something was lost in the image, when I changed it in a direction which went too far with the aesthetic which had been born through the process, just like Molnar recognised in her different interpretational renderings of her mother’s handwriting (Molnar, 168, 1995).

Reflecting on the process, I would claim that the computer was not only the means to the final image. Considering the time we had for the assignment, I believe that the images the class generated through Molnar’s method of repetition betray the advantage of how much faster a computer can test visual ideas than what students in for example a painting class could do in the same amount of time. The images seemes to be result of a high-intensity trial error process and the results minutiously arrived at, even though it might have been found already in the second response, and then lost in the succeeding images.  

An artwork can be said to begin with an impulse or intuition, which is explored. But it needs to be thoroughly investigated before one can see what of interest is happening on the canvas (whether the canvas is conceptual, virtual or physical), where the artist’s intention and what the audience will appreciate aesthetically meets.

All four responses follow in order, the final Response 4 being the one of greatest aesthetic interest to me.


Molnar, V. (1995). My Mother’s Letters: Simulation by Computer. Leonardo , 28 (3), 167-170.

Molnar, V. (1975). Toward Aesthetic Guidelines for Paintings with the Aid of a Computer . Leonardo , 8 (3).

Author: Fanny Ketter