Roman Lipski about Art and AI
Some years ago, Roman Lipski, a Berlin-based artist from Poland, was faced with a creative crisis. Then, he met data specialist and artist Florian Dohmann. Both decided to work with artificial intelligence in the future and they developed a software tailored to the paintings by Roman Lipski. The AI follows a certain algorithm and not only inspired the painter to create new works of art, it also became his muse.
Together with the artist and data specialist Florian Dohmann you have developed a software that supports you in painting. How exactly does that work?
The software is an algorithm for colour and shape recognition of image data, programmed by Florian Dohmann regarding the artistic aspects of my paintings. When we met nearly three years ago, I used the multiple method for painting. That means I painted the same motif several times on a large canvas. The core of this painting consists in varying colours, shapes and degrees of abstraction.
These canvases are perfectly suited as an input for the AI. So, we digitized one of these works and fed the data into the system. The system is able to generate new paintings, independently. It studies my motifs, perspectives, colours, brushwork etc. Contrary to my worst fears, we received an endless variety of my own ideas. I was so fascinated by the idea of seeing my own painted street in a landscape from very different artistic perspectives.
You call the AI your muse…
That’s right. This is because the paintings created by the AI inspire me to further unlock the potential of the object depicted. So, I did another painting which was then again entered into the system. This led to new fascinating answers given by the programme. This loop or dialogue continues until today. I am meanwhile at the 8th input stage and it was completely natural to call this AI my new muse.
You have been painting by means of artificial intelligence for three years now. This is certainly a longer process. How exactly can a layman imagine this process?
The use of emerging technologies in the arts is basically nothing new. Art history has shown that artists detect changes and innovations in society and use them as instruments for their own work. Just like the appearance of the camera in those days helped painters include new forms of expressions into their works, my artificial muse helps me extend my art of painting. One of the benefits is that the paintings created are based on my own creative ideas. It’s not about copying it afterwards or declare it to be art, but rather about finding new expressive ways.
The process plays a fundamental role. I carefully explore the suggestions made by the AI and process them in my artistic work. My cooperation with the system has put an end to creative crises and it inspires me each day. With the support of my muse, my art of painting has not only become abstract in the way I have always imagined. I have also become a conceptual artist who is able to illustrate and work on new creative mechanisms thanks to this idea.
Is it indeed possible that AI will be able to support artists in their creative processes?
The advantage of such systems is the speed and ability of generating a high number of combinations. This allowed me to reach my goal quicker, which was to create abstract paintings. My previous figurative painting led to my art being placed in many fine collections and museums. However, as with any artist, there comes a point where a narrative ends and something new and higher is to emerge. This requires not only new ideas, but also unprecedented forms of expression.
The digital muse helps me develop my own potential and – contrary to its background of accelerated digitalisation – to slow down. This is because the permanent study of the actual source helps me extract the essence of a wide range of approaches to painting. I have freed myself from narrative and visual symbols and metaphors. From my perspective, this big step requires a little bit of courage and self-confidence.
Art and algorithms – how do these two things go together? Will AI in the future compete with us for creativity and intelligence?
As you can see, art and algorithms go together very well. Generative networks represent a further instrument to inspire creative processes. On the other hand, artificial intelligence also increases its knowledge about the world through art. In my view, this is a great vision. Artificial intelligence is free from (emotional) needs. Furthermore, artistic creativity does not serve any purpose, which makes competition unnecessary. We use the expression of intelligence, because we compare the ability of the programmes with human skills, although it is simply mathematics. I think that semantics will change, which means that I don’t think that humans and artificial intelligence will compete with each other. Quite on the contrary, I think they will cooperate, support each other and learn from each other.
When do we no longer have to paint, write, compose, paint and think ourselves? Or do you think that we are (still) more creative than artificial intelligence?
Humans will never cease to look for media to express their thoughts. Nevertheless, I understand your question, as the idea of a co-existence of humans and machines is not too positive. However, only humans can develop true creativity. Artificial intelligence will only be able to support the human aspect, but not to replace it.
Your works are represented worldwide. What exhibitions have you planned for the coming year?
2018 has been an extremely exciting year so far. My works were shown at the Futurium Berlin, ZKM Karlsruhe and Kunstverein Kärnten. This has also given rise to performative and installative artworks. Currently, there are no exhibitions planned for 2019, everything is still open. I am currently a lot on stage at various events arranged by the creative and tech industry. I have noticed that this also forms a new art public.
You have lived and worked in Berlin since 1989. What fascinates you about the city?
Berlin has a number of good points. It is the European hub between East and West, and it has a very strong creative potential. Unfortunately, it adapts itself more and more to generally prevailing trends. This makes it more and more difficult to exist as an artist. Berlin is on the way to becoming a metropolis, but in doing so it forgets who truly contributed most to make the city a metropolis: artists, musicians, freethinkers. Although I love this city, I am still convinced that artists will soon find themselves another place where they can be creative.
Last, but not least: Can you complete the following sentence: “Berlin is…”
...a city with many different faces whose greatest asset is its diversity. Therefore, we have to deal with it very