Lyons has recently been aiming to automate aspects of his practice using a combination of artificial intelligence and commercial machinery, raising questions around labour, authorship and intentionality.
The Affect series uses images produced by machine learning software that emulates the artist’s own mark making. While the source images resemble gestural drawings, they are instantly generated, there is no duration involved, no labour, no errors. They are exactly as the algorithm that created them conceived them to be. Overload utilises Google’s Deep Dream: an artificial neural network originally designed to recognise and categorise images, it has become a novel way for artists and designers to generate material. In this case, the programme was given a scan of a black ink wash that it interpreted figuratively based on the images within its network. The artist can claim little authorship over the resulting image. According to the artist, these works aren’t drawings.
In an attempt to recreate the properties of a drawing, the images are separated tonally then mechanically drawn with an XY plotter. The machines deal with a large amount of information and the process takes time. Time and complexity tend to produce variability, unanticipated errors: ink runs low and pens drip as they are reloaded; paper buckles creating inconsistencies in the line; the machines glitch, cutting indiscriminately through the composition. The result is mechanical, visibly systematic but also humanised by its errors and its tactility. Not entirely what was intended by the artist or the programme, they are just the consequence of a set of processes. They might be drawings.
Mark Lyons was born in 1986 in Newcastle upon Tyne. He studied BA (Hons) Fine Art at Northumbria University, 2009-12. He completed the Graduate Fellowship in Printmaking at Northumbria University in 2012-13, and graduated from Northumbria University’s MFA programme in 2017.