Compumorphic art – the computer as muse

Following on from the term Biomorphic Art which was coined in the 1930’s to describe the work of artists and sculptors such as Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miró, Jean Arp and Henry Moore, in this paper I will use the term ‘Compumorphic Art’ to describe a set of artworks and artists who borrow visual traits from computer-technology and the Graphical User Interface (GUI), in the formation of creative works. While the works of Biomorphic Art referenced the organic forms of nature, I will propose that Compumorphic artworks reference not just the visual aesthetic of computing technologies but are often conceptually underpinned by a desire to reflect the emotion values, or the ontological qualities we assign to the computer-digital and its impact a technologised society.

I will describe how ‘formally’ these works are created by abstracting the esthetics of the computer (soft and hardware) and reimagining them in material art forms such as paintings, sculptures and installations (transimaging the vision of the digital).  Furthermore, I will discuss how these artworks often utilise hybrid-media combinations from digital/material culture such as: digital-video projections; interactive surfaces; and web-based data, combined with sculptural forms; performance; and audio elements. Other more contemporary Hybrid-media forms such as rapid-prototyping (3-dimensional printing) and augmented-reality devices have also become an important set of techniques used in the creation of Compumorphic art.

In this paper/talk I will discuss some of my own practice-based research recently undertaken at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST), and will show examples of work from other practitioners in this field.


Dr Ian Gwilt is the Director Visual Communication in The School of Design at the University of Technology, Sydney.  He holds an MA in Interactive Multimedia, conferred by the University of Balears (UIB) in Spain, and the Royal College of Art (RCA) London. He has a Phd from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales examining the theory and practice of mixed-reality art. In the last 15 years he has shown interactive installations and digital work at a number of international new media events, galleries and exhibitions. His own practice/research is concerned with augmented reality and locative media, the graphical user interface as creative/cultural artefact, and exploring new forms and contexts for information design.