John Hovig

  • Shakers Creek #3, 2023 40" x 30" archival inkjet on aluminum - unique edition (one-off print)

John Hovig

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John Hovig, like Toby Rosser, is an internet developer; he has been “steeped in software coding” since 1980. Hovig originally wanted to be an architect, and both that predilection and his profession are evident in his current work, which is highly structured, despite its predominantly random genesis. “I love that coding is a language and I can take architectural structure and coding language and apply it to my art,” Hovig says. In his quest to create something “precise and a bit wonky,” Hovig’s earlier practice involved painstakingly laying out paperclips, arranging them into intricate structures as if they were pickup sticks. Since 2020, having used his coding expertise to create an innovative art-making app, Hovig literally programs his pieces, with stunning results.

The app, called “Histories of Polybius,” refers to Polybius, a famed Greek cryptographer, and is written in the Python software language. By giving the computer instructions about color, shape, and composition, and then allowing it to randomly generate hundreds of permutations, Hovig is able to strike a fascinating balance between his human creativity and the computer’s ability to produce infinite spins on the Polybius Python algorithm. “I used to be very controlling with the paper clip constructions. Now I allow the computer to make decisions on colors, shapes, and forms within the parameters that I have established. I can tell it to use a line or curve that squiggles and bends back on itself or use color in a certain way, and the computer takes over. It is very freeing!”

Hovig’s picks from recent crops of computer images—he might pluck 10 from several hundred—are printed with archival inkjet on aluminum, each in an edition of one. The images in Hovig’s Shakers Creek series (2023), range from elegant and lacy to more solid and dynamic, but all share the same ephemeral—almost numinous—quality–as if rather than generated by a computer, they were generated by the cosmos. Shakers Creek #6 could be a sea creature, part anemone, part seaweed. Rendered in shades of purple, green and yellow, the image floats against a stark black background, like a bright nocturnal bloom. Shakers Creek #2, in brown, black and green, resembles delicate, tangled skeins of thread or wool, suspended in white space. Others in the series are curvilinear masses of squiggles, from compellingly minimalist to complex and dense; these lyrical digital doodles, with monochromatic backgrounds of yellow, pale pink and periwinkle, sustain the other-worldly sensibility of Hovig’s work.

 – Phoebe Hoban

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