Part of

Zufallszwänge, Robot Imagination: Between science and art.

28 September 2013 to 20. October 2013 at the „BildungsTURM“ of the „Kulturzentrum am Münster“in Konstanz, Germany.

In this exhibition Patrick exhibits the outcome of his 9 months residency in Konstanz University’s Computer Graphics and Media Design group. The residency has been focused on developing algorithms to drive the painting robot, e-David. Three Pauls will also be present, modeled on the “5 Robots Named Paul” installation.


Human Studies

The robots I develop are influenced by research into human behaviour, more specifically how human beings depict other humans, how humans perceive artworks and how humans relate to robots. The artifacts produced by these computational systems can also be considered as studies of the human.

Painting Paul’s Memories with e-David

About the Video

This video presents the later stages of the painting process with the full process consisting of 32 stages spread across three days. The video only shows the assistant’s work in a chronological manner, the robot’s scenes are flash-backs. Here we see the human assistant performing the repetitive, mindless task of applying thin, uniform, transparent, slightly coloured layers. This is the only work the human does, (8 times, after every 3 stages painted by the robot). The human also waits for the paint to dry. At each stage the robot analyses images of the subjects, and takes decisions about the location, direction and length of each brush-stroke (3 different sizes of brush are used in total). Between each of the 32 stages, the robot takes a photo of the paintings in progress. It then uses this information to decide where and how to place the next brush-strokes. The painting process is very loosely inspired by old masters techniques (17th-18th century).

Underlying Ideas

When attempting to get robots to do something, the interesting thing is the realisation that human are extremely sophisticated, versatile systems. Actions that are effortless for us to perform, are to date extremely difficult for a robot to perform. Tasks such as handling paint with brushes and looking at the painting in progress are complex. In this context tasks have to be simplified, limiting their complexity, this is often achieved by constraining the environment, the tools and the goals. This could be seen as a form of stylisation process. It took 2-3 years for Thomas Lindemeier and Mark Tautzenberger to transform what was an industrial robot into an amazing and unique tool for scientific and artistic exploration. They did such a good job that in just a few months, I could write software that would drive e-David to achieve paintings that I would have liked to have produced by hand.

When working with a robot such as e-David, it is important to know what one is trying to achieve before implementation as testing tends to take a full day and simulations can only give indications of the possibility of something working or not. This, combined with an important deadline such as this exhibition forced me to set a number of artistic and technical aims that could also be considered as a series of constraints which define the artwork.

  • An appearance reminiscent of pre-Impressionist painting with a very painterly effect, such Goya’s or Rembrandt’s works.
  • A lighting akin to Chiaroscuro, achieved by thick, well-defined brushstrokes (impasto), with tonal variations from a succession of thin transparent layers (glazes).
  • An appearance reminiscent of early computational images: This is achieved by only using straight brushstrokes, with a limited number of orientations and a limited tonal range (8 levels).
  • Using techniques that I explored as a painter: Many times I have experimented with similar methods to produce portraits but was never satisfied by the results.
  • Using e-David’s visual feedback capacity: The algorithms driving e-David for this series use three to four brushes. The robot looks where the previous brushstrokes are to compute where the next brushstrokes should be placed.
  • Using e-David’s industrial capabilities: Industrial robots such as e-David are designed to perform repetitive tasks. The paintings exhibited here were executed in a series of 9 concurrently painted works. Interestingly, the paintings are the result of a collaboration between human and robot, with e-David taking the master’s role, and myself taking over the assistant’s role, whilst I waited for the paint to dry in order to apply successive uniform glazes. This feature of the human becoming the slave to the machine is commonly observed when working with these systems and is also the case with Paul’s assistant, whose only function is to change the paper.
  • Having a strong link with Paul: The individuals portrayed in this series are taken from Paul’s memory. Paul stores a digital image of each person it has drawn (more than two thousand so far), some are friends, most are people I have met only once.
  • Last but not least, to produce paintings that I would be satisfied to exhibit as if they had been painted by my own hand.

Portrait Gallery

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If you are on Ipad, Iphone, or android view the images in Flickr Here


By Steph Horak

Contact Patrick Tresset on tressetp(at)gmail.com


There is a saying in France: “A good craftsman always has good tools”. e-David is an amazing tool created over the past few years here in Konstanz by Mark Tautzenberger and Thomas Lindemeier under Prof. Oliver Deussen’s supervision. I cannot thank Prof. Deussen enough for inviting me to work in total freedom with e-David. My gratitude also goes to the zukunftskolleg for having facilitated and financed my stay in Konstanz, and this exhibition. Albert Kümmel-Schnur for his patience, professionalism and energy whilst organising this exhibition. Thanks also go to Frederic Fol Leymarie for supervising and co-directing the AIkon-II project, and to all the students here at Konstanz who have been involved in this project.

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