Traditional visual art involves the translation of three dimensional elements into two dimensional space. Early painters took the leap into perspective, depth, and form, and much of Western fine art has delved deeper. This translation requires many abbreviations, summations, cut corners, and visual decisions. Much of the expression and creative license in fine art happens during this process. The genesis of painting as fine art can be marked almost precisely with the beginning of this translation by liturgical painters such as Giotto. Literal adherence to horizon line perspective defined Classicism. Departure from literal translations between 3D and 2D resulted in many of the important aspects of Impressionism and most of Cubism. Many recent art movements owe their existence to this translation taken to the extreme, the ‘flat’ movements in the mid to late 20th century including Minimalism and Pop Art. The 21st century continuation of this trend is called ‘superflat’.
Today, in 3D computer graphics we use a literal approach to this process where the computer traces the paths of light rays. Graphics software uses algorithms to model light particle physics resulting in our image. Virtual photons emanate from virtual light sources, bounce off of virtual objects with simulated reflective textures and enter a simulated retina.
Computers are now handling most of this translation from 3D to 2D.
If much of the creativity and expression in visual art is involved in the handing of the 3D to 2D translation, what will happen to our centuries-old language of shapes and colors when delegated to a computer to run a photon simulation?