Curator of the upcoming NFT drop by Geoff Davis, Georg Bak has stated: ‘Geoff Davis is one of the pioneers of generative and algorithmic art. The artist founded the Micro Arts Group in 1984 and was among the first artists to use popular home micro-computers to generate abstract moving graphics. Micro Arts produced several curated sets of art for public distribution, including a story text generator which can be regarded as an early predecessor of ChatGPT.
Among his earliest works was MA1 “Abstract Originals”, computer code generated artworks which were distributed on data cassettes and later available on national Prestel TV teletext.
These pioneering artworks (also early forms of pixel art) have been turned into rotating cubes in a 3D CGI animation with synthesizer music and will be released in a series of NFTS.’
Image below: Geoff Davis in 1984, Micro Arts Group. © Geoff Davis, Courtesy of elementum.
The Micro Arts Group (also known simply as Micro Arts) was founded, run and programmed by Geoff Davis in 1984, along with a diverse group of young artists and programmers.
Micro Arts was the first producer of a wide range of publicly distributed computer art. Microcomputers were newly available at low cost and this led to a radical change in the use and consumption of computer graphics and computer-controlled systems. Pong, Space Invaders, Manic Miner and The Dark Crystal arrived around this period. Micro Arts focussed on 'fine art' uses of computer systems.
Micro Arts produced algorithmic generative art, story text generators, political animations, 'slow' and Dada art and more. All of the work was generated (drawn pixel by pixel, as lines etc.) from custom BASIC programming code.
Image below: Geoff Davis, MA1 data cassette box. © Geoff Davis, Courtesy of elementum.
Immediately after this early experimental coded phase, user-friendly painting and drawing programmes appeared and soon became a new mass market. Micro Arts also showed the first Quantel Paintbox art (a graphics system for TV professionals) in their educational print magazine. Apple dominated the pro market. Adobe launched Photoshop and Illustrator in the late 1980s after developing the industry standard PostScript font programme. Cheaper home computers such as the Commodore Amiga, Atari, Sinclair and BBC Micros, had their own software, as each computer had different hardware and operating systems. Micro Arts produced art for Sinclair and BBC Micros, with later releases appearing on Prestel teletext, a pre-internet communication system.
"Abstract Originals" developed dynamic ambient visuals from distinct design concepts. There were no graphics primitives in those days; instead, the program created pixels, mathematically constructing each shape displayed on the screen as lines, triangles, blocks, and other shapes.
‘Lines’ was the first in the display series. Originally only labelled as ‘1’ it is layered lines of various colours and orientation.
Image below from MA1 "Abstract Originals" by Geoff Davis still image from generated sequences © Geoff Davis, Courtesy of elementum.
Adobe launched Photoshop and Illustrator in the late 1980s after developing the industry standard PostScript font manipulation programme. Programmes for home micros also appeared, such as Paintbox, Paint Plus and The Artist. The professional graphics market generally used Apple computers. Cheaper home computers such as the Amiga, Commodore, Atari, Sinclair and BBC Micro had their own programmes, as each computer had different hardware and operating system.
Image below: Geoff Davis, Personal Computer World 1985. © Geoff Davis, Courtesy of elementum.
Some of the reviews Micro Arts has received:
“I think this period is something of a lost era in digital art. It's definitely a good idea to be engaging with it.” —Dr. Sean Clark, Computer Arts Society, Fellow BCS 2019