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Brian Eno: 77 Million Paintings

Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings generative project is a “visual music” programme using television and computer screens to create constantly evolving paintings.

This new release, available in limited-edition deluxe numbered packaging, features a generative software disc playable on Mac or PC together with an exclusive interview DVD and a 52-page hardbound book with an extensive essay by Eno covering his career as a visual artist, fully illustrated with previously unseen images.

77 Million Paintings continues Eno’s exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of generative software. “I think of these things as visual music,” he says. “The screen is not being used to tell a story – which is what screens

normally do – but to show a painting … This is a painting that changes all the time, in fact it changes into other paintings and there are 77 million of these, produced by the permutations of several overlaid images, so it’s unlikely you’ll see the same thing twice or, if you do, it won’t last very long. This is a slow changing light painting.”

Although more known for his musical output, Eno has also had a long career as a visual artist and has worked with generative light compositions in the same way that he has worked with generative music on such classic albums as ‘Music For Airports’ (1978) and ‘Neroli’ (1993).

The 77 million paintings are generated from handmade slides, randomly combined by the computer using specially developed software. It also processes the music that accompanies the paintings in a similar way, so the selection of elements and their duration in the piece are arbitrarily chosen, forming a virtually infinite number of variations.

“Most of the original images are either drawn or painted and quite a few are produced by photography so they are pictures of real things in the world which, of course, have their own analogue, uncertain, quality,” says Eno.

“One of the interesting things about this is that the artist doesn’t actually know what the result is going to be. So when I look at this I see things that I didn’t predict because I can’t possibly have seen 77 million combinations. There will be unique moments in this for every viewer, and every viewer’s experience will be somewhat different.”