Visions & Virtuosities – Culture City :: SRQ Magazine article by Phil Lederer

It looks like a portal to another world, the central star flaring out and eclipsed by prismatic crystalline structures giving way to pseudo-topographic network and shadow layers. On the one hand, the effect is cosmic, evoking vast infinitudes, emergence. On the other hand, it feels almost intimate and intrusive, as if the viewer is positioned in another’s eyeball, looking outward and stealing that fleeting moment from within. It hangs on the wall inside the home of its creator, digital artist Diana de Avila.

“I woke up at 2 a.m. with a vision and did it in a fit of insomnia,” she says casually, and one thing becomes immediately clear: 400 years ago they would have it. burned at the stake. Since 2017, de Avila has been blessed with what she calls an “artistic gift,” which manifests not only in visions, but also in the creative compulsion she nurtures with the hundreds of programs and thousands of equations and the growing repository of code she uses to create her art. “It just happened like magic,” she continues with a mischievous smile, not helping her case at all with the frightened Puritan demographic. “So completely sudden.”

But there’s no black magic or devilry at play here. No witchcraft or cursed pact. On the contrary, de Avila has what is known as Acquired Savant Syndrome, an extremely rare condition in which traumatic brain injury or disease results in the emergence of extraordinary skill. In de Avila’s case, it was both a motorcycle accident with a split helmet while serving in the military and a relapse of multiple sclerosis that lasted for years and left ultimately resulted in synaesthesia and an artistic awakening. She can’t quite explain where her visions and insights come from, but neither can science.

All she can do is follow them. Create when the images appear and the compulsion hits. And where other artists turn to oils and acrylics, pastels or crayons, de Avila turns to one of her many devices – computers, iPads – and the limitless expanse of a digital canvas where she can indulge in her wonder.

De Avila had never heard of fractals before he woke up, but now they dominate his brain space, appearing before his eyes of their own accord and burning their imprints on his gray matter, tattooed on his thoughts. She finds them fascinating, getting lost in their endless permutations, the inviting depth of their self-similarity that speaks to a paradox of both endless complexity and sublime simplicity.

And so when one appears to her, de Avila has no choice but to continue – to start some of the hundreds of computer programs she has learned to navigate and manipulate since she received her gift (an intuitive understanding and an enthusiasm for these labyrinthine programs and systems being another side effect of his savantism) and rediscovering, in a sense, this fractal image. She may not wield a paintbrush, but by entering equations and adjusting variables, she sets the parameters of her digital creation and commands the artificial intelligence that calculates the myriad of curves, colors, lines and shapes. , building the image piece by piece.

But above all, de Avila is not a prisoner of the fractal image. Although his art begins from such a calculated starting point, mapped and traced by mathematical axiom, bound by the limits of artificial intelligence, it quickly becomes a playground for de Avila’s artistic intuition. In this digital space, the laws of trigonometry become as malleable as any paint or pigment, and de Avila, from her position as an artist, begins to manipulate the expression of mathematical truth into something, in her eyes. , even more perfect. “I try to take what flies in front of my face and turn it into reality,” she says.

The resulting fractal manipulations range from trippy Journey with Morpheuscreated in part by over 30,000 individual quadratic Bezier curves, drawn and layered to create this topographic, impressionistic-looking effect Tree of life and even the near-photorealistic clouds and shoreline of simple things. The only devilry is in the detail, where de Avila’s digital brushstrokes can be seen in the myriad arcs and curves.

Although Suddenly Acquired Savant Syndrome remains rare, experts identify, broadly, three stages artistic savants go through when exploring their dormant talents: imitation, improvisation, and creation. For her part, de Avila thinks that rings true. His early work and first exhibition, an open call at the Art Center Sarasota, had a distinctly Mondrian flavor, followed by forays into the abstract that belied an artist on the move, always in search. And she remembers when she found her voice, at the end of 2019. “I became artistic myself,” she says.

There was no big dramatic moment or climactic achievement, no fanfare to herald its arrival, but rather the stealthy confidence that only comes from getting the job done and embracing the artist within. “I learned to deal with it,” says de Avila. “I trust my intuition and I trust the process.”

De Avila’s latest series, a quartet of physics-based fractal manipulations of a crashing wave printed on textured metal, are on display in this month’s “Shifting Perceptions” exhibition at SPAACES, where de Avila will be showing alongside artist Julie Kanapaux.

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