In Conversation with Arttu Koskela (Shaderism) on Blind Spots cover photo


In Conversation with Arttu Koskela (Shaderism) on Blind Spots

by Jordan Kantor

Arttu Koskela (Shaderism) is a generative artist and creative developer based in Bansko, Bulgaria. He uses web technologies to create real-time artwork, often incorporating aspects of interactivity, simulations, and audiovisuality while exploring themes of playfulness and self-reflection. His creative coding artworks have been exhibited at the Responsive Dreams and Latent festivals in Spain. Koskela holds a degree in arts from the University of Hertfordshire.
Jordan Kantor: Hi, Arttu. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak in advance of your upcoming Curated release Blind Spots. Before talking about that project, can you tell us a bit about your creative journey? How did you first get into making art?
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism): From early childhood until my late teens, I lived for music, perhaps alongside games. I played saxophone in a conservatory and orchestra for years, also studying guitar and playing in bands. Composing, recording, and mixing music would be what I’d call my first experience creating something that I also thought of as art. Since then, it’s been always important for me to have a creative outlet, and in many ways, I see the work I am doing now connected with my background in music. In terms of art, I did a student exchange year in Japan in 2009 and bought a camera to take along (probably inspired by the countless home videos and photos that my parents took). While I first started just to document memories, my photographs slowly but surely became more artistic, and I started being more intentional about composition and editing them on the computer.
Arttu Koskela_Untitled Pieces_2015_2018.png
Left Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Untitled, 2015. Photograph. Right Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Untitled, 2018. Photograph.
JK: I can imagine spending an exchange year in Japan was very impactful. What a cool experience. From those early forays into considering your photographs as artworks in their own right, what was your path into digital, and then, generative art?
AK: It was a fairly long process, but I’d say the roots of it are in my fascination with video games! Although I spent most of my teenage years focused on music, I also experimented with graphics software such as Photoshop and 3ds Max. After high school, I was trying to decide between pursuing a career in audio engineering or in visual effects (VFX). Fearing that working in music as a profession would crush my passion for it, I decided to pursue an arts degree at the University of Hertfordshire. During my first year there I was exposed to generative art when I found that I enjoyed generating physics simulations using the animation software Houdini. While Houdini is especially known for VFX simulations, it’s also tremendously useful for designing procedural systems for generating diverse elements, such as trees or virtually anything else.
After school, I worked in the VFX industry for a few years, mostly rendering physical simulations for television advertisements. Around 2016, I started seeing a lot of artists posting daily art on Instagram and Tumblr (for example, oritoor and bees & bombs), and I started to spend more of my free time creating generative graphics using the same workflows as I did at work. I found the process of producing an image every day–and especially one that satisfied me–very demanding, and I ended up sharing my generative art online in a couple of fairly short stints in 2016 and 2019.
Arttu Koskela_Guardians_Deformed Patterns.png
Left Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Guardians, 2016. Generative output using Houdini. Right Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Deformed Patterns, 2019. Generative output using Houdini.
JK: Many artists find reciprocation between the skills they use in their professional work and their studio practice, especially at the beginning. Can you tell us a bit about how this daily practice of making generative work evolved, and, specifically, how you discovered the blockchain as a medium for art?
AK: Around six years ago I changed careers, from working in VFX to WebGL development, as I had been fascinated by interactive real-time graphics. By 2020, I started sharing some of my personal creative coding projects on Twitter. That’s where I heard about Art Blocks and Hic Et Nunc. I immediately loved the idea of these platforms, but felt hesitant to even attempt to create something for Art Blocks, as I typically use a lot of different library dependencies when coding. Inspired by the art on Hic Et Nunc, I began creating and posting looping animations online until I stumbled on fx(hash) at the end of 2021. Realizing that I could use the same workflow as in my commercial projects, combined with the lower barrier of entry, I began building long-form artworks for that platform.
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Sound Therapy #23, 2022.png
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Sound Therapy #23, 2022. JavaScript.
JK: Can you talk a bit about how your creative process has evolved since you’ve been working specifically with long-form generative projects in mind?
AK: In the past, my creative work was aimed at a primarily aesthetic outcome. Working in long-form generative art has nicely overlapped with significant personal developments, and because of these, the concepts and themes behind the art have also become much more meaningful to me beyond aesthetics alone. So now, instead of having just one primary source of inspiration or goal in mind, I tend to have a spark of visual inspiration–whether from nature or another artist–but then another more conceptual one, and then these become attracted to each other to form a single idea.
The more visible evolution in my work has been in the choice of the medium itself. From starting with static photographs and digital images, I progressively became more comfortable with animated renders, then real-time graphics, and interactivity within real-time graphics. This change can also be clearly seen in my creative process itself. One aspect of web-based generative art which I love is the ability to incorporate my background in music back into my work.
With generative art, the whole process has also slowed down massively, as projects frequently take months and require much greater organization. Something about creating art with code makes it easy to start building a library of tools from previous projects and then reuse them.
JK: You have talked a lot about the interchange between your professional career as a developer and your artistic practice. How would you describe the way these relate: how does your art practice connect to and depart from other work you do?
AK: As my career has always been related to 3D graphics and WebGL, my work and art are extremely interwoven on the technical side. I use mostly the same tools and workflows in both, and something that I learn from one is often useful in the other.
My goal in generative art is not to use any pre-generated assets. This is vastly different from the usual process in client work. The fact that everything is generated by code, at least in my case, easily leads to imagery that is more abstract. The other difference is the ways in which the imagery is actually used. In my client based work, the interactive 3D graphics need to be useful one way or another to a user of the website or software. Whereas with my artwork, I’m attempting to create something that is emotionally and intellectually engaging, sometimes through interaction. Playfulness is one of the primary themes I have been exploring in my artwork, and I’m very much looking forward to building more physical generative art installations like my Chordal Reveries project for the “Responsive Dreams” festival.
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Chordal Reveries, 2023 at Responsive Dreams_2.jpg
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Chordal Reveries, 2023. Installation shot at “Responsive Dreams,” Barcelona, Spain, 2023.
JK: We will look forward to seeing how your installation practice develops. To the project at hand, now. Please tell us a bit about Blind Spots.
AK: I tend to have separate visual and conceptual sources for inspiration. Visually Blind Spots was inspired by an exhibition of the history of Iittala, a Finnish glassworks that turned into a design brand over the years. I find the intricate shapes they create and the way these glass sculptures refracted what was behind them so pleasing to watch. Since seeing the exhibition, I have incorporated glass shaders in some of my other generative projects. While exploring similar shapes in my project On Time earlier this year, I added some simple silhouette shapes to see what would happen. Upon seeing the results, I immediately associated this with the human experience of consciousness, which is always perceived by other beings through intentionally or unintentionally constructed protective shells, which can create a deformed perception of what is inside of it. And I liked how, through changing the point of view, one can see a drastically different image of what is inside, even when neither the shell nor the internal shapes have actually changed.
Blind Spots also covers a lot of new technical territory for me, as it is my first on-chain project. This step was very daunting, as I am used to using a wider variety of libraries in my work. Additionally, even though it was hugely important to me conceptually for the artwork to be animated–to simulate this change in point of view–the gorgeous details in glass tempted me to prioritize supporting high-resolution outputs for printing as well. Lastly, to ensure the compositions I was trying to achieve, I created a complex algorithm to find the ideal position for the “camera’s” point of view.
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Blinds Spots, 2023_Test outputs.png
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Blinds Spots, 2023. Test outputs.
JK: I think you have really managed to bring the quality of refracted light to the forefront in this project. Congratulations! What should collectors look for in the series as it is revealed?
AK: Personally I think of all the outputs as abstract intimate portraits, yet the mood of the output changes a lot based on the composition, specifically on how tight the crop is. (It’s like another variation on a changing point of view, and because of that I added a feature called “Camera Framing.”) The pattern and number of refracted black spots are what make the most difference in terms of composition. The initial color palette is incredibly simple: a gradient created from one color, in addition to black and white. However, through chromatic aberration, the colors are broken into more complex, pearl-like iridescents. The combination of features (Aberration, Roughness, Glass Ripple Amount & Deform, Glass Stripe & Halftone Effects), tells how and in which ways the glass distorts the view of the form inside. 
JK: It will be a treat to explore these different variations. Is there anything else you’d like to share that would help viewers approach and appreciate your work?
AK: I felt it was crucial to view the details in high resolution, and for the output to be acceptable for printing. To facilitate this, I added a print mode that supports resolutions up to 10,000 pixels (controlled with URL parameters eg. ?print&width=10000). But even then, I find it unlikely that I’d create art that is not animated or interactive anytime soon, as these are central to how I think about my work. So I’d encourage viewers to also explore the animated version, which is toggled by clicking on the image.
Arttu Koskela (Shaderism), Blinds Spots #0, 2023. Live View.
JK: We will be sure to let folks know about the animated features. To close, are there any recent accomplishments you’d like to share, and what is the best way for people to follow your work?
AK: My biggest recent accomplishment related to my artwork has most definitely been expanding into on-chain generative art, and my first artwork created with that process being picked for Art Blocks Curated. Massive gratitude for that, and for everything that Art Blocks has done for the space of generative art this far! On a more personal note, 2022 was the toughest year for various reasons, and I’m super excited to finally feel like I have overcome the burnout that it caused. In terms of staying up to date, I’m most frequently active on X (formerly Twitter) @shaderism and occasionally also on Instagram My website is, which includes all of my graphics-related work.
JK: Thank you for bringing Blind Spots to Art Blocks, Arttu. We will look forward to seeing what the algorithm produces on December 13, 2023.

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