The image shows Newton, painted by William Blake in 1795. To the left of the picture is brightly colored flora and fauna, the complexity of the natural world. To the right is order, the precision of geometry and the compasses. In the middle, between these two incongruous elements, sits Man. Except, in this case, it isn’t just any man, it is Isaac Newton, writer of Principia Mathematica, the founding work of classical mechanics. Blake’s painting is a criticism of Newton’s world-view; he is turning his back upon the beauty of the natural world, his sole interest is in his scroll and compasses.
William Blake was a Romantic, with a capital R. He was part of the Romanticism movement, the artistic, literary and intellectual reaction to The Enlightenment of the late 18th Century. The Enlightenment was the time that heralded the birth of modern science, where purest reason was the dominant philosophical trend. The Romantics feared the coming godless world and clung to the dying remnants of an idea of natural idyll; the aesthetic, the rural and the picturesque. They saw the future on their horizon, the world of the rational and scientific, the future we now live in, and it repulsed them.
The modern computer programmer may adopt the same pose as Newton. She spends her working day entranced before a screen, squinting at a glowing monitor in a dimmed office, making only the barest micro movements with her mouse-hand and keyboard fingers. She may spend the majority of her life focused upon an ordered reality, only dimly aware of what is beyond the screen, outside the window, outside the city. The chaos of the natural world is not welcome in her world of logic, unpredictability is not something one wants from a computers.
The Generative Artist would be the programmer sitting facing the other direction, straddling that rock like Christine Keeler. The Generative Artist comes from the world of logic to look toward the natural world for inspiration.