Nick Hackworth

John Maeda: Painting by Pixel

Writing Dazed

He's been called the Da Vinci of the digital age and helped to inspire IDM music. Tech-artist John Maeda explains why human fallibility is at the core of his pixelated paintings

Glowing in a darkened gallery in the Carrier Foundation in Paris, hang a series of John Maeda's ever-shifting digital paintings collectively titled Nature. Projected onto screens, pseudo-organic forms come and go, interwoven with passages of pure abstraction. On one, a green curtain of grasslike shapes slowly mutates into a multicoloured pattern of pixelated blocks that in turn melt into an undulating wave. On another, a hazy blob of colour, surrounded by a messy constellation of spills and splashes, sits pulsing on a white background, progressing through the spectrum from red, through purple, to blue – a real–time, constantly alive, action painting, the kind of work Jackson Pollock could only dream about.

Standing to one side, gently illuminated by the reflected light stands Maeda, a slightly built man with Japanese features, wearing a dark suit, shirt open at the neck, and glasses. Personable and enthusiastic, his manner is the opposite of that of a prima donna art star – surprising considering Maeda, a multi-tasking digital artist, designer, theorist and professor at the world-leading Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been called the "Da Vinci of the digital age".