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  • Writer's picturePierre Paslier

Interview with Mattia Zucchelli

GH: We're so curious to find out: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

Mattia: My name is Mattia Zucchelli, I am originally from Milan, Italy and I am currently living in the UK. I grew up with a fascination for sound and technology and pursued a career as a sound designer. I am currently designing sound effects and new implementation systems for a videogame company. My interest and work in digital art began by exploring procedural audio through tools such as Cycling ’74 Max, Pure Data and modular synthesis. This quickly grew to also incorporate other disciplines in digital art and in the past couple years this resulted in spending more time creating generative visual artwork and landing on Processing, which is currently my main tool for generative art.

"Most of the time, often without realising it, my visual workflow is strongly influenced by sound synthesis. The idea of starting from pure sine waves and morph them into compound structures through addition, modulation, is a very recurring analogy with my visual work."

GH: What is the underlying philosophy behind your work?

Mattia: I spent a lot of time studying acoustic principles of sound, as well as its representation in the digital domain. A lot of the fundamental concepts of digital signal processing helped me develop a solid toolbelt of mathematical concepts and programming, which I apply in my visual work. My grasp of waves, noise, frequency, just to name a few core concepts in generative art, all come from there. Most of the time, often without realising it, my visual workflow is strongly influenced by sound synthesis. The idea of starting from pure sine waves or shapes and morph them into compound structures through addition, modulation, is a very recurring analogy with my visual work.

GH: Can you pick an artwork and describe your workflow?

Mattia: This piece, gyre, is a good example of my process and my love for black and white designs. 

When I am programming a new concept, and as I have briefly mentioned above, I tend to start from familiar ground: simple, regular figures. In this case, I began by iterating along the circumference of a circle, marking vertices at regular intervals. I then connected each of these vertices to the origin of the sketch, which I had translated to be at the center. Working with independent vertices allows me to individually affect each one of them. By storing these vertices in an array, I can then iterate through them, and decide how I want to affect them. In this work, I applied Perlin noise to these, which generates the smooth outline.

The following step involved iteration and translation. By applying small offsets to the coordinates of each vertex through each loop iteration, I achieved the final triptych. The perimeter is composed of many small triangle strip shapes. 

It is hard to draw a distinct line between technique and creativity, between where one ends and the other begins. In fact, I do believe that these are deeply intertwined and often indivisible, however there are moments when one of the two tends to prevail. Once the main concept is grounded, I spend a lot of time fine tuning values: the radius, the range of the noise, how I want to map it, what elements of the vertices I want to modify, color, density, texture etc. In this step I let my aesthetic guide me through the decisions. 

I also love to allow unpredictability into my work. A lot of time, a sketch will start taking me through outcomes I wasn't initially expecting but which can be just as rewarding. Common questions in my workflow are “What would happen if I make this value tenfold?”.

GH: What's been inspiring you lately?

Mattia: I tend to look to small imperfections in otherwise geometric and symmetric forms. I see a lot of these around me in daily objects, and in fact most of my ideas come from when I am wandering around the city or countryside.

I am also always fascinated by the open-source philosophy behind many of the artworks displayed on the internet. I regularly browse through sites such as OpenProcessing and The Coding Train page, which always spark new ideas.

GH: Tell us about your setup. Where do you create? What tools do you use? Mattia: My main creative tool is Processing and I recently started sending my sketches to the Line-us plotter. I export SVG files and use Inkspace to send it to the robot. Its small size and drawing range, as well as its quirky arm, forced me to work with simpler and small-scale designs. I have been exploring working on thick brown paper, and have been very happy with the results. I have obtained the best outcomes using very thin pigment liners, either a 0.05mm or 0.1mm, black ink. I love the size of this plotter, which allows me to take it with me pretty much anywhere. I could potentially start plotting on a plane (I'd love to see what turbulence looks like on paper)!

GH: What would you like to explore next?

I think there’s a lot more to navigate about sound visualization. I’d love to spend more time incorporating sonic concepts such as frequency modulation, granular synthesis, phasing and wave shaping to my visual work. Processing also has a library to connect with SuperCollider, which I bet would be lots of fun.

Mattia Zucchelli, Milan, Italy

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