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Stardust: Portraits Made From Hubble Space Telescope Images

By Ruth Dunn on August 29th 2013


When you have a person who is a computer science engineer with a background in art and art history, it is almost inevitable that their mind will develop a weird and wonderful idea. Sergio Albiac is one such individual. In his most recent artworks, called ‘Stardust: An experiment in generative portraiture‘, he has written software that can take a photographic portrait  and turn it into a cosmic mosaic using Hubble space telescope images.

Some artists hire assistants, but Albiac has taken a different path and used his vast knowledge of computers to create a software program to assist him in the production of these eye-catching portraits. With the assistance of his computer, Albiac has created more than 11,000 portraits in less than 60 days.

The artist explains why he uses technology to assist him in the creative process:

“Life is finite. Creativity isn’t. An artist has the potential to create infinite artworks but only some of them will see the light due to the constraint of time. What if we use technology to outsource the creation of art so more of these potential artworks are finally created?”

His ‘Stardust’ images are the first experiment around the concept of modelling artistic decisions into software to assist in the creation of meaningful works of art. The theme for the series of portraits is the concept of nucelosynthesis. Albiac explains this concept as ‘the process of the creation of new atomic nuclei from pre-existing matter that takes place at cosmic scale’. The starry portraits play on the idea that humans are believed to be novel combinations of cosmic stardust.

What do you think about the idea of writing software to assist in the creative process? Have your say below.


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Ruth is a Brisbane based journalist specialising in articles about visual art, photography, design and fashion. Co-founder of Raw Ink magazine, she enjoys uncovering interesting and unique events, issues and people to write about.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Roberto Amezcua

    I think it is natural to take on such a challenge, to blend artistic knowledge into logical and repeatable patterns. What Sergio created is very impressive. The article leaves me intrigued as to how much control is the artist left with to put their own self into the piece. I wonder how much of the process is algorithmically created and how much is left to the artist’s desire. Particularly in Sergio’s case, he created the automation and selected and controlled (my assumption) to some degree the creation of each piece which makes them a full artistic creation by Sergio. Having created the software, Sergio gave it the rules/patterns of his knowledge and artistic experiences and that is where he has embedded himself in the software. But that is not really the point in question… with regards to the automation of his creative process I struggle for a clear answer. I do not take automation to be a 4 letter word; we should use what ever automation we have at hand to assist with the creative process, so long as the product is not created without human intervention. But then I go back to what I stated before, even if the software is fully automated and outputs the final product, Sergio is the creator, he has embedded some of himself into the software so then isn’t each piece created in essence by Sergio?

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