Interviews | February 28, 2023 |

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

Interview: Alex Kagan
Luca Curci talks with Alex Kagan, during the 6th Edition of ROME INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2023, at Medina Art Gallery.

I have always been interested in art. Also, from my early years, nature captivated me -its beautiful landscapes, cityscapes, trees, and flowers and the variety of their shapes, the harmony of their elements and the intense saturation of their colors were mesmerizing. Becoming an artist is closely tied to my work as a professional, during a career in which I designed and developed computer-aided design systems. I am very interested in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and I always like to stay abreast of new developments, especially as it relates to Visual Art.

This has been very rewarding to me, as some newly released applications allowed my long-held dream to come to true-the ability to apply my creative thought and vision to generating digital artworks. Through this happy meeting of technology and visualization, I synthesized my years of experience in computer science with my longing for and love of art. This process had me looking at the task of “art-making” through the lens, or platform, of contemporary computer programs. Does the program pre-suppose an artist facility with formalistic issues like color and rendering of shape and imagery? Where does the artist’s style take over, or does it? Does the artist’s imagination play any part in the process of creating artwork, or is he or she a slave to the machine? Is it only the prerogative of the artist to be inspired or does that ability-often considered transcendent also belong to the computer? Is it all about changes in input parameters reflecting on resulting images?

The process, all begins with choosing a basic image when using AI in art. The image can be a sketch, photograph, painting, vector art or even clipart. I then transform the digital image-sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly-by applying specific artist style(s) that I have selected from of another image(s). Analyzing the resulting file, I “command” the computer to repeat the action again, but this time, using different parameters than the original. I apply and undo changes, experimenting and repeating the process of creating the image, until I am happy with the result. When that is, no one knows. The image is printed on photo paper or canvas using special ink. Lately, I decide to add an animation to a certain part of previously created images. In traditional art, the elements of painting or images which created digitally don’t move and couldn’t change during the presentation. Adding animation could revitalize the artworks. Take for example my video ”Vibrant Landscapes”. Each landscape(except two) follows its animated version. It allows the viewer first appreciate the composition, forms, colors and other elements of artwork and then watch how some of them moving, colliding, mixing, melting, interacting, changing colors.

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

Luca CurciWhat is art for you?
Alex Kagan – My love of art dates back to the years when I was a kid. My sister collected postcards with paintings of old masters. When I flipped through them, I would forget about the harsh reality of war – hunger, scary music on the radio and air raid sirens. I was captivated by the mysterious world where beautiful people and animals freely move among green trees, blooming meadows, and bathing in quick streams. When I got older, I began collecting prints and albums. I went to museums and art exhibitions whenever possible. I travelled to famous Russian museums like Hermitage, Pushkin Museum and Tretyakov Gallery. Unfortunately, with the iron curtain in the Soviet Union, I could not visit famous foreign museums.

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
AK – Another passion of my life was cybernetics, a newly born field of computer science. Pursuing my PhD in cybernetics, I found an opportunity to participate in the development of technical design software. That work helped me later to synthesize art and contemporary technology. In 2015-16 a number of articles were published on applications of AI creating art. One new technology was Deep Dream Generator. That was when my two-lifetime passions clashed. I began experimenting with the software. At first, I struggled to understand this revolutionary approach to creating art. The original software was also very limited. But as the software developed and I got more experienced I began successfully producing art.

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

LC – How is your creative process? What is the most challenging part of your work?
AK –
To create a digital image using software like Deep dream generator you prepare at least two images. These could be sketches, paintings, photos, vectors or clip files. One of them, let’s call it “basic”, and other image or images whose style (elements of forms, colors, and so on) we’ll apply to the basic image. We have to predict if the images complement one another and that is one of the most difficult tasks in digital artwork creation. Next, you upload files through a controlled process adjusting scale, weight, colors and other parameters. Through many iterations, you tweak parameters to till you are happy with the image. Most interesting results could be achieved by using in this iterative process several 3, 4, or 5 image styles. This takes many failed attempts and much time. Next, we edit the resulting images using editing software. I have recently begun to animate parts of artworks. Contemporary technology allows you to apply movement to your images. You could see how it looks in my video “Vibrant landscapes”. I’m now working on a few other animated videos.

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

LC – What do you think about art on social media? Are they turning into the new showcases of contemporary art?
AK – Art has now become accessible to millions of people on the planet. You can attend museums and galleries online. Art does not belong to the elite few any more. It has now become a common heritage of humankind. The technological revolution has also given us the possibility to create a new form of art. And this is big advantage. But there are some drawbacks to seeing art on social media. Because of the abundance of information online and on social media (shorts and reels), contemporary viewer jumps from headline to headline. The tempo of consuming information is ever-increasing. Artwork is consumed at a glance, the same way as news. There is no time to admire the particularity of work, play of colors, composition and originality of art form and so on. Additionally, most viewers see the artworks through their cell phones, which is a very different effect than seeing art in its natural size on canvas or a large TV screen. The final limitation of modern technology is that differences in screen manufacturing and settings make it impossible to convey an original combination of variety of colors as artist intended.

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the exhibition?
AK – I agree with your vision of art and love the theme of the exhibition as an extension of that vision. In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme? You could see the landscapes shown in my video as a surrealistic or abstract form, their elements surrounded by other shapes of the natural world. They are moving, colliding, mixing, melting, interacting, and changing colors. They generate new forms and spaces. That challenges the traditional idea of landscapes as we are used to seeing them.

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
AK – I very much support your vision of ITSLIQUID as a communication platform for different kinds of creators, from artists to designers and performers. I like the idea of fluidity and motion which, of course, could be interpreted in a different ways by different creators and viewers.

LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
AK –
All stages of entering the exhibition went smoothly for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to attend the event live so cannot comment there. However, from what I can tell remotely, I am happy with how my video looked on the screen – it is well-positioned to show the work.

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Image courtesy Alex Kagan

Are you an artist, architect, designer? Would you like to be featured on ITSLIQUID platform? Send an e-mail to or fill the form below



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