Why are fractal pictures so fascinating and popular?

Fractal pictures now ask for a place in the Art of our time, at a time when Modern Art is rejected, or at least ignored, by most of the public which did not receive the required training –indoctrination?– for appreciating this Art. Now, the same layman who often dislikes modernist artworks is spontaneously fond of fractal pictures with no need to be taught a non-Euclidean vision or the mysteries of self-similarity. One must look for far simpler explanations. This is beautiful, all right. But what else? Why?

I do not feel qualified so far to define or to characterize what is beautiful, pretty, handsome. It is often objected that the criteria must change with human cultures, that what is beautiful here could be less highly rated there. This is true for music, since for a long time Eastern musics could not make their way into Western countries. But music is a highly codified field. The perception of graphics is quite more spontaneous. As far as I know, the old drawings from Persia, China or Japan have been always appreciated in the West.

One can try to search empirically what looks so attractive in fractal pictures. I believe that colors are not the most important. Of course, especially for Mandelbrot pictures, shimmering vivid colors are often used, within a range in which hues are moving continuously, with no clashing contrast. However, suppressing these colors makes the bare drawing quite as attractive. Click here to see (again) one of my Mandelbrot pictures, colored, then click there to see it again in black and white. Speaks volumes, doesn't it? The picture structure is the same. Curves remain both smooth and unpredictable (isn't that a criterion for smartness?), with the same rich details, those which can be seen and those which can be guessed. The picture remains fascinating because of these details, always the same and always renewed, among which the watcher lingers. Colors are a bonus.

chou-fleur Daniel Boiteau, a picture of whom will be shown later, proposed an interesting remark. A firm and round cauliflower has a clear fractal structure, with an indisputable self-similarity. Now, to our knowledge, nobody ever sank into unfathomable thoughts in front of this modest vegetable. A cauliflower is simply too common and one hardly sees nobleness in its shapes. This means that self-similarity alone is not enough to trigger the "fractal vertigo" and that the beauty of lines is essential to the fascination. After all, if we admit with Barnsley that "Fractals (are) Everywhere", since obviously beauty is not everywhere, there must be many fractals with no interest.


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Discovering the fractal world:
Introduction - Mandelbrot Exploration - Lyapounov Exploration - Von Koch Curves - IFS Fractals - Fractal Dimension - Mandelbrot Relatives - Finest Fractal Pictures - Software - Biblio and Links

Fractals and mysticism:
Introduction - The Mysticism of Infinite - Non-Euclidean Art?

A new Art?
Introduction - Fascination of Fractals - Fractals and Photography - Definitions of Art - The Colour Choice - Other Colour Choices - Fractalists Painters - Compositions with Mandelbrot - Put a pretty girl - Algorithmic Art - Beyond the "Fractal" Art