Straight line portrait

Nicolas Lebrun was born in 1985 in Carpentras (France), he graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Montpellier, where he lives and works since.

Initially interested in music, since 2010 he has been developing an artistic practice using creative protocols, which often leads him to use programming. His research mixes scientific imagery and abstraction. These pieces often take the form of a list or a lexicon (variations around the same form or a process, sampling of media or archives, serial work …).


The generative approach

The main characteristic of a generative work is that it is defined by a sequence that includes a number of rules. The image is determined in two steps: designing the protocol, and then observing whether it works by repeating this sequence of decisions and actions several times.

It can be seen as a musical score with a number of gaps or blanks. These shadowy areas are the phases where the protocol allows for several possible outcomes. It is therefore more a question of splitting the musical stave than of a hole in the score. Each path of the process will inform us about the correctness of this conditionality. Are the forces, the tensions to which the elements of the composition are subjected, well defined? Should we limit or extend the conditionality of each scenario? Each path of this journey will give rise to a singular interpretation, a sum of possibilities offered by the protocol at a given moment. Each time the picture freezes, we will find a structure, a framework that remains constant and elements that vary according to the possibilities. At this stage, we understand that an interpretation, alone, is less interesting than a series, which will make the rules of construction of the painting more visible or readable.


This game of seven errors will allow the spectator to better understand the elements that vary little from those that, on the contrary, are indeterminate. As with music, it is a question of separating the written material, the constants, from the possibilities offered by the interpretation. This notion of possibility can be found in what François Morellet called programmed random.


The generative method produces changes in the way the artist interacts with the material.

  • The preliminary sketch is above all conceptual, it is a question of deciding which forces will be at work in the composition and among these, those which will be constant and those which can evolve.
  • The artist becomes a spectator of his own practice: he determines a certain number of characteristics that will allow him to anticipate the final form, to prefigure what the painting will be, but, the programmed random will always include a part of the unexpected. In the same way, errors and bugs can bring their share of surprises and can even be assumed and integrated as such in the process that will determine the aspect of a creation.
  • The person who thinks or establishes the protocol is not necessarily the one who interprets it. This amounts to entrusting or delegating the construction of the composition to a third party who has not thought out the painting, he does not know what result he must obtain. It is thus not a question of carrying out copies but of following an instruction manual or a recipe.


It is worth noting that artists in this movement – generative art – often create specific tools or divert tools from their primary use (hacking) in order to perform a protocol task. In most cases, this engineering or apparatus serves as a decision engine.

I have, for about twenty years, produced with great obstinacy systematic works whose line of conduct has been to reduce my arbitrary decisions to a minimum. In order to limit my sensitivity as an ‘Artist’ I have suppressed composition, removed all interest in execution, and rigorously applied simple and obvious systems which can develop, either through actual chance or through the participation of the viewer.

– François Morellet, Du spectateur au spectateur ou l’art de déballer son pique-nique, 1971.