Realflow + Pollock = Thongchai Chanyathitikul

I’ve come across this work occasionally while surfing the VFXTalk/CreativeCrash galleries and it always sticks out. I have no need to click on it time and again, but the fact I do means it must have something extra.

It’s by Thongchai Chanyathitikul and it’s made with Realflow, Maya and Photoshop - in that order. Realflow to generate a splash, Maya to add colour and texture and Photoshop to… well, whatever is left to do. Jiggery pokery I guess.

Obviously it owes a lot to Pollock, but what’s cool is that this guy is using a piece of software that engineers physically accurate water and he’s doing something experimental with it. The tension between the almost industrialised functions of the software (algorithms, computations, physics) and the playful, painterly result of the image is interesting.

In a way, this opposition between the scientific/industrial and the painterly/expressive is an extension of the tensions observed by historians in Pollock’s work. He was like the John Wayne of painting: stoic, abrupt, masculine, seemingly lacking in expression. His famous drip method was a feat of repetition and determination (albeit with ephemeral results). As such, he contradicted the image of the painter as the sensitive soul grappling with representation and reality, umm-ing and ahh-ing over this mark or that brushstroke. As a man he seemed too plain and inexpressive to be a painter. Well, in the tools of CG we have the industrial, the obtuse, the plain, the undecorated. CG was born from the aerospace industry after all - these programs were made for physical simulation. Yet from that toolset we get abstract images like the one above that seem to defy their industrial origins and seem far more free than the software that made them.

Of course, there are plenty of pieces of software out there that attempt to bridge the gap between artist and technician. More often than not, however, it’s the technician that reaches the level of knowledge that facilitates experimentation. And that’s why I find this image so admirable. Realflow is hard on the mind and hard on the processor, yet this guy has ploughed through and come out the other side with something quite unique and unexpected.