Artwork Details


lego, machine, painting, robots

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Random Walk Machine

ArtistSimon Ingram
Production Date2009
Mediumplastics, aluminum, Lego robotics, cable, paint brush
Size2392 x 2377 mm
DepartmentNew Zealand Art
Accession Date17 Nov 2009
Accession NoC2009/1/29/1.1-12
Credit LineChartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2009

Chartwell Notes

The artist notes the following:

Random Walk Machine:

Plastics, aluminum, Lego robotics, cable, paint brush
2392 (high) x (2377) mm wide (and collapsible into a package 2392 long and 50mm wide)
4 blank linen canvases 1950 x 1950 mm

Consisting of the following technical elements:

Painthead unit, consisting of: Drive unit (motor, six axles, two 8 tooth gears, four 32 tooth gears, lego bushes)

Brush unit, consisting of motor & turn-table tilt mechanism, motor & brush extender, paint pot

Y axis unit, consisting of: Two gear racks 2392 mm long, two drive units (each containing one motor, one 8 tooth gear, two 32 tooth gears, acrylic bushes)

X axis units, consisting of: two 2377 mm long “L” section aluminium beams with incorporated gear rack

Cabling, , consisting of: 5 lengths of six way cable, each with RJ45 connectors with junction boxes

HP handheld computer running Windows mobile 6 and Painthead.1 with power supply

Two Lego microcontrollers (Bricks), each with HiLion rechargeable battery and power adapter.


The artist has supplied this information at time of acquisition:

Simon Ingram's project interprets the modernist practice of the autonomous, self-made artwork in relation to painting as a constructional and computationally based self-organising system. Since 2005 his practice has articulated itself in three distinct lines of work: machines made from Lego robotics, plastics and generic constructional materials that paint autonomously in oil paint with a brush; paintings made by the artist that use artificial life systems as a method to govern composition and decision making; and video work related to the production of self-making painting machines. Drawing on divergent strands of knowledge (artificial life, painting, critical theory, software), the project re-stages and reinvents painting as a critical, contemporary project that explores painting’s conceptual signification while remaining resolutely fabricational.
With the machines, Simon Ingram customises off-the shelf Lego to make self-making paintings that expose hand-made painterly gesture to a model of painting that is mechanistic and electronic but which maintains dialogue with certain gritty, material and traditional givens in the practice of painting such as makerly thickness, gesture and support. Painting Assemblage No.6 (2007) first shown at Victoria University of Wellington’s Adam Art Gallery, appropriated the gallery as studio to paint an algorithmically generated T-square fractal. Attached to the gallery wall, and clutching its brush, the machine’s paint head travelled over a 2 x 2 metre raw linen canvas periodically dipping its brush into a dripping Lego paint pot to paint a stroke in thick white oil colour. Although the format of the fractal was determined by the machine’s software, the sequence of brush strokes and decisions on their length and density were generated on-the-fly and in relation to the moment-to-moment life of the painting – all of which contributed to the complex visual field of the paintings produced which were pictorially lyrical and dense yet produced entirely by a machine over the course of the exhibition.

Random Walk Machine (2009) develops the architecture of Drunken Walk Machine (2008) first shown at PS1/MoMA, and Painting Assemblage No 6 and extends it to produce paintings that more readily model decision-making. In this work low-level decision-making is modelled through the implementation in software of a classic self-organising system derived from artificial-life known as a random walk. This work literalises the modernist claim of painting’s autonomy by proposing a painting scenario where a machine, itself capable of painting, thinks in thick painterly terms. In doing so it exposes the formalist paradigm of self-making painting to a literalisation where is it not an indivisible artistic subject that makes decisions on a painting’s composition but the material of an art work itself.

Simon Ingram (b.1971) was born in Wellington. He is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Elam School of Fine Art and holds a doctorate from The University of Auckland (2006). Ingram has exhibited locally and internationally for over ten years. His work is held in key New Zealand collections such as those of Jenny Gibbs, Glenn Schaeffer and the Chartwell and Fletcher Trusts. Over the last few years of his career he has received awards including a University of Auckland Best Doctoral Thesis Award, a Francis Hodgkins Fellowship and a Creative New Zealand New Work Grant. In 2009 his work featured in: "Boing Boom Tschak" at Gow Langsford Gallery (Auckland); “PLUSE Art Fair” (New York); "Drunken Walk in Brussels" at CCNOA – The Centre for Contemporary Non-objective Art (Brussels). In 2008 his work featured in: "Minus Space" at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center/MoMA (Long Island City, New York); "Yo Yo Modernism" at CCNOA; "My Eyes Keep me in Trouble" at The Physics Room (Christchurch); "200 KünstlerInnen aus 18 Ländern" at Gesellschaft für Kunst (Bonn); "Drawing for an autopoietical painting -- Monochrome in C (2005) with Monochrome in K" at A Centre for Art (Auckland); "Julian Dashper - 1994, 2001, 2008, Simon Ingram - 1996, 2002, 2008, Salvatore Panatteri - 1998, 2003, 2008" at Newcall Gallery (Auckland). In 2007 his work featured: "Just Painting" at Auckland Art Gallery (Auckland); "Four Times Painting" at Victoria University of Wellington’s Adam Art Gallery (Wellington); "The Secret Life of Paint" at Dunedin Public Art Gallery (Dunedin); "PX: A Purposeless Production/A Necessary Praxis" at Auckland University of Technology’s St Paul Street Gallery (Auckland). Simon Ingram is represented in Auckland by Gow Langsford Gallery.

Simon Ingram, notes, 2009