Physical Woodcuts








The fusion of art and technology has always sparked discussion. Consider the introduction of photography in the 19th century, followed by the rise of generative art through computers. Now, art created with Artificial Intelligence (AI) stands at the forefront of this debate.

In this series of wood engravings, Matthijs Keuper combines technologies on various levels: from AI and generative algorithms to machine processing and traditional craftsmanship.

The journey begins with artificial intelligence. Using AI, Matthijs creates highly realistic photographic portraits. It’s a fascinating and somewhat unsettling process in which the AI generates portraits of non-existent individuals based purely on detailed descriptions.

Next, generative software is employed to transform the photos into vector drawings. The algorithms and techniques developed by Matthijs translate the intricate details of the human face into a captivating maze of lines and curves. Thanks to the generative code, each portrait is unique in its play of lines, even when the same portrait photo is used.

After this digital creation, it’s time for a physical manifestation. A home-built laser machine precisely engraves the lines into black wood. However, due to the contrast of black on black, the interplay of lines is barely visible.

This changes in the final step: inspired by ancient masters, a specific paint is crafted based on linseed oil and pigment powders. This is manually applied to the engraved lines, making them visible and giving them depth, color, and texture. The outcome resembles an engraving in black granite, where the grooves play against the black wood, creating contrasts and textures.

Up close, you mainly see a jumble of abstract lines, an almost chaotic amalgamation of shapes and patterns, just like the incomprehensible formulas that AI uses to calculate. I wanted the viewer to first experience a sense of confusion when approaching the artwork. But once they step back and see the portrait, I hope they will be surprised and feel an unexpected emotional connection. With the portraits I try to evoke a sense of connection, while they are not real people, but purely the result of cool AI calculations.
My intention was to make the viewer think about what is real and perception, what is abstract and concrete. It is an invitation to look at the world from different perspectives and to realize that sometimes distance is needed to understand the whole.

Matthijs Keuper