Painting By Numbers: Is the Future of Chinese Art Computer Based?

How crypto-artist Reva combines her love of coding with artistic creativity

Reva says she creates the same way that clouds form in the sky.

To watch a video of her work process is to see order form out of chaos. A string of numbers, letters, brackets, and semi-colons written and rewritten, copied and pasted and tinkered with. They mushroom into paragraphs, germinating spectacular images as they grow and grow.

Like the first wisps of cloud, these strings of code “can grow from a small point”; and with a few small random changes, the code can end up creating an infinite number of shapes. Most of the time when she creates this computer-generated work (known as generative art), Reva is just “playing around” on her laptop with no idea what the final product will look like—an infinite plane of creation. In works like her Flowing Nautilus series of 2020, the speed, flow, and colors that cascade over the crisp lines of a flowing spiral are quickly transformed by switching a few numbers in the code to create a wholly new piece.

Many look at this field of computer-based art, and, blinded by the magic letters NFT, for Non-Fungible Token, see big business. But for 36-year-old Reva, whose real name is Fan Yiwen, it’s just “a lot of fun.”

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Painting By Numbers: Is the Future of Chinese Art Computer Based? is a story from our issue, “Public Affairs.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Alex Colville

Alex Colville is the former culture editor at The World of Chinese. Blown to China by the tides of curiosity, then marooned here by the squalls of Covid, Alex used to write for 1843, The Economist, and the Spectator from the confines of a cold London flat. When he’s not writing for TWOC, he can be found researching his bi-weekly column for SupChina from the confines of his freezing Beijing hutong.

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