• Jonathan McCabe's art made from nature 01 March 2016 | View comments

  • Patterns are everywhere in nature, from the veins on a leaf, the changing skin of a chameleon, to the intricate symmetry of a butterfly wing. 

    Jonathan McCabe has created ornate work based on Alan Turing’s theory of morphogenesis, which is the biological process of a cell developing its shape.

    Turing's theory basically states that biological cells differentiate and change shape, creating patterns in space. Shape changes in cells which don’t have a specific function before a cell is allocated a job within the body. The process is reaction-diffusion and these chemical reactions are the cells adapting to its surroundings to fit the needs of what the body may need in that specific area. 

    This bodily process is nature hard at work and Jonathon McCabe's work shows off the beauty of it all. Displaying a colourful array of various spirals and shapes. We find out how he gets these spectacular results purely from numbers.

    How do you get these images?

    “These images start off with the pixels set to random (pseudo-random because computers don’t do truly random being deterministic) values. At each pixel, the program ‘senses’ the average values of the neighbouring pixels, and updates the pixel value depending on this. After hundreds of updates, an image develops, depending on the update rules and the initial conditions.”

    Was it initially an experiment?

    “It was initially an experiment in 2009, you can see these here.”


    Where does your interest in morphogenesis stem from? 

    “I’m interested in spontaneous pattern formation in general, Turing’s theory of morphogenesis is a particular process that leads to characteristic patterns of spots or stripes.” 

    Has this been your main project over the years? 

    It has been a hobby of mine.

    How do you present these images in a gallery? 

    I have had a few shows where I have used a large format inkjet printer to print on canvas and show in a gallery. At the moment, I’m showing digitally online.


    Check out more of Jonathan McCabe's project: flickr | website | vimeo

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