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How This Artist Used Rolls-Royce Car Paint Data to Explore Man’s Role in Automation

The Turkish-born artist's new piece utilizes data sets obtained directly from the British automaker’s Surface Finish Center.

Refik Anadol Oliver Edwards/Rolls-Royce

How will humans and robots work together in the future? That’s a question Rolls-Royce and multi-media artist Refik Anadol appear to address in a new work of art that explores the intersections of data, robotics and human sensibility.

Created specifically for the Rolls-Royce Art Programme, the digital piece, titled Art of Perfection: Data Painting, uses an LED “canvas” to display a unique painting created using data sets obtained directly from the automaker’s Surface Finish Center. That data represents the color—along with the programmed robotic movement required to apply it—used to paint each Rolls-Royce that has rolled off the line at the company’s Goodwood production facility in England over the past 10 years.

Speaking to Robb Report, Anadol explained that this data was just one area where you could see man and machine coming together. “Pretty much every pigment that was used in the data archive was given to me but also the motion of the robots,” he said. “How they’re moving in time and space to paint the car. The motion comes from the machines and the pigments are coming from the car owners and their dreams.”

The idea for the piece came to Anadol after he visited Goodwood and saw for himself how the company’s storied vehicles are assembled. He was particularly captivated, he said, by the “epic process” of the cars getting painted.

“I was in the control room, where you can see the entire operation,” he explained. “I could witness the painting process and how complex it was. All the layers of information, the parameters. It was just fascinating. Like a science fiction kind of moment. That’s where I got the inspiration.”

Refik Anadol

Refik Anadol  Adam Warner/Rolls-Royce

Interrogating man’s role in the machine age, Art of Perfection falls in line previous works by the Turkish-born, Los Angeles-based artist over the last 10 years. During this time, the artist has used his work to explore how human perception and experience have changed during an era when machines now touch every aspect of our lives.

“Algorithms are my brush, data is my pigment and light is my canvas,” the artist said, explaining his approach to artmaking.

Anadol’s new work will be previewed at “Dine on the Line,” a major philanthropic event hosted at Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood on September 21. Following that, the artwork will be on display at the marque’s headquarters, with an edition of the piece traveling to international showrooms during the first half of next year.

Through the Rolls-Royce Art Program, the automaker has worked with a number of high-profile artists in recent years, including Tomás Saraceno, Angela Bulloch and Yang Fudong. The program’s next collaboration will be unveiled in October.

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