Exploring the unseen; the story of genetic fractals


Henk Mulder

Genetic fractal, random generation (2017)

Printed on acrylic, 60 x 40 centimeters


With genetic fractals I am exploring the process of creation. A process that starts with nothing and evolves into something both beautiful and complex at once. Every artwork of genetic fractals has a clear origin: a thin line or a spike at the very heart of the form. From this origin, this seed, the shapes evolves and grows into the form.

But this work is only one facet of my search for creation. The question that I am really asking is: what is creation? What is it that makes something beautiful? What is it that makes it original and special? But underneath all of this lurks a deep question that humanity has pondered ever since it became conscious of itself: how did the most successful of all creations originate: life and its big sister, the universe?

Genetic fractals are my answer to that question. At its core is a mathematical theory that models the concept of the code of life: DNA. Each genetic fractal has its own DNA and just like our own DNA determines all of our features, so does the DNA that underlies the genetic fractal art. Starting from the original seed at the centre of the genetic fractal form, its DNA determines how it evolves, which direction it should bend to and whether it it should grown new branches. The DNA determines the deep colours that give the genetic fractals their uniqueness as does the thickness of the tentacles, branches and sprigs.

But how does this answer the question of creation? How does the DNA that gives form to these ‘things’ get created in the first place? The short and only acceptable answer is: through randomness. By generating random DNA, an infinite number of potential forms are created. But just as in nature, only the fittest, most beautiful and most intriguing are retained. Not by a supernatural force. But by myself, the artist. I watch the genetic fractals randomly emerge and select those that tell a story of their own uniqueness.

When we study these genetic fractals we see much that is familiar. We can see flowers, tree like structures, organic forms and the sort of life we may see in coral sees. But we can also find massive architectures that remind us of spiralling galaxies or even the Big Bang itself. Some of these genetic fractals appear to be defining the very notion of space and time.

It is not surprising that these random forms are so familiar, after all, they are selected by a human, the artist. But there are also forms that resemble nothing familiar and yet, they beg to be selected. They beg to be taken out of the unseen and become real.


About the artist, Henk Mulder

Henk Mulder studied engineering in the Netherlands and mathematics in the UK but if you ask him what he is, he’d describe himself as a traveller, an explorer. A thinker, a tinkerer and an artist. A renaissance man, a multi-potentialite. For a big part of his career he was an engineer at CERN, the European laboratory for particle research and this taught him that it is OK, and perfectly feasible to explore the edges of human knowledge. The rest of his professional work is centred around the business of travel.

He began his search for the origins of creation and creativity after travelling extensively in Asia where art has philosophical underpinnings and is pervasive throughout traditional culture and society. His exploration of the philosophy of creation can be seen on one of his blogs, geneticfractals.wordpress.com. The development of the fundamentals, the nuts and bolts and science of genetic fractals is on another blog, geneticfractals.org.

Although Henk Mulder as an amateur has been involved in different art forms throughout his life, this exhibition is the first serious effort to communicate and share his vision of his work on genetic fractals through art.



6 thoughts on “Exploring the unseen; the story of genetic fractals

  1. The short and only acceptable answer is: through randomness.

    Adrian Bejan (Duke Uni) adds a little more to this, saying it’s because all things strive toward a better tomorrow, which is to say, a tomorrow in which they better manage the forces that flow in and out and through everything. This is the core of his Construtal Law of Design in Nature. He says:

    “In each case the urge [of living] is not toward an ideal. It is toward something better tomorrow, and to something even better the day after tomorrow—relentless improvement and refinement.”


    1. Thank you John San, I guess I’m not ready yet to address genetic fractals with such inner urges but considering that entropy will destroy any status quo, the only way for a system to evolve would be for random forms to be just that bit more robust than the destructive forces around them. In fairness, Adrian may be saying that in a different way. Or perhaps he isn’t 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s