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Brian Eno – 77 Million Paintings

A few months ago I saw an amazing art installation in the basement of Selfridges (I have such postmodern Saturday afternoons) – Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings. Like you, my first thought was “Brian Eno may be a genius but even he can’t do 77 Million Paintings… or can he?”. Well, he has – sort of. He actually painted about 300, then used software to merge and blend them at random, to create a shifting kaleidoscope, inevitably accompanied by his signature ambient music.

1 in 77 million

OK that description doesn’t sound too mind-blowing and even this YouTube video doesn’t do it justice – but when you see the paintings blown up on massive screens in a cathedral-dark space and you feel the deep notes vibrating through your body, it’s a genuinely mesmerising experience. As if stained glass windows had come to life.


One of the most impressive things about it was the slowness with which the images changed, so that the transformation was barely discernible. I would stare at an image, waiting for it to change, convinced that nothing was happening, then suddenly realise I was looking at a different picture. I had the feeling that at last I was looking at what computer-generated imagery should be capable of – not in terms of dazzling fireworks, but subtlety and suggestion.

1 in 77 million

So it was great to come across this post on the Bad Banana Blog, informing me that 77 Million Paintings is available as a DVD and software CD – so I can (ahem) install the installation in my living room and experience something of the (ahem) ambience of the original. And so can you – Amazon links on the 77 Million Paintings site.

Thanks to Roger for introducing me to the Bad Banana Blog which looks terrific – written by Tim Siedel, Creative Director of Fusebox, who have won so many awards they’ve given up entering them. A man who obviously knows his creative onions, well worth reading.

(Photos courtesy Mrs WT.)

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  1. Nice post. Fun stuff. Looks like you had fun with the give-away-the-Ball-of-Whacks contest. Maybe there’s a sestina in it!

  2. When I was younger and had more time for leisure things I had to dig through bins of imports to find the really great Brian Eno material. I had almost forget about him until I saw Roger von Oech’s post.

    I think this shows that talented people are not usually just talented in one area. That is not to say that they are talented in all areas. The truly fantastic people find a way to put their talent to work in as many ways as they can. We just think they used different talents in each one.

    Nice post – thanks for the memories…

  3. Roger von O – thanks, I think the BOW is probably the three-dimensional equivalent of a sestina!

    Roger A – I think Eno’s minimalist/slow/ambient work is a good reminder to us to slow down a bit and take some time to reflect and stop trying to get so many things done. I also love artists who express their vision in different genres/media – e.g. Bowie, Da Vinci, Mervyn Peake.

  4. What do you think of your new Olympics logo? I guess all of your designers were busy.

  5. Ouch! I’ve resisted blogging about the logo, it’s too embarrassing for words. It gives design by committee a bad name.