“For me, art is healing.” Jenni Pasanen’s artwork is a raw form of self-expression – a gateway to her mind and heart. Her NFTs comprise layers of AI shapes and digital brushstrokes, uniting the worlds of mind and machine. She speaks to Steph Kunkel about process and purpose.
Do we see art as it is or art as we are? Objectively or subjectively? Jenni Pasanen believes that every person draws inspiration from this question. “When we create art, we are creating what we’ve been through in life,” says the AI artist. “We create who we are on the canvas.”
Raised in Finland, Jenni has always been an artist, experimenting with various styles throughout her life from the physical – acrylic painting, clay, and sewing – to the digital, including animation and coding. She increasingly found that she could tie everything together with AI-augmented art, and when a friend introduced her to NFTs in early 2021, Jenni realised that web3 was the final missing link.
“Everything clicked into place,” she recalls. “I finally felt like I had found my niche. I found who I am, and what I want to do; I found my home in art.” Jenni quit her job as an animator and became a full-time artist. Exploring the human mind, anatomy, and science, she has quickly made a name for herself as one of web3's most distinctive and accomplished AI artist.
Having retained a keen interest in psychology and technology from childhood, it is no surprise that these topics are deeply embedded within her art. And blessed by 13 years spent as an animator, she combines AI (powered by general adversarial networks, or GANs) with digital art paintings to create compelling surrealism. “I love making art because you don’t have to follow any rules – it’s the freedom that I love about creating in web3.”
A lifelong creative, Jenni is familiar with the constraints common to digital creators in traditional art. “Before NFTs, selling digital art in its native form was really challenging and there wasn’t, and still isn’t, an easy way to do it.” Instead, digital artists rely on commissions, forced to tolerate the creative limitations that come with client work.
“Web3 and NFTs give artists the freedom to sell their art,” she says, reiterating one of the most common reasons why artists have moved into web3, and one shared by other experienced design professionals, from Taya Ferdinand to Amrit Pal Singh. Attracted by the ability to create freely and earn a living in a community where artists and collectors share a mutual relationship, Jenni shares that it was the community that attracted her to web3 as much as the technology. “I was drawn to web3 and the NFT community because of the amazing, supportive people, and I am very grateful for this.”
Jenni’s art explores the relationship between man and machine. “You don’t have to create something that is real,” she explains. “Art is a way to create a visual representation of what is impossible – your art makes it possible.”
“I use Artbreeder’s tiny, pixelated images because they are unfinished and don’t resemble too much of anything,” she shares, referring to the machine-learning art site that is a favourite amongst AI artists. “There are more advanced functions on Artbreeder, but this allows me to use my imagination more.”
At this point in the process, equipped with the smallest bit of inspiration, Jenni does not yet know how the piece will emerge. Nevertheless, she starts to tweak the base layer and build out her piece, merging digital painting and AI by layering her own digital strokes and the computer's on top of each other.
“AI is not just a tool or extension of my craft – it’s my muse.”
— Jenni Pasanen
For Jenni, AI becomes a playground in which she can explore unlimited inspiration. “For me, AI is not just a tool or extension of my craft – it’s my muse.” Jenni embraces the rise of AI in art, rather than fearing it, won over by the belief that “human creativity will never stop evolving.” The natural response, therefore, is to evolve with it.
“Art is a way to create a visual representation of what is impossible – your art makes it possible.”
— Jenni Pasanen
As opposed to the traditional art world where artists are known for their solo work, collaboration thrives in web3, where splitting royalties and sale income is a seamless process. For Jenni, working with the NFT collective Creative Work Studios, whose recent collaborative pieces have involved Refik Anadol and Kevin Abosch, helped her create some of her best work, namely her Time Eclipse collection.
The concept of time, Jenni reveals, has always fascinated her. “It is a rabbit hole of endless theories and possibilities.” She explains that “Time Eclipse is a land of limitless opportunities and dreams up a place where time is not bound.” The collection explores the significance of fragility, and is an attempt to preserve and engulf the fleeting passage of our lives. Its genius lies in simultaneously treating each moment as a distinct fragment of time, whilst showing how each is linked together. For Jenni, our lives consist of a series of long and intricate moments.
But her interpretation is just one amongst many. Whilst to Jenni, her art exhibits themes of time, life, and nature, she is cognizant that art can have as many interpretations as it can viewers. Ultimately, she uses AI to generate random shapes, and whilst distinctive, she compares the process to images from a Rorschach inkblot test. “Even if you show the Rorschach inkblot images to one million people, they all see it differently.”
Indeed, though Jenni’s artwork stems from her self-expression, one can also see themselves in it. In no collection is this more clear than Mask Obscura. These beautiful, faceless creatures leave much to individual interpretation, and allow viewers to layer their own interpretations atop the brushstrokes and the GAN.
“Human creativity will never stop evolving.”
— Jenni Pasanen
Organised into four themes – seasons, elements, days, and time – and four acts, the collection is a series of beautiful beings, blending time and nature. The faceless, ethereal beings in Mask Obscura explore the relationship between humanity and nature, as opposed to Jenni’s typical trope of the human mind versus AI. The collection evokes the beauty of life, juxtaposed with the complexities that arise from time, elements, and seasons: the markers of human society. Mask Obscura, therefore, encompasses a push and pull in a thought-provoking assemblage.
Our life experiences, personalities, and emotions build our reality and mould our perception of art. Like the Rorschach inkblot test, one image produces as many interpretations as it has viewers. This begs the question: Do we see art as it is or art as we are?
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