Rooted in Collaboration with Zancan's Aux Arbres 🌿

*This article is part of our new editorial series, Gallery Selects, where we showcase the diverse artists, collectors, and curators who are creating and sharing their NFTs on Gallery.

**Discover Aux Arbres through the eyes of its holders with their submitted entries of favorite pieces, now featured in Zancan's gallery.

French artist Zancan has always been captivated by the density, patterns, and organic life found in nature, particularly in plants and trees. This fascination has recently culminated in Aux Arbres, not only the largest generative art collection of the artist, but also the biggest ever seen in the NFT space thus far. With a background in both oil painting and programming since the ‘90s, Zancan's journey reflects a mix of traditional art and tech. This approach has propelled him to the forefront of the NFT art scene, positioning him as a pioneer in exploring the crossroads of art, tech, and environmental consciousness.

Aux Arbres features an impressive 76,208 artworks collection spread across 43,682 unique wallets, that was successfully released in collaboration with Highlight, Coinbase, and Bright Moments. This initiative is significant in the space and represents the artist's A1 creativity. It also underscores a broader trend where established artists embrace larger collections, signaling a drive to create new collective narratives around their art.

When asked about the inspiration and creative process behind this series, Zancan shares that "Knowing the collection was going to be large, it needed a system to provide significant variety while not compromising its consistency. I think the composition is the most difficult to get right in the context of randomly generated outputs. I have been drawing trees, or programming tree structures, since my childhood, they never failed me in the endless graphical possibilities they offer. In Aux Arbres, each piece is a small frame pointing at a random point on a branch.This way, there's always something in view, something that looks abstract, but is actually very structured due to the algorithmic nature of a tree's growth. The trees really serve as a backbone for the entire collection.” This process shows the connection between Zancan's artistic vision and the natural world, highlighting the complexity and organic flow evident in each of the digitally grown trees.

 

At the core of Aux Arbres lies a unique grouping algorithm that organizes outputs onto tree structures. This approach ensures that each generated artwork integrates into its designated spot on a specific tree. While individual pieces may appear abstract when viewed alone, they take on a figurative quality when placed among their neighboring tokens on their respective trees. The diversity within its random designs is just beautiful and reminds of nature's variability. It's akin to exploring a forest where every tree tells its own story, adding to the richness and depth of the overall narrative. Zancan further explains that "trees are part of the universal landscape, so much that we don’t really look at them. They are rather providers of sensations. For me, they evoke feelings of reassurance, appeasement, and continuity too. I should point out that I spent my childhood perched in the oak trees! At least that's how I remember it. I can't help but personify their presence and perceive them as benevolent creatures, but also beings capable of suffering. So much symbolism can be attached to them in fact.

From a generative art point of view, trees are indeed perfect subjects of study because they encapsulate the essence of complexity emerging from simple rules. “They are both precisely structured (according to the laws of growth inherent to their species) and infinitely varied depending on their environment or the events they go through, but also their DNA ( their seed ). These attributes mirror the component of the algorithm and that of randomness that we use in generative art,”  he adds.

The project has also a profound collaborative spirit that captures the essence of community. It transcends individual artworks, cultivating a collective journey and dialogue. Each collector is a meta-gardener, shaping the forest together. “It was amazing to see the open edition grow to such an incredible size, or watch the collectors share their outputs and discuss the various traits,” he tells. “Some of those discussions even inspired me to update the code and provide the collectors with new background variations (such as the Sakura theme), or new color schemes, while the minting window was still open. I think the most unexpected evolution, and the most discussed one, was the collaboration with artist Mark Knol, to introduce a rare 'Smolskull' trait - a tribute to his iconic series of cute generative skulls on the Tezos blockchain.” This certainly brought excitement, particularly given the secret nature of his active development and updates in the background. Yet, his inclusive approach surpasses traditional art creation, welcoming viewers, collectors, and all of us to participate in shaping the French artist’s on-chain forest.

 

Aux Arbres not only expanded the horizons of community-driven Web3 ethos and generative art but also ignited discussions. It showcased nature's intricacies in the digital realm, bringing up conversations about sustainability and art innovation.

“There are a few ways to read the title, which translates to 'to the trees,'" he explains. "'Aux Arbres' in French sounds very much like this line from the French national anthem: 'Aux armes, citoyens!' (take up arms, citizens), which is a revolutionary line in the first place. That wordplay, 'Aux arbres, citoyens,' has been heard quite a few times in environmental activism.” However, he doesn’t want to be considered an activist, and prefers the title to be read as "dedicated to the trees," which is a much more candid approach.

"I was more ambitious and motivated in the environmental field a few years ago," he remembers. "The more you learn, the more you dig, the harder it gets. The environmental problem doesn't seem to have solutions beyond a global, total political consensus. Even with the best of intentions, it's so much bigger than any of us. The Russian war really put a toll on my optimism, I have to say. Instead of resigning completely, I switched to a more 'self-conscious' approach, which one can grasp in my artwork 'Landscape with Carbon Capture' (2022), which emphasizes the feeling of hypocrisy of being an artist who is claiming environmental consciousness while working with technology. That collection, which was sold in 11,402 editions of generative landscapes splattered with oil stains, participated in funding actual environmental actions—a $300,000 drop in the ocean.” Here, he facilitated a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between art and nature within the crypto space, encouraging meaningful connections and talks.

 

As Aux Arbres continued to evolve during the minting period, each artwork was attached to a virtual tree (Arbre), gradually giving life to a digital forest. The project's impact extended far beyond the blockchain, with trees symbolizing both individual artistic expressions and collective environmental awareness. “I have to say, unlike what is commonly found in "longform" generative art, or in my previous works, ‘Aux Arbres’ was never meant to be over once it had been minted out.”

He then explains that the vast database of 76,208 tokens will serve as the raw material for shaping a new phase of the project. “I intend each tree (there are 963 of them) to become collectible as a unique artwork. I have a lot of innovative ideas, it’s crazy how endless the possibilities seem to be. For sure it will take time until this happens, but I really made sure that the initial collection contained everything that I needed to build that next phase.”

Head to the project website or on zancan’s website to browse the work-in-progress of a forest.

Gallery: https//gallery.so/zancan

X (Twitter):  http//twitter.com/zancan

Farcaster: https://warpcast.com/zancan

You can follow us on X (Twitter), Farcaster, or here on Mirror to stay updated on the latest articles and interviews we publish. You can also join our Discord server to chat with the artists and other community members.

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