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Desmond Paul Henry

Desmond Paul Henry

Desmond Paul Henry : 1921-2004

Desmond Paul Henry ranks among one of the few early British pioneers of Computer Art/Graphics of the 1960s. During this period he constructed a total of three mechanical drawing machines based around the components of analogue bombsight computers. Henry´s second drawing machine and its effects were included in Cybernetic Serendipity, curated by Jasia Reichardt. ICA 1968.

Henry´s life-long passion for all things mechanical inspired him to purchase an army surplus analogue bombsight computer in the early 1950s. For years he would gaze transfixed at the peerless parabolas of its inner working parts when in motion. Then in the early sixties he decided to try and capture these mechanical motions on paper and so was born the first of a series of three drawing machines.

The bombsight computers, from which Henry constructed these machines in his home-based workshop in Manchester, were employed in World War Two Bomber Aircraft to calculate the accurate release of bombs onto their target. He combined these computers with other components to create electronically-operated drawing machines which relied mainly on a mechanics of chance. This meant the drawing machines could not be pre-programmed or store information as in a conventional computer; nor were they precision instruments.

Henry had only general overall control to intervene and direct the course of image production at any given moment of his choosing. This spontaneous interactive element of his machines pre-empted by some twenty years similar interactive features of contemporary graphic manipulation software.

Henry’s drawing machines produced abstract, curvilinear, repetitive line drawings compared to natural form mathematics produced using pendulum harmonographs and ornamental geometric lathes.

The chance element inherent in the construction and function of each Henry drawing machine ensured the unrepeatable quality of their infinitely varied visual effects. The aesthetic appeal of these mechanical fractals lies in their unique blend of order and chaos, of regularity and irregularity.

Today not one drawing machine remains intact.

Kindly on loan from Elaine Ohanrahan, Desmond Paul Henry´s daughter.