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An exploration of the principle of chance as a stimulus to the creative activity known as sculpture.

Watson, Allan


Allan Watson


Carole Gray


This research is concerned with the utilization of chance as a stimulus to encourage experiment and discovery in sculpture. The aims of this research project were: to examine the role of chance within the creative process and previous artists' use of chance; to develop and test a 'chance orientated device' which can introduce chance into any sculptor's creative process; to consider the results of such tests and postulate as to the efficaciousness of such a device. An initial interest in chance came about through the author's personal experience of making sculpture and the fact that the author derived greater pleasure from the end product when to some extent its final form had been determined by factors beyond the author's control. Also, such work appeared to receive more favourable peer judgement and praise than work in which chance had played no part. These events aroused a curiosity as to why chance appeared to have such a positive effect upon the author's creative process and whether or not this effect could be enhanced, and extended to other sculptors. A critical review of literature concerning the scientific study of creativity revealed that chance was recognised as a contributory and often catalytic factor in all fields of creativity, whilst a review of previous artists' use of chance identified the deliberate use of chance in a number of processes, products and philosophies of major art movements and influential artists throughout the twentieth century. It was concluded that chance was a significant yet neglected factor within the creative process, with little accreditation to be found. The methods that previous artists employed to introduce chance had been based upon idiosyncratic techniques which lacked the cohesion and objectivity which the principle of chance demanded. In order to rectify this, the author proposed the development of a 'chance-orientated interactive device' (C.O.J.D.), which possessed the ability to introduce chance into any person's creative process by exploiting the decision making process inherent within creativity. The device, known as ARP (Art as Random Process), exists in 'Hypercard', an Apple Macintosh application which allows non-linear organization of information in relational structures of either text, image, or sound, and has been designed to introduce chance into both the mental and physical processes of making sculpture. ARP exploits the principle of chance by offering the user an opportunity to receive random selections from various alternatives, all of which (both actually and theoretically), relate to the production of sculpture (for example, the user could receive a randomly selected material, a randomly selected shape, or a randomly selected place, etc). By making use of such chance processes, the user is freed from personal likes and dislikes because ARP provides chance combinations of elements that they perhaps would not have chosen themselves. By encouraging users to consider 'random selections', ARP aims to stimulate creativity by acting as a 'habit breaker' to the more experienced sculptor, and as an 'eye-opener' to the less experienced sculpture student. The development of ARP has involved several experiments (using both author and others as participating subjects), which not only tested the design of the device, but attempted to measure the difference, if any, between sculpture produced by purely 'personal decision making procedures', and sculpture produced by 'chance effected decision making procedures'. Ultimately, ARP has been tested and endorsed by a number of prominent sculptors, the majority of whom found ARP to be fascinating, relevant and stimulating. The prototype has successfully demonstrated the immense potential for the future development of ARP, not only within the sculptor's studio, but as an educational device (in any creative profession), and as a methodological 'tool' for further research.


WATSON, A. 1992. An exploration of the principle of chance as a stimulus to the creative activity known as sculpture. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 9, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jun 9, 2017
Keywords Artistic process; Chance; Uncontrolled variables; Randomisation; Sculpture
Public URL
Award Date May 31, 1992


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