Penang Monthly Has Fun With AI Art

By Sheryl Teoh

November 2023 PHOTO ESSAY
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WHAT BETTER WAY is there to talk about generating art with AI than to just show you? Penang Monthly uses Gencraft, a platform that creates images and videos based on text descriptions for this month's photo essay.

Perhaps a side effect of my fascination with ancient history, I am often drawn to ruins—especially so when nature takes over a once-imposing and magnificent building. “It is poetic, even magic, to see nature retaking what used to be hers,” says Jonathan Jimenez, a photographer who takes photos of abandoned buildings succumbing to nature. Here, I used an AI art generator to render what I visualise when I think of the perfect abandoned building.

PROMPT: Generate a realistic depiction of a serene scene: a crystal-clear lily pond teeming with fish residing within the confines of a dilapidated, ancient structure. The room exudes history, and with its crumbling walls, white marble columns and overgrown foliage, presents the juxtaposition of decay and enduring beauty.

In the August issue on Books, I talked about a book I read by Susanna Clarke called Piranesi. [SPOILER ALERT] Piranesi, the main character, lives in a world contained within an immense house with infinite halls and rooms lined with statues, no two of which are alike. The upper level of the House is filled with clouds, and the lower level with an ocean, which ebbs and flows and floods the middle level, where Piranesi dwells, at regular intervals. Here is my attempt at recreating a scene from the book with AI—though not quite as successfully as I’d like.

PROMPT: Create a mansion where the upper floor is filled with statues of Roman mythical beings, and the lower floor is flooded by an ocean and lapping waves.

Being a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction— none of which are set in this part of the world—I thought it would be fun to see what George Town might look like in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. What it came up with are strongly reminiscent of the art style of “Three Robots”—in which three robots embark on a sightseeing tour of a post-apocalyptic city—from Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots.

PROMPT: Generate a post-apocalyptic rendition of George Town, Penang, reflecting a world transformed by environmental or societal upheaval. Envision a landscape where nature reclaims urban structures.

Inspired by a recent visit to the Real Alcázar of Seville, which combines distinctly Islamic designs with Western (Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance) influences, I was curious what a structure with both Chinese elements and Islamic architectural style would look like.

PROMPT: Produce a structure that combines traditional Chinese architectural elements with Islamic designs. Highlight intricate details, vibrant colours and cultural symbols that pay tribute to both traditions, resulting in a unique architectural masterpiece where these two distinct styles blend harmoniously.

Sheryl Teoh

holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Linfield College, a liberal arts college in the United States, and majored in History with a focus on Classical Greece and Rome. Her interests include the study of philosophy as well as a range of humanities and socio-political issues.