edit: 23 September 2022

JPEG, 2022

Compression has been the driving force behind the image-based internet since the early 90s. No compression, no Netscape, no social media, no NFTs. The JPEG compression has specifically enabled photography-based imagery on the net. It has always served that purpose and over time become the de facto default for showing high quality imagery online. But compression always leaves a trace, which has become the lens through which the network sees the world of uploaded images.

"A painting is not a picture of an experience, but is the experience." ― Mark Rothko

JPEG tries to create an image programatically fully expressing that signature compression. An image that is like empty made from barely nothing, yet fully present in its blazing appearance. A work deeply material, expressing itself through the language of code and codec only. This is not a JPEG depicting an image. The JPEG is the image itself.

Delving into the depths and peculiarities of the digital, tethered to art history, JPEG found its way to the surface. Generated color fields are utilised to trigger the compressing algorithm, resulting in a world of raw visual entities. Where the abstract expressionists cut out the depiction in painting, aiming to let the artist convey pure emotion, JPEG cuts out the artist's emotion and lets it emerge from within the algorithm. Carefully you could categorize the work as compressionism. An art form where the machine speaks in its own raw language, but nevertheless makes a direct touch to our human heart.

Jan Robert Leegte - www.leegte.org

JPEG, 2022 (mobile device portrait orientation examples)

What is JPEG?

JPEG is a collection of generative images in the JPEG file format. The work tries to break with the idea of the fixed file format, therefor creating the JPEG entirely from code using no image material whatsoever. The individual JPEGs are generated responsively at the moment of viewing based on the token hash as a random seed. You can literally drag the JPEG out from the browser window.

When, where and how much?

JPEG will been released in a dutch auction on Art Blocks starting at 1.5EΞ resting at 0.15Ξ in an edition of 275 Ethereum NFTs.

Launch date: 31-10-2022 / 10am PST / 1pm ET / 6pm CEST.

Responsive resizing

JPEG pays tribute to interface culture, and as such the work is responsive and not scaling. When the work is resized, the work is again rendered and compressed. When viewed smaller, details will disappear, yet the composition stays recognisable. It’s like stepping back to see a work from further away.


The choice of color wanders from monochromatic tones to the brutality of complete randomness and everything in between.

JPEG, 2022 (outputs of one example JPEG in various sizes, click to enlarge)

Technologies used

In honour of the blockchain and the web, the work is written in vanilla JavaScript, using no dependancies, and generates a standard JPEG. This way the file is downloadable, aiming for a materiality that comes as close as possible to the standard browser.

Related work

Earlier work in which I used the JPEG compression was in the series Compressed Landscapes (2016), a series of live net art pieces in which the lens of the network was directed at landscape photography found in abundance on the internet. The works have been exhibited at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2021. Read all about it here.

About me

Since 1997 I have been making art on the Internet in the form of websites and digital-related work ever since, resulting in websites, apps, installations, videos, prints, sculptures, audio works and drawings. The networked computer is the central muse in my work, exploring all its wonders and peculiarities.
I don't use software to make art, I make art about software.

My work has been exhibited at The Whitechapel Gallery, Centre Pompidou, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, van Gogh Museum and the Ludwig Museum and acquired by various private and institutional collections. This is my third NFT collection after Ornament and Window.

Check out my work at www.leegte.org.
My work is represented by Upstream Gallery Amsterdam.

JPEG, 2022