The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is currently exhibiting a large solo exhibition called “Stephen Andrews POV” in their Contemporary gallery. Stephen Andrews is known for his photographs, videos, and paintings that address difficult societal issues, using both representational and abstract formats. A recent (2014-2015) series of paintings titled the “Butterfly effect” is Andrews’ expression of the Chaos Theory. Using a defined set of restrictions the artist explores the multitude of outcomes.
Each work in the series consists of a white canvas with six rectangles that are identical except for color. Two of the rectangles are red two, are blue, and two are yellow. Each of the primary colors has equal representation. The oil paint has been applied using mylar sheets to ensure the integrity of the rectangles. It is the placement of the rectangles that changes with each painting. There are an infinite amount of possible outcomes. Andrews is interested in the accumulation of colors that eventually make black. The areas where all three colors overlap become black rectangles. These black rectangles appear in different locations on each canvas. At first these painting look random but upon closer inspection you realize they all share the same geometric elements, there is consistency in the chaos.
Stephen Andrews has expressed his ideas about the chaos he sees in our troubled world by using the ideas of the mathematical Chaos Theory to create abstract geometric paintings.
Whenever I have the opportunity to travel I make a point of visiting the local museums and galleries and I am always on the hunt for MathArt.
In Toronto, I visited the Distillery District, which is a collection of brick historic buildings that was once a whiskey distillery, but is now filled with galleries, restaurants and artist’s studios. I was in the Thompson Landry gallery when I spotted mathematical formulas that seemed to come directly out of my old Integral Calculus text book. I became immediately interested in the work of Étienne Gélinas. He uses a variety of techniques to create multi-media work: scratching geometric drawings into a thick base coat of paint or medium, collaging with paper blueprints, floor plans and garment patterns, and carefully painted shapes and formulas. The artist also adds a random accidental quality to each work by including an expressive element of abstract splatter drip and mark painting.
Étienne Gélinas – “Composition 365” – Mixed media on wood
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery
In the work “Composition 365” Gelinas has used a circle as his underlying geometry. There is a series of larger concentric circles which have been segmented into 8 equal sections with smaller series of concentric circles within each segment. Around this circle pattern there are mathematical formulae, specifically integral formulae. This formulae painted in white on the black background are quite beautiful. Dividing the work horizontally, the artist has placed layers of vintage patterns for making clothing. On top of the collaged element Gélinas has painted a free form abstract painting. There is a lot going on in this work and that is what I like about it. The seemingly disparate techniques yield complex work with a great textuality. To me the work addresses the layers of mathematics in society. There is the obvious association of the calculus formulae, and the geometric implications of the drawn diagrams relate to the geometry used in making the paper garment patterns. Finally, the wild abstraction of the gestural painting adds a level of spontaneity and emotion to the visual dialog. It is not often I find single work of art with so levels mathematical aesthetic.