If you haven’t figured out that I’m a nerd yet, then you haven’t been paying attention. While I am a total Star Wars superfreak, what I really mean by nerd is that I’d rather watch Neil DegrassTyson’s remake of the Cosmos series over the latest Marvel series on Netflix. As such, one of the episodes from this series really made me rethink how I use repetition within my paintings.
We live on a giant ball of rock and water, rotating in space around an even larger ball of fire in the middle of a galaxy among countless other galaxies. The ability to look up and recognize the movement of these other stars from other galaxies as they move across the sky over a measurable stream of time which repeats in a never-ending conglomeration of cycles allows us to measure time and map the universe. Over millennia, our ancestors honed this skill for pattern recognition, which set us apart from other animals on our planet.
Let’s face it, we are hardwired to recognize patterns. It is one of the cornerstones of the human intellect. Some of the more universal and frequently occurring patterns in nature are so magnetic to us that we give them names like Golden Mean. We are drawn to them. They effect our emotions. We can’t help ourselves. Not only do we see and recognize these things, we assign meaning to them.
My interest in pattern recognition began with my introduction to fractals when I was in high school. When I was still being diagnosed with narcolepsy but not yet medicated, I struggled in what would be the only class I have ever failed in my life, Algebra II/Trigonometry. The teacher was reasonable and gave me an opportunity to earn more credit to bring my grade up by doing a report and presentation, which ended up being on fractals. I still failed, but even in the failure I gained something I will carry and use as an artist for the rest of my days.
I think it was kind of a cascade of things. I was really drawn to the patterns of the Mandelbrot fractals, which led to an understanding of the Golden Mean, which led to a fascination with the mathematical elements of the Fibonacci Sequence. All of which show up on one level or another when I paint. There is just an energy to that pattern that stirs me to my core.
But it isn’t that pattern itself that fuels this. It is the recognition of the pattern and the ability to apply it. As I drew a lot of Japanese clouds from my tattoo influences, I saw these patterns and began streamlining and stylizing the images to fit the patterns. I do this in waves and fire depictions as well. It was another cascade that I just let wash over me and carry me away into the river that I currently navigate as a painter.
The pattern itself is uniform. It is the use of expressionist lines and variation of color that truly give the clouds and objects a life of their own, complete with attitude and emotions. However, there is also something meditational in the repetition. It is a process that is almost spiritual. It calms my soul and connects me to the vastness of the cosmos. It is here where the genetic disposition of pattern recognition synchronizes with the overwhelming need to create.
I’m sure that this need is also hardwired into some of us on the same level as pattern recognition. I’m sure there could be a whole episode of the Cosmos on this. But that is an episode for another day.