Sunday, June 22, 2014

James Flynn at Callan Contemporary

William Blake once opined that it is possible to "...see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/And Eternity in an hour..." In his poem, Auguries of Innocence, he harked to the sages of antiquity who saw the repeating patterns of the natural world as a kind of sacred geometry that contained the secrets of the universe. But Blake's contemporaries were often more likely to see the natural world as fodder for smoke belching factories. In more recent times, physicists in  have rediscovered that nature's geometric patterning actually does contain the secrets of the universe after all, and that ongoing counterpoint between technology and metaphysics is reflected in James Flynn's seamlessly pristine, yet near-hallucinatory, paintings.

Comprised of intricate, symmetrically patterned lines rendered in richly hued pigments, they range from austerely minimal compositions to dazzling visual puzzles that trick the eye into seeing luminous depth where only flat surfaces actually exist. Consequently, they often resemble holograms that change in color and form when viewed from different angles. Olam Atzilut, (a Kabbalist term for emanation, above) is a shimmering arrangement of concentric circles like a bulls-eye in burnished brass but is actually just a painted panel. Concentric circles become even more illusionistic in Sysygy (a celestial navigation term for alignment, left), where their overlapping forms seem to shimmer like a virtual reality rendition of a soap bubble floating in space. Flynn's most visionary work, The Pareidolic Dream of the Lion, top, makes extensive use of obsessively painted moire patterns deployed as a kind of Rorschach that turns the viewer's gaze inward. The human need to make sense of ambiguity causes the subjective nature of our imagination and preoccupations to influence how we interpret what we see (as the term "pareidolic" suggests). In this uniquely surprising exhibition, Flynn takes us to the far horizons of perception, returning us to that sublime metaphysical realm where art, science and magic are united and cohesive once again. ~Bookhardt

Qualia: Geometric Paintings by James Flynn, Through July 25, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518. Left: The Oracle of Blessed Friedeberg by James Flynn, dedicated to Mexican artist Pedro Friedeberg.