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Bottomless Wonders

by mana on November 26th, 2014

Most of us prefer a simple life. We like our adventures to be limited and well defined and the ordinary course of life to be peaceful and predictable. But sometimes events upset the regular rhythms of our lives. The chaos that follows can be stressful but often leads to a new and richer order.

Beata Lewis Sevcikova, "Order from Chaos," 2014

Beata Lewis Sevcikova, “Order from Chaos,” 2014

Beata Lewis Sevcikova has never been afraid to embrace chaos. She divorced seven years ago after a long marriage, and moved from Slovakia to Saudi Arabia, where she teaches at the Prince Sultan University in Riyadh. The transition was difficult but ultimately a happy one. To express her feelings, Beata began painting despite a lack of previous training. Her belief is that “what you see, read, hear or feel can be put on canvas. You can express your fears, aspirations, your ideals, relationships, your friends or enemies, your happiness… I consider my paintings as something very similar to music, something difficult to express in words. Each and every work is a part of me and it speaks for me. ”

In her painting “Order from Chaos,” the opposing red and blue regions meet at a chaotic boundary. The heat and turmoil of the red gives way to a tranquil blue ocean of light and peace. At the center there is a reflective globe enclosed in a ring where the two sides unite. It is as if a world is contained in the conflicting elements. Around the painting we see a frame and the leaves of a nearby plant, reminding us that this picture is part of a larger world.

Hokusai, "Waterfall," Musée Guimet, Paris; photo by dalbera

Hokusai, “Waterfall,” Musée Guimet, Paris; photo by dalbera

In the past forty years our understanding of the connection between order and chaos has been transformed. The work of Benoit Mandelbrot and other mathematicians has demonstrated how chaotic patterns of literally infinite complexity arise from the repeated application of simple rules. These patterns, which Mandelbrot has called “bottomless wonders,” do not overwhelm our minds. In fact, they resemble the structures of nature: leaves, grass, water, clouds, and vegetables. The development of these fractal images has led to a new realism in digital imagery. What we perceive as natural embodies deep complexity which nonetheless results from simple rules.

This truth was grasped intuitively by artists in earlier times. Many styles of art from the paintings of Hokusai to the geometrical patterns of Islamic Art show a complex structure built up from the repetition of similar elements.

Mark Stock, "Immaculate Collision," 2014

Mark Stock, “Immaculate Collision,” 2014

The computational art of Mark Stock exhibits how the repetition of simple physical interactions gives rise to complex structures in which we recognize abstract but meaningful patterns. His work “Immaculate Collision” is based on a simulation of fluid dynamics. Fluid spheres of varying density are released and allowed to move freely. Their collisions contort, twist, stretch and fold them into tantalizing patterns. Their boundaries look like smoke or perhaps the fine gauze of a wedding veil. The sense of smooth flowing motion makes one feel dreamy and romantic. It is remarkable that simple and precise scientific rules produce such an emotional impact. Mark’s work is currently on display at the Sense Fine Art Gallery in Menlo Park.

When we talk about chaos in our lives, we are usually referring to some misfortune: revolution, divorce, war, sickness, or other difficulties. Such events take a mental and physical toll on us. They force life into new channels, which sometimes bring new happiness or understanding. At a deeper level, chaos is all around us, even in the basic processes of the natural world. Finding meaning in chaos is the essence of our consciousness. Though we often shun it, chaos is what shapes the world.

From → Musings

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