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January 19 - February 23, 2002 at frumkin/duval gallery, Santa Monica

by Elenore Welles

Jaq Chartier, “Red Fall,” acrylic/ink/
spray paint on panel, 14 x 17”, 2001.

Jaq Chartier, “Red Tests,” acrylic/ink/
spray paint on panel, 26 x 24”, 2001.

Jaq Chartier, “Color Clones,” acrylic/ink/
spray paint on panel, 20 x 40”, 2001.

“Art is nature as seen through a temperament.”
--Emil Zola

Amy Ellingson's and Jaq Chartier's artistic and scientific investigations in Test reverse Zola’s pre-mise: nature is art as seen through a temperament.

Science, art and technology share a common bond. Each has it’s own forms of language. Each investigates the nature of reality through the organization of perceptions. Historically, artists have dialogued with science to investigate the mainstays of vision, such as light and optical theories. Quantum physics and relativity theory have served as direct subject matter in art, or have been depicted analogously for nearly a century. Representing simultaneous views of space and time, for example, were at the heart of Cubist and Futurist movements.

Our current scientific gods tend to be astrophysicists and micro-biologists. Chartier notes how the micro and macro components of the universe often resemble each other. Her fascination with scientific imagery led to unique collections, including DNA samples, molds, bacteria, cellular structures and stuff in test tubes.

Chartier produces rich surfaces, the result of working with layers of pigments. Her current paintings are inspired by DNA electrophoresis, the gel used to separate and visualize DNA chains. Layers of inks, dyes and photo chemicals are applied to plywood. Materials separated by several coats of gel interact and change over time with intriguing results.
As stains migrate through acrylic gels, gessos and spray paints, they bleed through the layers. Although chance is an important component, unpredictability lessens through continued experimentation. Control is especially evident when stains are arranged to resemble an actual test. The artist doesn’t merely preserve the physical world, but becomes an active force in altering it.

Color Clones is inspired by the way DNA gels fall through molecular weights. Inhabiting a neutral space, red, green and yellow circular stains hover in precarious harmony. They float on top of each other and streak into shapes that eerily resemble test tubes.

In Ink Table and Red Tests a series of red, yellow and black smears bleed, drip and seep. Evocative of medical samples, the deliberate use of repetition further hints at the way scientists document. Indeed, she approaches the works as tests, allowing process to become the ultimate subject matter.

Her surprisingly haunting images evokes not only the magic in organic chemistry, but its elegance as well. Commenting on the art/science connection, Chartier views science and its imagery as a frontier toward making our minds shift and open.

Add technology to the mix and the possibilities become limitless. As a source of investigation, art is determined not only by a particular era’s social realities, but by the technologies at their disposal as well. Imagine, for instance, if Leonardo Da Vinci had had Photoshop.

Amy Ellingson, “Summertime This Time Removed”, oil and encaustic on panel, 36 x 168", 2000.

Like Chartier, Ellingson deals with the perception of change through time. Her approach, however, is more romantic than analytical. Using seasonal changes as her prime example, images are initially manipulated on the computer and then translated into large encaustic paintings. Previous paintings incorporated pop and corporate icons, but current works lean more toward the use of point, line and grid.

Her surfaces develop from a complex buildup of textures that are luminous and tactile. Ornamental impulses are given full reign in Fall and Summer where dense, eclectic patterns and sensuous colors evolve into fluid horizontal environments. Decorative and screen-like, they conjure up rococo, abstract expressionist, and Japanese kimono designs

Deviating from the horizontal format, Winter is composed of complex layers of vertical geometric designs. Repetitive patterns and vibrant colors shimmer like a stained glass window.

When an artist friend of physicist Richard Feynman accused scientists of being more interested in the structure of things than in their aesthetic qualities, Feynmen showed him the beauty of a fly through a microscope. He claimed truth to be far more marvelous than an artist could imagine. Yet someone like Ellingson would most likely toss that vision into Photoshop and manipulate it into an image more marvelous than a scientist could imagine.

Amy Ellingson, “Even After a Century of Winter”
(detail), oil and encaustic on panel, 2001.

Amy Ellingson, “Summertime This Time Removed”
(detail), oil and encaustic on panel, 2001.