Spector, Naomi. Catalogue Essay from "QUASI PERIODIC SPACE" Ileana Tounta Contemporary solo exhibition, 2000

As far back as I can remember, I was conscious of scale within scale.

But the exploration has already become less of the visual and more of the conceptual and abstract.                                                                   

Eleni Mylonas

The journey started for real about ten years ago when something about a reproduction of the 1918 Mondrian "Composition with Gris 1 (Lozenge) caught her eye - its apparently complete symmetry. But she noticed that although the underlying diagonal grid is regular, the superimposed horizontal and vertical grid has lines that are thicker or thinner in places. Analyzing these set of symmetrical lines by tracings them on vellum, she discovered rhythmic, asymmetrical patterns that looked remarkably like such Mondrian paintings as "Composition A: Composition with Black, Red, Gray, Yellow, and Blue" of 1920 and the similar Mondrians that followed through the decade. A series of deconstructed images based on Mondrian paintings with similarly derived patterns followed, and they led to her study of grids of greatly increased mathematical complexity via the discoveries of Sir Rogern Perrose. 

Before Penrose's work in the mathematical field of tiling, five-fold symmetry had been considered impossible. Through his study of crystals, he arrived at the momentous discovery of the two rhombuses which tile the plane to make aperiodic patterns that conform to the golden rule and continue to infinity - yet do not repeat.

Through a study of Penrose's tiles and through investigations of her own, she arrived at, as she explains, "complex irregular matrix composed of five sets of lines and their parallels dissecting the plane at different angles. This lattice or web became by base camp... . The series of works Quasi Periodic Space is the journal of this particular journey." 

This arena of operations - her "quasi periodic web" - is undeniably stimulating mentally and visually. But to base an appreciation of the new photographic collages solely on the fascinations of their mathematical sources would be inadequate. Our aesthetic interest is engaged by the ways these mathematical matrixes function as sources and structures within the context of her sensitive interactions with and reformations of her actual visual surroundings. Her approach as an artist has always been through the world. She is a searcher - sure and bold in her often surprising choices and tough enough to confront and wrestle with the most implacable subjects. Yet she has a quick eye for humor and is capable of great tenderness. 

Importantly, she is among a number of contemporary artists, from Roy Lichtenstein to Chuck Close, whose module-based work is deeply engaged with the question, How do we see? How do we know? How do we see what we know? How do we know what we see? and How can seeing and knowing jibe in ways that expand consciousness? 

Like Lichtenstein's incredibly extensive, ofter teasing, use of ben day dots and like Close's increasingly daring small units that still resolve themselves into singular images, her complex patterns of photographic snippets engage us on several levels at once. It is very much to the point that Lichtenstein's witty riffs spring from the properties of cyphers of mechanical reproduction (and their limitations) and Close's units are based on split-second photographic specificity. Similarly, behind the Quasi Periodic Space work is a brilliant 30-year history in photography that since the late 1980's has evolved into digital, gridded permutations in macro and micro scales. Although her modules are recognizable images (or pieces of them), like Lichtenstein's and Close's paintings, her work is increasingly abstract in its operations. The persistent presence of photography here, however conceptually manipulated, has a more objective directness. It addresses our minds first, then our feelings. It feels more like presentation than representation. 

On the purely formal level, the work elicits multi-layered attention. To begin with, there is challenge and brio simply in the absence of the nearly universal horizontal/vertical orientation. Then, there is the excitement of seeing the pieces and the whole simultaneously - a duality that applies to both the structures and the images. Further, the various configurations are anything but static: the eye and the mind are set in quick motion - taking in, relating, comparing, analyzing the complexities. Her acute powers of formal organization enhance the work's aesthetic pleasures without removing the challenge of de-coding. 

Through this dynamic engagement, the work's multivalent meanings emerge. Partly through analysis and partly through a kind of instinctive, taut imagination (image-forming), we begin to develop an understanding of the inseparable pluralities of perception and insight - and of the ways in which we gain and use the understanding. 

Our processes of seeing and understanding are stirred into an awareness of the ways in which human concerns may intersect with processes of abstract spatial relations. To a considerable extent, it is the artist's sensibility to pivot-point of scale that enables us to see in both directions at once. Her masterful manipulations seem to collapse vast fields into comprehensibility and simultaneously expand minute fragments up into graspable focus. And this elasticity of space may encourage a stretch of consciousness as well. In the quotidien subjects themselves and in the context of reversible scales, we may find new hierarchies of attention and respect for underappreciated moments. Whether re react with concern or amusement, the angagement that initially gripped the intellect the spreads to our feelings. The multiplicities of viewpoint within which her subjects are presented suggests a broad, humane, and moral vision. 

The balance between the work's conceptual and visual reach and its affective powers is indicative of both an eager intellect and a receptive sensibility. Rigorous within her systems, she is alert to other paths of discovery and to other kinds of knowledge. Describing the process of the current work, she said, "I had the impression that I was exploring into deep, mysterious, mathematical, cosmic realms that possibly hold universal secrets and rules that govern the very fabric of the universe and therefore of myself." 

Naomi Spector

New York, February 2000