Why Primes?

With this series I wanted to say something new about color and space, yet initially was unsure how. Letting things stew for a while, one morning I woke from a dream with the phrase “adjacent prime numbers” stuck in my head. That ended up being the inspiration for this series of work.

A prime number is a whole number that cannot be formed by multiplying two smaller whole numbers (e.g., 2, 5, 41 are all primes). They occur in non-predictable sequences. That is, there is no mathematical formula which can accurately determine the next prime number after the previous one. Still, at least early in prime number sequences, they seem to follow a pattern before departing from that pattern. As such, I saw the use of prime number relationships as a way to introduce both pattern and exception.

Prime has additional meaning as well. I’ve always liked the look of gesso (a canvas primer material) and wondered why it needed to be covered up. This seemed redundant and wasteful when gesso itself could be used as ground. In the series, gesso is a prominent material in each work.

I’ve also taken prime as a call for quality, spending focused time at each step of the process from design to stretching of canvas to painting to applying varnish, striving towards a level of analog perfection in the craft of the paintings. I’ve aimed for a sense of quality that while not perfect, is as good as reasonably possible from a human point-of-view without involving digital tools. This idea of the works being human-centric extended as well to the math involved in calculating figure/ground percentages and paradigms for color placement. All were done with a pencil without the use of calculator or computer. Showcasing human qualities also involved using solid colors and hard-edged straight lines, things rarely seen in nature.

Finally, prime connotes a sense of uniqueness. Within the series all colors, with the exception of black and white, are custom mixed. Titles include the prime numbers that were used in determining paradigms that apply to each work. For example, 1.2.3.5 (A) follows the same paradigm as 1.2.3.5 (B) and 1.2.3.5 (C), using a rule-set from where the percentage of figure/ground (as well as other features) are the same, but making each work different within the boundaries of the rules. Conceptually, this is an extension of Sol LeWitts proscribed wall drawings but permitting a broader range of artistic choice than LeWitt would typically allow.

So a lot of words, but ultimately my goal for the series is to make work that is vibrant, engaging and visually interesting that can bring some respite to our hectic, digital lives.