News: News Archives
Artist Brings Order, Form
to AAAS Exhibit Spaces
The gallery and rotunda spaces at the AAAS currently display the work of Cleveland-based artist William Martin Jean. Jean, an abstract artist, and Director of Continuing Education at the Cleveland Institute of Art, creates richly colored paintings and constructions based on formal grids and patterns. The exhibit runs through to30 October 2002.
Jean named his latest exhibit, "Referential Structures." As the title suggests, he based the body of work on structures that refer back to something else: an article of clothing, a building or a wall. This style of reference to an object lies at the heart of all abstract painting, says Jean. "There has to be a source, a well of inspiration."
Shirley Koller, curator for AAAS art exhibits, discovered Jean's work when she visited the Wasmer Gallery at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. She appreciated Jean's use of hard edges and exact shapes, and invited him to submit slides for consideration. "It was fate," Jean recalls.
The rigid grids and patterns in Jean's work suggest a mathematical basis, but there are other scientific aspects of his art that make it fitting for display at the AAAS. Jean's experience in geology, for example, served as a venue to study varying veins of color in the rocks and to get a feel for the texture of old stone. His early study of rock formations shows through in this exhibition, as he continues to incorporate varying shades of grays, and other earth tones into his artwork.
Jean uses muted light in what he describes as "color at the low-end of the prism" to establish his desired effects. "I'm more interested in the twilight than the bright sunlight….the way I look at things is in a spiritual light that you get in the early morning and late in the day," he says.
His family history and personal experiences continue to inspire his work. His father, a tailor from China, died when he was very young, yet Jean still retains a sense of quiet and reflection that he attributes to an Asian parentage. Jean's art demonstrates classical Oriental influences: introspection from Buddhism and simplicity from vertical and horizontal lines. "Recently my work has taken on a sense of space and quiet," he says.
The artist's use of patterns and grids can be traced back to his Czechoslovakian mother. Growing up, he remembers watching his mother and her friends work meticulously on their embroidery. "When they did patterns, figures everything turned into a grid. That was the style; it gave a sense of order." This method of putting non-ordered shapes into grids and frameworks continues to influence Jean's work.
"We refer to nature as being in disorder I look for order in nature and put nature in a concrete form."
The theatre also influenced Jean's artistic style. As a young man, he was both an actor and a set designer. From acting, he became very aware of how a figure relates to the space and stage around him. "An actor is always trying to find their light," Jean says. This awareness translates into Jean's use of gold leaf in his work. "That's the crown," he explains. Like an actor's light, the gold becomes the focal point of the painting.
Jean goes through different processes each time he works on a new piece. Sometimes a picture floats in his mind, and he knows what the final product will be even before he sketches it. At other times he lets the canvas speak to him. In these cases, he describes his relationship to the artwork as "an internal conversation between you and the work. Eventually the piece comes to fruition."
In his last exhibit which occurred soon after September 11, those who saw his art described it as cleansing and peaceful. In his first solo exhibition at the AAAS, Jean hopes that Washingtonians will respond in kind. "I would like for people to have a sense of something spiritual," he says.
19 September 2002