Working at the intersection of painting, philosophy, and science, Ian Jehle has, over the last two decades, created bodies of work which consider the social, intellectual, scientific and
political systems people create for themselves as a way of making peace with the world
Rooted in existentialist philosophy of Kierkegaard, Camus and the Kyoto School, lyrical historians such as Dave Hickey and Donald Ritchie, and writers Virginia Woolf, Iris
Murdoch, and Kazuo Ishiguro, Jehle is interested in the ways in which systems of belief, whether they be personal or political, scientific, philosophical or religious, are experienced not as ends in themselves but rather as means of coping with the basic dilemmas that all human beings experience as part of being alive.
The artist sees knowledge as an active set of processes that people use to make sense of and make peace with suffering. In Jehle’s view, art is a means of finding order in chaos, and peace within uncertainty, even if only provisionally or temporarily. Jehle asserts his own participation in this process by inventing his own systems which are grounded in real world problems but ultimately speak to the act of trying to make sense out of the senseless. Any conclusion his works make is less important than the impulse to find clarity, order, meaning and even beauty, out of and through uncertainty.
With this in mind, Jehle’s most recent body of work has as its premise an unresolved mathematical problem called the Four Colour Map Theorem. He uses this not well understood theorem as a jumping off point which connects mathematical knowledge to artistic insight. The result is a series of dynamic, yet highly restricted paintings which speak equally to the history of abstract painting, the supposed perfection of mathematics, as well as the limitations of human understanding and the impermanence of all physical things, and in doing so blurring the line between poetics and analysis.
Ian Jehle is a Canadian-born artist and writer based in Berlin. From 2015 to 2021 Jehle served as Lecturer of Art at the American University in Washington, DC and held residencies at the Banff Arts Centre and ZK/U in Berlin. In 2021, Jehle and Danish artist Marie Birkedal formed the artist collective, Herzberg.
Working at the intersection of visual arts, philosophy, and mathematics, Jehle employs the concept of play. His often large-scale projects utilize algorithms, puzzles, and live events where attendees are invited to create works of art by following a simple set of rules.
‘There are patterns and beautiful things that emerge simply out of experimentation’ Jehle’s interest in the relationships between philosophical, mathematical and aesthetic systems stems from his university studies simultaneously pursuing computer science, philosophy, and art at American University, Kansas City Art Institute, and Brandeis University. Then, completing his MFA in Visual Arts at Columbia University.
Jehle enjoys meshing his engineering experience with his artistic practice, using construction materials and applying the visual language of diagrams, maps and 3D visualizations.
Moreover, he sees the worlds of science, philosophy and art as deeply entwined with overlapping methods of inquiry, all of which form the basis of his work. Ian Jehle’s works have been exhibited across the U.S., in Europe and Asia, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Katzen Museum in Washington, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Gallery-éf in Tokyo, the Reinraum in Düsseldorf, Germany as well as at the Transmediale Arts Festival in Berlin. He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including grants from the Canada Council and the DC Arts Commission.