I’m developing a body of work based on the relationship between art and science. Germinating at the convergence of the arts and various branches of mathematics and science, my projects are imbued with the philosophical concepts of geometry, colour, space, and information. My mode of inquiry is the relationship between creativity and experimentation.
Working in drawing, painting and installation, I will often include audience participation as a way of forging art as research. I’m inviting you to my playroom where I probe, test, and construct.
Key elements in science, maths, and other fields such as architecture and engineering all derive from a kind of child’s play—with different-sized building blocks, children will explore what fits together, how patterns can be formed, what seems pleasing to the eye.
Human creativity and the cosmos of numbers and patterns are enmeshed, going back centuries and in all cultures.
Geometrical systems were recognized by Greek mathematicians nearly 2500 years ago. Going further back, consider the tiling patterns of the Muslim world, architecture from Incan societies in South America and textile traditions from Asia and Africa. Then, there’s the colour wheel of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple and its concentric circles, which has parallels in Chinese medicine in addition to Hindu and Buddhist mandalas.
Moreover, wave forms are used to describe sound and light as well as the properties of atomic and sub-atomic particles. Linear graphing structures, i.e. the table of elements, are also employed in musical notation and are the basis for 3D projection used in engineering, industrial design, map-making and architecture.
Deriving inspiration from all this, I visualize mathematical principles as artwork. It’s an exploration that expands on what other imaginative visualizers have spawned before me.
For centuries, artists have investigated geometry and colour maps to ground their creations, developing methodologies and testing new materials. That’s why I utilize building materials from my engineering background and apply the language of math diagrams and 3D modelling to generate visual works. In the last 50 years, artists such as Sol Lewitt and his instruction-based wall drawings as well as Dorothea Rockburne, Mel Bochner, Charlotte Posenenske and Jack Box have also made algorithm-based pieces as the focus of their practice.
I’m also influenced by the geometry of 20th-Century artists such as Mondrian, Frank Stella and Carl Andre. I delight in artists exploring the interplay of mathematics and their disciplines such as the architectural works of Buckminister Fuller or the music of Brian Eno and the geometric pattern work of Roger Penrose, who had a long-time correspondence with MC Escher.
What emerges is a tribute to our collective knowledge spanning millennia—ideas of space, geometry, pattern, light, and movement can be found in Neolithic cave paintings. In much the same way, our modern minds construct images based on a set of axioms, which are logical and symmetrically linked.
Just like the child rearranging different building blocks, I’m inviting you to experience these discoveries with me through the 4 Pillars of my art making: The Four-Color Math Theorem, Projection, Tiling Patterns, and Folding.
Ian Jehle is a Canadian artist and teacher based in Berlin and Washington D.C. An adventurer of interdisciplinary explorations, theories, and different modes of making, he’s served as an adjunct lecturer at American University and held residencies at the Banff Arts Centre and Glogau AIR in Berlin.
Working at the intersection of math, engineering, and visual arts, Jehle employs the concept of play. His large-scale, math-based installation projects are often participatory in nature, utilizing games, puzzles, and live events where attendees are invited to create works of art by following a simple set of mathematical rules.
‘There are patterns and beautiful things that emerge simply out of experimentation’
Jehle’s fascination with the dance between numbers and aesthetics 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.
After graduation, he put his science background to practice by making technical drawings and then, becoming the head of engineering at the construction firm P&J Arcomet. Meanwhile, he continued to delve into his art practice and eventually, landed the university teaching position, which marked a point of no return. Jehle realized a passion for interacting with students and relished supporting their creative discoveries and innovations. So, art became his nexus.
Jehle enjoys meshing his engineering experience with his artistic practice, using building materials—gaffers tape, bungee cords, construction crayons, chalk, snap lines—and applying the visual language of CAD, math diagrams, and 3D visualizations. Moreover, he sees the worlds of science and art as deeply entwined with overlapping methods of inquiry, all of which form the basis of his work.
Ian Jehle’s pieces and installations have been exhibited across the U.S., in Europe and Japan, 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 Vorspiel/Transmediale Arts Festival in Berlin. See the detailed CV here.