Translation 4- Mary Murphy
Oil on Canvas
20" x 16"
I have been interested in patterns and my work has used the Minimalist device of the grid in various ways. Another consistent theme in my work has been the
exploration of time as an extended series of discrete transitions, whether of color (through the use of shifting transparencies) or form (through repetition and
variation). Along with these aspects, my work has always emphasized painting
as an historical tradition and a physical sensation that can encode experience
The images here, based on a computer program that models reaction/diffusion,
capture the abstract record of a particular moment when a unique image is
formed. Reaction/diffusion processes in developmental biology introduce two
chemicals (in this case black and white) into a system in unequal proportions and at unequal rates. Reaction/diffusion processes result in such diverse and
distinctive patterns as the spots on leopards, stripes on zebras, and pigmentation in humans. I was fascinated by the translation of information, from the language of scientific experiment into mathematical equations and finally into computer code, resulting in a digital image that is translated yet again into the language of painting through the most manual of processes.
I translated the gray tones of the computer images into numerical values ranging
from 0-100, representing the number of discrete tones I could discern. Creating a 100-step gray scale (where 0 = white and 100 = black), I transferred the
computer images to canvas, gridding the canvas, plotting the tonal values in
pencil, and painting each “pixel”. While still wet, the paintings were brushed
horizontally and vertically; in each painting of this series, the surface and the
predominance of the grid vary, much the same as the discrete moments of the
process shift and the resulting images change subtly. The overall sense of the
painting process mirrors the biological process itself as a living, breathing entity
encompassing perpetual change and discrete variation.
Susceptibility to change defines the human condition. I am trying to capture the
essence of a unique moment in time – catching experience as it transforms into
matter – while recording the inherent and palpable undercurrent of loss
in all experience; a mourning for all that might have been.