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Qualia - Exhibitions - Callan Contemporary

Press Release


June 5th - July 25th, 2014 


RECEPTION  June 7th 6-9 pm 


James Flynn’s fascinations with light, color, and perception inform the visually seductive, thematically evocative paintings in his exhibition, Qualia. That word, a Latin term describing the un-transferable subjectivity of consciousness, encapsulates what viewers experience in Flynn’s scintillating compositions: a unique personal interaction with his meticulous commingling of image and color. The enigmatic geometries in his paintings—concentric circles, curvilinear and angular formations—link his visual syntax to timeless forms that have appeared and reappeared across all the world’s cultures. In the lineages of Georges Seurat’s “chromoluminarism,” the dimensional illusionism of Victor Vasarely, and the color interaction theory of Josef Albers, Flynn’s paintings also owe much to his longtime association with his mentor, Mexican Surrealist Pedro Friedeberg, and his position as studio assistant to the American artist Peter Lobello. Friedeberg and Lobello, in many ways polar in their sensibilities, exerted profound and complementary influences on Flynn as a visual thinker. “I have one foot in Friedeberg’s world, which is archetypal and symbolic,” he observes, “and another in Lobello’s world, which is large-scale Abstract Minimalism.”


Flynn’s paintings conjure landscapes and mindscapes of exhilarating spatial ambiguity. They often create the appearance of slow, wave-like pulsations, which draw viewers in and induce a meditative state that is alternately kinetic and calmative. Flynn applies pure color unmixed, such that the resulting hues coalesce in the viewer’s optical perception. Shapes and colors appear to subtly shift or change with the viewer’s position and the angle and intensity of light. These shifts and pulsations are heightened by the artist’s use of pearlescent and iridescent paints in a reductivist palette of two or three colors—inspired by the brilliant iridescence of Amazonian macaws and the Blue Morpho butterfly of Brazil.


The artist’s background in intaglio printmaking is evident in the intricately layered surfaces of his paintings. These layers impart a subtle relief, interacting dramatically with the light source. “When the lights are low, or as daylight fades,” he notes, “the colors start to glow and vibrate, and all of a sudden, the iridescence is lifting the forms off the dark background.” Those inky, void-like backgrounds—and the shapes that arise from them—are richly symbolic, referencing Flynn’s interests in Particle physics, Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, Jungian psychology, and dream states. Into this alchemical admixture of meaning, viewers bring their own interpretations, captivated by the paintings’ vibrant, ever-changing play of light, material, and the intersection of the optical and psychological.




This series of paintings are explorations in Chromoluminarism, wherein I destabilize the viewer's perception of image and color. According to the perceptual theories of Gestalt, through patterns of similarity, closure, continuation, and proximity, the viewer tends to organize separate visual elements into a single unified "whole". I have created on canvas a visual field in which image and color blend optically when perceived by the viewer. The image and color cannot be nominalized: perception of image and perception of color are dependent on the viewer's position and proximity to the painting. With changes in the directional angle of ambient light, the viewer likewise perceives a shift in color intensity and surface reflectivity.

I achieve the optical effect through the manipulation of line value, nuanced color harmonies, and spatial characteristics of chromatic induction. The optical effects are further enhanced through the strategic use of iridescent, interference, and metallic paint. The illusory nature of the optical effect combined with the elusiveness of color reveal the dynamism of the viewer's ongoing organization of the visual field and, as such, suggests the interactive, ever-changing qualities of our perception.

In this series, I reference the work of my mentors Surrealist painter/sculptor Pedro Friedeberg and Abstract Minimalist Peter Lobello.

Victor Vasarely, Carlos Cruz Diez, Yvaral, and Yaacov Agam also influence my work.

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