Owen Schuh's Mathematical Functions

February 07, 2013


'My work seeks to illuminate the entwining relations between embodied mind, mathematics, and the physical world.  My artwork is structured by mathematical functions, which though relatively simple in nature yield outcomes of surprising organic complexity.  I have created this work by hand using, at most, the aid of a pocket calculator.' Owen Schuh


A mathematical relation may be represented as easily by symbols on a page as drops of paint or an arrangement of beer mugs. Anything can stand for anything, but the underlying structure remains constant.  In each piece I strive to manifest phenomena unique to the interaction between the physical medium and the logical structure.


Through research and experimentation I choose mathematical functions that model the interactions and structure of living systems. Cellular Automata, circle packing, fractals and other topics in discrete mathematics form the basis of my work.  These functions bear the structure of life, but operate in the parallel world of the mind: a world of simulacra inhabited by numbers and abstract relationships.  The mathematical formula is a virus that depends on a host to carry out its peculiar kind of life until it terminates or the medium or the artist is exhausted.  In the end the painting is really only the physical trace of this activity – a shell left behind on the beach.


Although the specter of determinism and reductionism lurks behind every corner I find the process of utilizing mathematical rigor to actually be a liberating one.  Though I must submit to the dictates of an algorithm I gain access to new formal and structural possibilities.  In most cases, though each step is rigidly determined the end result cannot be predicted ahead of time nor can it be worked backwards to deduce a unique original state.


The importance of this work for me lies beyond creating clever algorithms, or beautiful images.  It is about understanding the nature and limits of the physical and mental worlds.