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The Love of Complexity

Guy Levrier

26 August 2010

To see my canvasses illustrating complexity, please click here or here

"The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science."
Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge. Edward O. Wilson. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1998. cf. p.54. ISBN 0-679-45077-7.

The love of complexity! How dare we? That famous complexity which makes us suffer so much, is it really that there is some overriding obligation to meet the challenge of such a pressing need? As a painter, I feel it as responsible for the emergence of abstraction in my art, a true quantum leap, which puts everything into question, so that I no longer trust my reason, and I can only consult my impressions to guide my approach. However, since the impression is the overall state of consciousness, with a characteristic emotional tone responding to an external influence, as opposed to thinking and trial-based analysis, I get a comfortable justification of that love.

External action, yes, but from what? "The Others", perhaps, as a human being living in society? Certainly yes, but also as very personal, the Cosmos, by which I feel very strongly influenced, as I have mentioned elsewhere. The big bang is the focal point for negotiating more and more elements of justification both religious and scientific, of the creation, "around the 127th decimal place," said the scholar. Since that event, the creative process was characterized by a steep rise in complexity, leading to Man .... Oh joy! How not to love this complexity to which we owe so much?

When I first trace the lines on a canvas, I have no idea what will happen, the windings to which they will devote themselves, to reach any destination and figure. Then, an exposure time is needed to get in condition to receive an interactive orientation, a movement, a sensation, an assessment of what I initially perceived as the result of chance, but which must be measured against the scale of my values.

We are then in a situation of complete and profound simplicity: it is the birth of a mood, which soon will make me act, to continue. It is also the immediate birthplace of a complexity: in a seemingly erratic course, the lines intersect, overlap, while densifying more and more, challenging me on my choice of orientations, forms, colors, texture, material. These lines seem to me then to seek to correspond with each other, to tie and untie, even to fight, and show me something which is becoming increasingly complex and, to my amazement, which challenges me.

Thus, this complexity, unintended by itself to any unjustifiable reason, arises spontaneously, self-generated as the act of creation is accomplished. It is imposed upon me, and I would be totally unable to oppose it, on pain of losing my source. It is perfectly natural, and therefore, it is amiable. You can follow this long journey by visiting my catalogues in the introduction, from the flowers I painted in 1972, to my recent, very complex, abstract works. And above all, thanks to the technological innovations that we enjoy exploiting throughout our cultural experience, you can find beauty wherever it lies, according to your preferences in orientations and levels of magnification, while strolling in the paint of my works.

So here we stand firmly opposed to any exercise of pseudo-intellectual "complexity for the sake of complexity", of provocative obscurantism, the punishment being an immediate loss of meaning. I wonder then, precisely, on the share that falls to me in this act, ultimately so charged with mystery. Its presence in the complexity raises my curiosity, the source of artistic and scientific research. I have a certainty, however, which is that I am not entirely the author of the work. At best, an accomplice in its execution. The genesis of complexity is, in fact, the genesis of complicity. One is always an accomplice of ... More importantly, if I want to continue, I must pass a whole series of value judgments all along the way, which are matters of emotional affect. This is fundamental: the complexity of my neurons will have to use me as a tool to interact with the complexity of my work.

Given the extreme difficulty of the task, many anguished artists have used all known artificial loopholes, although we must be able to achieve the rewarding serenity proper to the act of creation.

Metaphor is the common starting point for the artist and the scientist in their creative work for the former, and the research for the latter. If the artist wishes to find some ontological enrichment of his creative investigation field, at the service of Being, the scientist will bring him, as a complement, an immense wealth of knowledge, enabling him to explore the universe with all its potentialities and therefore partial answers to the question "why is there something rather than nothing". The artist responds by doing, by his work, which justifies his existence. I act, therefore I am.