The complexity and depth of Jylian Gustlin’s paintings are the true intersection of science and art. Entropy, the Bay Area painter’s current exhibition at Gallery Mar in Park City, is a vision of calculated beauty that results from infusing technology, mathematical theory and creative expression into a body of work exemplary of the artist’s personal experiences. The paintings in the show are representative of Gustlin’s figurative works as well as her complex Fibonacci and Entropy paintings; the three series are intertwined in their aesthetic and artistic inspiration.
“Creating different types of art allows me to experience the world,” explains Gustlin of the multiple themes that coalesce within her work. She explores the grace of the human body through her figures, whose gestural silhouettes have been her focus for the past 30 years, while her more recent Fibonacci and Entropy series are derived from scientific studies and mathematical equations. Gustlin left college one semester short of a computer science and math degree to follow her passion for art at San Francisco’s Art Academy. After completing her BFA, Gustlin’s understanding of computers and artistic principles led her to a career as a graphics programmer and art director at Apple Computer. Now a full-time artist, she digitally draws many of her preliminary designs to combine the use of modern technology with traditional painting techniques; this process allows the artist to “lay down the bones of a painting while remaining loose enough to maintain an organic and painterly presence.” Gustlin’s finished paintings offer the same complex layering effects as the computer programs she uses for preliminary sketches, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
The many layers that make up Gustlin’s work consist of acrylic, charcoal, wax, gold leaf, pastel, graphite and oils. She digs and scratches into the painting’s surface to reveal vibrant colors that exist deep within its layers. These colors resurface as abstracted forms and vibrating lines that push and pull their way into the composition to create precise patterns or spontaneous movements. While several of the Entropy and Fibonacci pieces in the show are finalized with epoxy resin for a concise presence and seemingly infinite depth, many figurative works are left raw, exposing the vivid texture and sensuality of the composition. In pieces such as “Psyche 3,” spontaneous color movement, made up of hues that can only be achieved through extensive layering, surround a dramatically posed dancer shaped by sketched lines, scribbled marks and vibrant blocks of color, suggesting the figure’s fluid motion and vibrant energy. Mathematical themes also make their way into the figurative works through anatomical forms or calculated backdrops, such as in “Iris 3” and “Psyche 4.” “Math is everywhere in my art,” says Gustlin. “Whether intentional or not, the intersection of the two is always present.”
Mathematical influence is most clearly present in Gustlin’s Fibonacci paintings. The familiar Fibonacci sequence is a series in which each number is the sum of the preceding two numbers. The pattern appears constantly in nature from the formation of spirals found in seashells to the arrangement of leaves on a stem. It informs the growth patterns of flower petals and pineapple scales and even the evolution of life from a single cell to the human body. According to the artist, the Fibonacci numbers are a prime example of how mathematics is connected to seemingly unrelated things. Gustlin uses the sequence in her paintings to determine the number and placement of each circle, a shape that aesthetically identifies her Fibonacci series.
While equally intricate, Gustlin’s Entropy paintings respond to the calculated origin of the Fibonacci series with a bold lack of predictability. In physics, entropy translates to a measure of disorder or degree of randomness, which Gustlin adapts to the highs and lows of human emotion. Pieces such as “Entropy 3” offer varying degrees of order from precise linear patterns to a disarray of distracted shapes that vibrate across the painting’s surface. The viewer can emotionally relate to pieces like “Entropy 4,” whose chaotic arrangement of squares are supported by a quiet linear pattern. The intriguing color relationships and juxtaposed elements within these compositions make the Entropy paintings the stars of the show.
Mathematical theory heavily influences Gustlin, who lives and works in Silicon Valley, but her success as an artist lies in the unique pairing of in-depth technological knowledge with creative personal expression. “I continue to explore science and mathematics and how it intersects with the arts with every new design,” says Gustlin. “However when I am painting, I paint with emotion, allowing my personal experiences to flow through the paintbrush and onto the canvas. This extension beyond mathematics and science is the creative language of art.”
Kelly Carper is an Ogden-based arts writer with a background in Santa Fe’s commercial gallery world in sales, marketing and management. Her current freelance work extends from arts journalism to gallery marketing and can be found at kellycarper.com.