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Review: Qualia: Geometric paintings by James Flynn 

D. Eric Bookhardt on a new show at Callan Contemporary

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William Blake once opined that it is possible to "see a World in a Grain of Sand/ And a Heaven in a Wild Flower/ Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/ And Eternity in an hour ..." In his poem, "Auguries of Innocence," he harked to the sages of antiquity, who saw the repeating patterns of the natural world as a kind of sacred geometry that contained the secrets of the universe. But Blake's contemporaries often were more likely to see the natural world as fodder for smoke-belching factories. In more recent times, physicists have rediscovered that nature's geometric patterning actually does contain the secrets of the universe after all, and that ongoing counterpoint between technology and metaphysics is reflected in James Flynn's seamlessly pristine yet near-hallucinatory paintings.

  Comprising intricate, symmetrically patterned lines rendered in richly hued pigments, they range from austerely minimal compositions to dazzling visual puzzles that trick the eye into seeing luminous depth where only flat surfaces exist. Consequently, they often resemble holograms that change in color and form when viewed from different angles.

  Olam Atzilut (a Kabbalist term for emanation) is an arrangement of concentric circles that suggests a shimmering bull's-eye rendered in burnished brass but actually is just a painted panel. Concentric circles become even more illusionistic in Sysygy (a celestial navigation term for alignment), where their overlapping forms seem to shimmer like a virtual reality rendition of a soap bubble floating in space. Flynn's most visionary work, The Pareidolic Dream of the Lion, (pictured) makes extensive use of obsessively painted moire patterns deployed as a kind of Rorschach test that turns the viewer's gaze inward. The need to make sense of ambiguity causes the subjective nature of our imagination and preoccupations to influence how we interpret what we see (as the term "pareidolic" suggests). In this uniquely surprising exhibition, Flynn takes us to the far horizons of perception, returning us to that sublime metaphysical realm where art, science and magic are united and cohesive once again. — D. Eric Bookhardt

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