Abstract geometric paper-based sculpture may seem like an unlikely medium for the expression of scientific principles, but when the artist is also an engineer, there’s an underlying layer of meaning lost on the casual observer. It’s okay if you don’t get what these pieces represent: Matthew Shlian’s tessellations are beautiful to look at, impressive for both their intricate forms and their precision.
Shlian has a new show called Telemetry currently up at Florida Gulf Coast University as part of the FGCU Art Galleries’ third year of Crossroads: Art and Science Residency and Exhibition. Founder of the Initiative Artist Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the artist creates large-scale installations as well as drawings, and frequently collaborates with scientists at the University of Michigan.
“As a paper engineer, my work is rooted in print media, book arts and commercial design,” says Shlian. “Beginning with an initial fold, a single action causes a transfer of energy to subsequent folds, which ultimately manifest in drawing and three dimensional forms. I use my engineering skills to create kinetic sculpture which have led to collaborations with scientists at University of Michigan.”
“We work on the nanoscale, translating paper structures to micro folds. Our investigations extend to visualizing cellular division and solar cell development. Researchers see paper engineering as a metaphor for scientific principles; I see their inquiry as a basis for artistic inspiration. In my studio I am a collaborator, explorer and inventor. I begin with a system of folding and at a particular moment the material takes over. Guided by wonder, my work is made because I cannot visualize its final realization; in this way I come to understanding through curiosity.”