By Anna Norris
Splashes of watercolor, colored pencils and oil pastels along with wire sculptures, notebooks, and diagrams lined the walls of the small gallery at the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design, which featured Jim Chapman’s “My Trip to Notan” exhibit for his M.F.A. studio project during the week of March 5.
Chapman, who chose to concentrate in graphic design, spent three years working on his project: a prototype book consisting of 50 pages including 10 essays, and a DVD insert focusing mainly on the concept of Notan.
According to Chapman, Notan is the placement of positive space and negative space. Chapman gave the most common example, the yin-yang symbol. Chapman used Notan to look at the world in a new way.
“There are two ways to show a shape,” says Chapman, “by showing it or not showing it.”
Chapman’s colorful artwork in the gallery was created mostly by looking at objects and coloring in the space around the objects rather than the objects themselves.
On the back wall of the gallery, a black sculpture made out of electrical wire juxtaposed next to an oil pastel painting featuring erratic, bright spots of colors. They seem unrelated, but they are both depictions of the same thing: tin foil.
“One is expressing color, although both started out in light,” explains Chapman.
Aside from positive and negative space, another theme in the gallery was symbolism.
“It occurred to me that everything could be a symbol,” says Chapman.
“Wherever I find interesting shapes in nature, I can rearrange them and make them into a symbol. It seems in a way as real as whatever the thing was.
In one instance shown in the video, Chapman put together the numbers three and eight into a symbol, and asked various people what they saw. Many people saw animals.
The video also shows light illuminating a skull, which Chapman says is supposed to illustrate that “the light is what creates the shape, not the shape itself.”
In addition to creating symbols and illustrations, Chapman also experimented with sound drawings by using a mobile application that allowed drawings to be plotted on a musical scale. He visited a cemetery and drew the stones there, and the resulting sound was a high-pitched and eerie tune.
“I wanted to give a voice to silence, and I could think of nothing more silent than old cemeteries.”
According to Chapman, the theme of the exhibit is one of loss and absence, and through Notan he wanted to account for the silence and absence.
“I’m just really fascinated by space, and what is real and what is not.”
See the article on The Signal’s website.