A couple of years ago I would never have imagined that I would say that my work has been inspired by quantum physics, but it has. It started with a comment made by a person, whom I assume was a scientist. This person was in a gallery and saw my paintings. They asked the gallery assistant if I was a scientist. They said that there were “diffraction patterns” in my paintings. When I was told of this I couldn’t help but wonder how I could be making these images if I didn’t know anything about them. My curiosity led me into the strange world of subatomic particles and quantum physics. I realized that, while I am really not a scientist and never want to be one, as a painter I do share some interests with physicists. We are both interested in the nature of physical reality. Light, for example, stimulated the earliest theories of quantum mechanics and has been equally stimulating to painters. Both deal with observations, complementarities, and uncertainties. Quantum physics, however, has transformed ideas from theoretical possibilities almost one hundred years old into recently tested proven facts that have shown that observation is affected by both the observer and the observed, and that matter is a particle and a wave at the same time. Even more amazing is the fact that two particles can interact with each other in “no-time” even when separated by great distances without any exchange of energy. In the prevailing view of physical reality nothing can travel faster than the speed of light and interactions can only occur with the exchange of energy. If this is now proven to be incorrect on the micro level of reality it opens up very large questions about how these new facts affect our macro reality. These facts also challenge another prevailing idea, the separation of mind and matter. At this point I think it is not out of the realm of possibility that what has appeared as abstract and non-objective in painting could be the new objective realism. It certainly causes me to think about many things that have been assumed for a long time but that might now take on a different meaning in light of new information.
The paradoxes of quantum physics are not unrelated the questions that I ask myself as I approach a blank canvas. What I do requires that I be both in control and out of control at the same time (complementarity). The universe is full of possibilities (waves) but it takes an act of intervention or choice on our part (observer) to create or actualize our reality (particles). Classical physics has always tried to prove that reality is objective and mechanical. Quantum physics has now proven that reality is subjective and objective at the same time. Leonard Shlain, author of Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light, (1991) put it, “Art and Physics, like wave and particle, are an integrated duality: They are simply two different but complementary facets of a single description of the world. Integrating art and physics will kindle a more synthesized awareness which begins in wonder and ends with wisdom.”
James Minden was born in Portland, Oregon. He is a 1977 graduate of the Art Department at Portland State University where he concentrated in painting. He has exhibited his paintings, drawings and prints professionally since 1978. He lived, worked and exhibited in New York City in the 1980’s. Minden returned to Portland in 1991. Minden’s paintings, drawings and prints are included in many collections, private and corporate. He is currently represented by Augen Gallery in Portland, the William and Joseph Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, Artizen Fine Art in Dallas, TX, Aberson Exhibits in Tulsa, OK and the Seattle Art Museum Gallery in Seattle.
Copyright James Minden 2010