James Mai

Professor of Art
Illinois State University, School of Art
Normal, Illinois, USA
My work follows two primary directions: color-relativity functions and geometric composition. The color relativity work examines the structures of simultaneous color contrast illusions, whereby a constituent color appears to change its identity in different color contexts. Although this is a purely subjective perceptual experience, the principles by which the illusions function are objectively definable, and therefore manipulable by the artist. The geometric order of much of my work is built upon golden section relationships. Usually I work within a square format and divide that square by phi. Golden section divisions of the square permit me to compose my abstract paintings with similar shape relationships operating at different scales, proportions, and symmetries. Geometry in general, and golden section geometry in particular, is to my visual work what rhythm is to music or meter is to poetry.
Circuitous Glow (Yellow on White)
14 x 14"
digital print
2009
The loop in this composition is composed of quarter-circle arcs and quarter-ellipses of golden (phi) proportion. The overall square format is divided by phi divisions into smaller golden rectangles and squares, which determine the placement of the loop and its components. The yellow-ocher loop is physically the same color throughout, but changes its color in response to the varied colors surrounding it.
Circuitous Glow (Yellow on Yellow)
14 x 14"
digital print
2009
The loop in this composition is composed of quarter-circle arcs and quarter-ellipses of golden (phi) proportion. The overall square format is divided by phi divisions into smaller golden rectangles and squares, which determine the placement of the loop and its components. The yellow-ocher loop is physically the same color as the background, but changes its color in response to the varied colors surrounding it.
Root Intervals (Yellow)
14 x 14"
digital print
2009
The colored 1x2 rectangles are separated by exactly the same distances as the length of their diagonals, forming a large tilted square. Each short, colored line has been "extracted" from the 1x2 rectangle of the corresponding color. The white axis defines a bilateral symmetry of the lines within the larger square. The yellow-ocher lines within the rectangles are physically the same color as the background, but the colored rectangles force those yellow-ocher lines to appear to change their color.