James Mai

Professor of Art
Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois, USA
My recent work has focused on the combinatoric development of shape-partitions, graphic adaptations of integer partitions. The set of shape-partitions of a rhombus containing nine points comprises 30 partition groups, totaling 593 distinct forms after the elimination of symmetric redundancies. This large set is divided into subsets for use in compositions. The structural features of the forms and their coherence as a set are themselves put forward as aesthetic content in my artworks—they are intended to be seen and known. To that end, I make decisions regarding color, scale, position, and orientation to reveal the multiple levels of order in each given form-set.
Whorls
20 x 20 cm
archival inkjet print
2019
This composition includes the complete subset of 17 rotation-only shape-partitions belonging to 10 partition groups. One partition group has three rotational forms (the largest, central shapes). Five partition groups have pairs of rotational forms (the ten middle-size forms). Four partition groups have a single rotational form (the smallest shapes).
Scatter
20 x 20 cm
archival inkjet print
2019
This composition includes all 22 shape-partitions of the partition group [1,3,5]. Careful inspection of the locations and angular orientations of the forms reveal structural groups. There are 6 symmetrical forms: (A) three are symmetrical on the long axis; (B) three are symmetrical on the short axis. The remaining 16 forms are asymmetrical, grouped by the location of their “1-Shape” (the single green circle): (C) six have a 1-Shape at the top corner; (D) six have a 1-Shape at the middle upper-left edge; (E) three have a 1-Shape at the corner of the short axis; and (F) one form has a 1-Shape at the center.