James Mai

Professor of Art
School of Art, Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois, USA

My recent work explores color relativity in "loop-form" compositions. Influenced by the glow of colors around them, the colored loops appear warmer and cooler, lighter and darker, brighter and duller. In these artworks, the typical compositional conditions for color relativity are inverted. Usually, the constituent color (the color being changed) occupies a smaller shape, discontinuous from and surrounded by a larger field of context color (the color causing change). Here, the constituent color is the larger field itself, which is shaped into lines by small bands of bright context color. Color relativity calls for appropriate compositional structures, and loop-forms are providing new possibilities for this work.


Emerging (blue)
36 x 36 cm
digital inkjet print
2020

This loop-form composition is one of 46 distinct 3-loop arrangements, each defined by the unique combination of points contacted by the three loops. We can describe this composition as 1211,2332,3123 (points are labeled 0,1,2,3, where 0 is the center). The brightly colored C-shapes of the context colors induce changes in the blue lines: red shifts the blue darker and cooler (towards a blue-green); green shifts the blue lighter and warmer (towards a blue-violet); yellow shifts the blue darker and more intense. The blue of the overall compositional square is physically identical with the blue lines, which is visible in the gaps of the C-shaped context colors where the blue flows continuously from ground to lines.


Emerging (yellow)
36 x 36 cm
digital inkjet print
2020

This 3-loop composition is 1221,2333,3112. The brightly colored C-shapes exert changes in the appearance of the three yellow lines: orange shifts the yellow darker and cooler (towards yellow-green); blue-violet shifts the yellow lighter and more intense; green causes yellow to appear darker and warmer (towards yellow-orange). These shifting appearances are enhanced by a prolonged gaze and by consciously comparing different instances of color. The yellow lines and the overall yellow square are the self-same color, visible where the yellow flows continuously from ground to lines. The composition topology provides the conditions for both the multiple appearances of yellow and the “proof” that the yellow is indeed a single color.