Company Artists

Julie Oppermann

Artist Statement: My work investigates the phenomenology of visual perception, using interference patterns and precise color combinations to highlight the subjective nature of perception and experience. There is a fundamental distinction to be made between the physical act of looking and the experience of seeing. When we look at something visible light passes through our eyes and onto the retina; this information is processed within the brain from the optic nerve through the visual cortex before we see it. In this way, the visual system is a communication system that interfaces with the environment. As information theory explains, no communication system transmits information perfectly; a certain amount of noise interferes with the transmission and translation of messages and meaning.

The visual system is highly developed and finely adapted to meet our needs, but it is not perfect. Faced with the complicated task of creating order and logic from a vast array of visual information, it employs critical selective methods to filter out extraneous and conflicting information, and present the most relevant and important information within a useful, systematic scheme. It is important to note, however, that what we see is always an abstraction of what we look at. Beyond omission, certain types of visual information are erroneously processed, generating illusions and visual aberrations. This is only problematic when we believe everything we see; it becomes interesting when we understand instead that many of our perceptions, such as color, are actually created within the brain. In my recent body of work I have been developing a series of paintings investigating the moire effect, an interference that emerges upon the superimposition of two similar figure-field patterns, offset slightly. The effect is most pronounced when the differences between the patterns are very small, thus amplifying an otherwise negligible change.

My process is intuitive and evolves from the fluid movement of the hand. This stands in contrast to what might be a rigid, prescribed system and sets up interesting contradictions within the work. Using narrow tape as a masking device, I begin with a single, curvy line across the canvas. I place similar, almost parallel lines above and below the first line, extending the pattern to cover the surface. As the pattern expands it also changes, based on the physical properties of the tape, the surface and the touch of the hand. The surface is painted, the tape removed, and a subsequent pattern is taped on top, responding to the first layer. Moire interference patterns emerge where the lines intersect, and I manipulate these to create movement, vibration and energy within the composition. The combination of the interference patterns, often with jarring, equiluminous color combinations, creates an intense visual experience, bringing attention to the processes of perception.

I am interested in exploring the ways in which my background in neuroscience, biology and color theory can inform my artistic practice and ideas, explicating the overlap between these seemingly disparate fields. My goal is to challenge (mis)conceptions about what we see, feel, and know, and to inspire curiosity and awareness about the limits of perception and understanding.