Chaotic Devices: Q&A with Jeromy Ross

Jeromy Ross’s MFA thesis exhibition, The Portrayal of Chaos Theory Through the Use of Chance Operations and Integrated Functions, opens at Oglethorpe Gallery on Friday, April 15 with a reception from 6 – 9pm. We chatted with Jeromy this week to find out more about how he’s integrating chaos and scientific processes into his artwork. You can see more of Jeromy’s work via his Instagram page, @jeromyrossartist.


SAI: Your upcoming show, The Portrayal of Chaos Theory Through The Use of Chance Operations and Integrated Functions, is an exhibition of work created using “chaotic devices”. Can you explain what those devices are – either in terms of physical tools (I believe during an open studio I saw you using a huge pendulum to create work) or conceptual tools?

Jeromy Ross: I’ve designed several mechanisms that I call “chaotic devicises.” The first one is a “wheel of fortune” device that I installed in my studio. I spin the wheel 10 times, which chooses 10 random numbers out of the 150 numbers written on the wheel. Each number that is selected by the wheel references a certain color from a cataloging system of color samples. So this device is what chooses my colors for me. I apply these colors using a foam roller, which creates the patterning effect in my paintings. The second device is an 8ft pendulum which swings around my studio with a funnel at the bottom of it. I pour paint into the funnel and launch the pendulum with a wooden “arm” that shoots it across the studio. This is what creates the white concentric circles that you see in some of my work.

What controls the composition within each of my paintings is my third device, the 20-sided dice. I start by breaking down the painting surface into a 20 by 20 grid segment. By rolling 2, 20-sided dice I can create an x and y coordinate. These coordinates are what shape the chromatic polygons that you see in my work, and it also determines the center of gravity for the pendulum when it swings over the surface. Through these devices I can rely on chance operations to control line-work, color scheme, and composition of each piece.


SAI: Has this kind of scientific-based experimentation always been a part of your work? How has it caused your outlook on art-making to evolve?

Ross: I’ve been interested in physics and astronomy since I was a kid, but I never considered combining that obsession with painting until I entered grad school. Now that I’ve realized that my artistic and scientific concepts can be combined together, I feel like I finally have a meaningful concept to my work.



SAI: What was your first experience of creating this work like? Were you surprised by your own rendering of what “chaos” looks like?

Ross: I think the first experience with using chance operations in my work was very annoying to me, because you have to let your personal opinions go and let the mechanisms decide for you. This is the opposite of how I was taught as an artist, which emphasized intentional design and rendering.


SAI: Can you walk us through what an average day in the studio is like for you?

Ross: Most of my process requires a repetitive procedure to it. While I’m doing these procedures I try not to think of anything else so that I can be totally engulfed in the process. In a way, it is very cathartic and meditative for me because I get to put my whole attention into the present moment.



SAI: This body of work utilizes vibrant colors. With art that deals so heavily in exploring chance, how do you balance concepts like form, color choice and composition? Do you leave them open to chance as well?

Ross: Everything from color choice, form, and composition are not my “choice.” All of my mechanisms decide these things for me so that I become the painting mechanism and the mechanisms of chance become the painter. In other words,  I am the conductor for my paintings, but my chaotic devices are the original composer.



SAI: What inspires you?

Ross: There are many people/things that inspire me both artistically, scientifically, and philosophically. From an art historical standpoint, I am really influenced by the Dada, Anti-art and Neo-Dada movements. Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Jean Harp, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, and William S. Burroughs are just a few of the influential artists that have shown me how an artist can release [themselves] from a dogmatic formalist critique of art and appreciate the outcomes of chance happenings.

From the scientific perspective, I find the dichotomy between the Newtonian/Euclidean ideals of an orderly universe juxtaposed with the non-linear chaotic foundation of quantum mechanics to be an interesting contrast regarding the structure of the Cosmos. Philosophically, I am influenced by concepts that embrace and admire the uncertainty of life, which seems most prominent in Zen Buddhism. My goal as an artist is to portray these concepts through the chaos that guides my paintings.

Author: SAI

Savannah Art Informer is a program by Art Rise Savannah, a non-profit arts organization in Savannah, Georgia.

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