I was chatting with Nathan Tierney last night as we sat around the dinner table with Paul Lucchesi and Janet Amiri, when he pointed out that there is a difference between complication and complexity. He mentioned that the following comes from writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 

If we take a mess of paint and spread it about on the floor, then consider the relationships between different objects and correspondences within it, we may find ourselves immersed in the study of a complicated pattern, but lacking meaning, coherence or order.

If we arrange the elements of a painting, thoughtfully constructing it so that its various parts become a considered work, it may be made of the same number of pigments, but the end result is complex, not complicated, and may offer meaning to the viewer. 

The interest we have had in the deconstruction of art for the last hundred years is complicated and diverting, but leads nowhere, being a deep study of randomness.

Complexity may be difficult to understand, but challenges us to explore and comprehend the meaning of the works presented to us. Complex works offer order and grace, perhaps even ultimately leading to integrated transcendence.

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
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1 Response to Complexity

  1. deb says:

    the most exhausting thing for me about being in school was the continual deconstruction, life is layered with connected meaning, art is not meant to be pulled apart into dissociated blobs… just saying I think I agree

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