|"Dryland Farming 3 Moro" Graphite, Acrylic ink on paper 18" x 18" 2012|
|"Dryland Farming 4 Pullman" Graphite, Acrylic ink on paper 18" x 18" 2012|
|"Dryland Farming 6 Moscow" Graphite, Acrylic ink on paper 18" x 18" 2013|
|"Weather Study 19 New Delhi" Graphite, Acrylic ink on paper 9" x 9" 2011|
|"Weather Study 9 Juba" Graphite, Acrylic ink on paper 9" x 9" 2011|
I'm typically attracted to art that has an immediate draw, a visceral impact that sucks you right in and either forces you to linger over the details or to simply stand back and try to imagine how it managed to grab you in the first place. This is why I'm attracted narrative art. The story telling instinct in human beings is a powerful one and narrative images compel us to expand upon them. Sally Finch's abstract work couldn't be more different. It's more analogous to science and mathematics than to any form of representational art. In science there is a truism that a subject cannot be studied if it cannot be measured. For this reason data, raw empirical numbers, measurements of events, objects and durations, form the raw material of all research. Just so, the artist begins her work with data sets that attract or interest her for various reasons, "through beauty, utility... curiosity, or the work it has taken to accumulate." Then she develops a transcription method unique to each piece so that the data is interpreted through color, shape, etc., bit by hand drawn bit. The resulting images are strangely compelling, delicate abstractions that still evoke the technical and computational nature of their source material. Without understanding the key the meaning is completely opaque, even with the context clues provided in their titles. And yet... and yet they so clearly represent something real, information is so clearly imbedded within them that their subtle beauty becomes almost secondary to the mystery of their interpretation. If her work is akin to science it is also akin to music which, like science, is also deeply inter-dependent upon mathematics. I could imagine a composer working in some similar way, creating abstract sound-scapes out of data-sets the same way Sally Finch produces her color grids. I can also imagine listening to such "music" while observing this work in a museum or gallery setting. Hm. Just a thought. If I could have one nitpick with the artist it would be only this: I wish there were some close-ups shots of the images on her website. Because I've seen some of her work in person, and there's something deeply compelling about the minute detail of the pieces, the hand-drawn aspect to them, and the intimacy of each little tick-mark or circle of color that piles up with others to create the whole. In a data set, individual numbers are rarely interesting. That's part of the magic here. Once translated into visual form every number becomes a thing of beauty.
You can see more work on the artist's website: sallyfinch.com
or in person if you happen to be in Portland, Oregon, at Froelick Gallery