An Artist Sifts Through the Elegant, Mathematical Dreams of Pythagoras

When perusing Michael Schultheis’ new series of lush paintings, currently on view in the artist’s fifth solo exhibition at Winston Wächter Fine Art, diligent current and former students alike may be prompted to recall the theorem of the famous Greek philosopher and mathematician who inspired these works: Pythagoras. Trained in mathematics and economics, Schultheis is versed in the full scope of Pythagoras’ ideas. For this series, however, he wanted to reach beyond known theories and equations to try to imagine how they were generated, to seek out their points of origin. So before putting paintbrush to canvas, he began with a question: What did Pythagoras see in his dreams?

“Pythagoras falls into a deep sleep and dreams of all the progenies of his original idea,” the artist explains. “These paintings are what he sees in the internal chalkboard of his mind.” This “internal chalkboard” resembles an underwater seascape, populated with delicate, floating geometric shapes and graphs that look like jellyfish and other soft-bodied sea creatures, drifting amongst ghostly trails of their equations. They seem to bubble up individually from the inchoate, yellow-green masses that edge each composition, like coral reefs of as-yet-unformed ideas. The range of blues in these mid- to large-scale, acrylic-on-canvas works match those of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, upon which Pythagoras would have gazed during his travels between Athens, Alexandria, and Syracuse.

One equation in particular manifests as a looped, heart-shaped form called a limaçon, and appears in abundance across the paintings. For the artist, the limaçon serves as a symbol of interconnectedness. It reflects Pythagoras’ philosophy that mathematics is the basis of connection between all things in life—a notion that Schultheis seems to heartily support in every one of his immersive painted visions.

Michael Schultheis – Dreams of Pythagoras” is on view at Winston Wächter Fine Art, Seattle, Nov. 5–Dec. 23, 2014.

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