Science and Art Intermarry in the Paintings of Marika Berlind

Marika Berlind

Although those of limited vision may think of science as a cut and dry subject, every true scientist is involved in a search for the unknown. Thus the Greek-born San Francisco-based painter Marika Berlind, who combines her dual loves¬¬ Astronomy / Mathematics and Art¬¬ in her work, can confidently state, “I do not aspire for my art to be a didactic tool to explain science. Rather, I wish to provide an alternative means by which to explore science, through a momentary visual experience of Œliving in the universe.”

The results of Berlind’s “research” can be seen at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from December 12 through January 2, 2009. (Reception: Thursday, December 18, 6 to 8pm.) One need not have any knowledge of or interest in science to savor and be enriched by the purely formal attributes of her abstract oils on canvas with their strong colors and luscious surfaces, which catch the light with their rich sheen. Stylistically, her paintings share certain affinities with those of Forrest Bess, an artist generally unknown to the public but greatly admired by many fellow painters. For like Bess, Berlind creates compositions dominated by forms that can be read as esoteric symbols, many of them are based on what she calls “Strings” (“elementary particles as vibrating loops”), “Holes” (“regions of space which pull all matter in”) and “Scapes” (“lightscapes; darkscapes; anotherscapes”).

As the reader has probably already gathered, these are only partial definitions of the elements of Berlind’s highly subjective cosmology, and hardly do justice to the visual attributes that makeher paintings so compelling as objects of art. For one thing, her forms¬¬the graceful red spiral set against a starry night sky in “Red String”; the rhythmic horizontal stripes of vibrant orange and ocher in “Anotherscape V”; the sensual brown and silver forms in the powerful diptych “Distorted Spring Spaces 1 & 2” ¬¬ are extraordinarily allusive without being obvious. They seem to express specific phenomena, even while their exact meanings remain elusive. In “Oval Hole,” for example, a slightly off-kilter white form glows like a stylized diamond from a deep brown ground. By contrast, in “Dust Hole,” funnel-shaped beams seem to shoot out from a dark orb, illuminating a deep blue ground that suggests an endless expanse.

In regard to the latter work, while the image is certainly compelling enough to command one’s attention in its own right, in order to better understand her intentions, it is instructive to know that the artist has stated, “We are literally made of the dust of stars. The origin of all existence is in the most elementary breakdown of the objects of astronomical observation. Our material psychological, and mental selves have their origin in these cosmic sources.”

If that sounds metaphysical, well, perhaps that’s the point. Art, like science, is a search for the unknown that reaches to the very limits of our experience and our understanding. In this regard, the two disciplines are much closer than many may think, or be willing to admit. Few artists make this point as successfully as Marika Berlind. But her success finally lies in her artistic, rather than her scientific, innovation.

Marie R. Pagano

Image Credits: Red Hole, Oil on Canvas, 48" x 48"

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