JULIA CARRILLO: MATHEMATICAL INTUITION, OPEN TO ART
While working toward her Master’s degree in Visual Arts at the National Fine Arts School in Mexico City, many of Julia Carrillo’s projects involved weaving together different threads and filaments. The artist felt that this essentially feminine technique was a mode of representation that allowed her to explore the creation of three-dimensional forms obeying highly complex geometries.
Thanks to her formal education in mathematics, particularly geometry, Julia Carrillo incorporates the infinite possibilities for representing spatial forms through different topological models and alternate geometries. Furthermore, her interest in philosophy—specifically Platonism’s pure forms and Pythagorean notions of celestial harmony— has given her the ability to recognize and ponder the great historical and philosophical debate on the nature of time and space. However, Carrillo has discovered in art a unique way to address the subject: she knows that through the art object, it is possible to intuitively create experimental and visionary space-time forms, whereas scientific exploration only permits a description of external reality. She finally decided to focus her energies on art, forsaking a promising career in science.
The fact that her intellectual and artistic interests are deeply rooted in the finest tradition of Western scientific and philosophical thought is a quality that has allowed her to move easily between the rigor and systematization of scientific thought and the freedom and creativity of the artistic imagination.
Carrillo’s special relationship with the sciences emerged naturally in a family environment where discussions of scientific topics were commonplace. Therefore, it came as no surprise that she chose to pursue a scientific course of studies, obtaining an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the UNAM Faculty of Sciences in 2012. During that time, she became interested in the pillars of calculus: the concepts of infinity and limit. She is also fascinated by the relationship among physical-mathematical descriptions of space through topological and geometric representations that use theories such as gravitation to describe observed reality. In particular, the artist has a great interest in the philosophical approach to the concepts of time, space, and infinity.
Her involvement in art came about in a similarly natural fashion. As a child, she demonstrated a great curiosity in artistic creation, which eventually led her to enroll in the Master’s in Visual Arts program of the National School of the Visual Arts in 2012. Later, in 2014, she did a residency in art and production at the New York School of Visual Arts.
Her installation Fronteras de lo ilimitado [Frontiers of the Unlimited] (2014) combines the artist’s sculptural vocation with her interest in scientific investigation, and particularly with her vision of new spatial geometries. Here, she used copper wire to create a series of three-dimensional forms that describe the internal spaces of unusual structures. In fact, they are different types of volumes that both contain and are contained within themselves. These internal volumes are known as manifolds in geometric topology: spaces whose description is beyond Euclidean geometry, but which may be described with classic geometry on a smaller or more localized scale. The result seems like the playing of a god who amuses herself by weaving universes.
A similar interest in the relationship between the scientific study of the geometry of space and the artistic representation of three-dimensional structures lies behind the 2014 series Compromising Border – Minimal Surface. Done with a mixture of soap and ink, at first glance these drawings would seem to follow the abstract expressionist tradition of drip-and-splash painting. However, rather than expressing the artist’s inner spiritual landscape—an essential condition of abstract expressionism—these works reflect the entropic behavior of bubbles created from soap and ink. The drawing is generated when the bubbles randomly come into contact with the paper. The forms created derive from physical principles related to the surface tension of each bubble, and to processes of optimization of space that lead to the generation of hexagonal meshes, in a phenomenon described by the scientific theory of minimal surfaces.
Another earlier project based on the conjunction of science and art that characterizes Carrillo’s creative vocation is Cámara lúcida [Camera Lucida] (2013). This is a series of intriguing photographs of what appear to be orifices and holes seen from the interior of a space in utter darkness. A ‘camera lucida’ is an optical device developed in the early nineteenth century, used as an aid in drawing complex objects through projection. The invention was an advancement on the camera obscura, which was itself the direct predecessor of photographic cameras. Julia Carrillo’s images seem to lead us into Plato’s cave, where the only possible knowledge comes from the perception of shadows in darkness, but from where the truth also becomes apparent to whoever is willing to look into the source of light. Nevertheless, they are also rooted in the artist’s interest in the phenomenon of light as a generator of the perception of space, by traversing and illuminating the void, and also of time, given that sunlight moving over surfaces also marks the line of time, in a sense drawing time itself.
Julia Carrillo’s artistic development as a whole refers to one of the fundamental phenomena of the culture of our times, whose resolution seems to be becoming more urgent and necessary: the need to generate a multi- and transdisciplinary knowledge that builds not only bridges, but true arteries between the sciences and the arts, in order to resolve the dilemmas of a globalized and environmentally threatened world. Carrillo is aware of the fact that science alone is not able to solve the most pressing problems of our time, particularly with regard to ethical and emotional aspects, and that science needs to connect with art in order to generate more creative ways of thinking about nature. Further, she considers that artists should pay more attention to the sciences in order to assimilate scientific ways of investigating and understanding the universe, to generate art projects of particular relevance in an increasingly technological world. Carrillo’s willingness to work within both fields—science and art—may in fact anticipate the not-too-distant future where such collaboration will become more and more widespread. In this sense, Carrillo may lead an entire generation of young people highly connected to technology, but unsatisfied with the solutions offered by science.