Fluid Dynamics Series
Tour the Exhibit “Aesthetic Experiments” online. Use the links below to navigate to other sections of the exhibit.
Spring on Jupiter and Mars, Convection Diffusion, Flow Instability, Atmospheric, Laminar Eddies, Heat Rises, First Microseconds
Fluid Dynamics as an Engineering field and as a branch of Physics is characterized by complexity. In fact, Fluid Dynamics can be considered a “poster child” or exemplar of early forays into the science of complexity. The Science of complexity and the Mathematics and Physics of fractal structures are closely linked. If you see some of these pieces and perceive pattern similar to popular computer generated fractals, it is because of the underlying linkage between the physics of paint explored in these pieces and the physics described by fractal mathematics. Many of the physical phenomena in fluids are difficult or intractable to really grasp and model analytically (as opposed to numerically). Examples of these difficult phenomena include: the onset of turbulence, periodic doubling and bifurcating flows, mixing, and combinations of convection and diffusion.
The paintings in the Fluid Dynamics series are both an exploration of the fluid properties of acrylic paint and media and a celebration of the beautiful, fragile, and subtle forms that are seen emerging and dissipating in fluid flows and phenomena. Many of the details in these works resemble soft puffs of smoke before they become homogeneous and formless. In other cases, subtle refractive index contrasts are simulated/achieved, similar to the transient mixing “ripples” (or schlieren) when syrupy liquids start to mix. Common threads are the swirling patterns seen in weather formations, caused by the Coriolis effect and attempts to achieve or simulate the onset of turbulence and turbulent mixing.
Acrylic paint and media are nearly ideal as a means to capture the appearance and reality of Fluid Dynamic phenomena. Acrylic media are highly transparent when dry, allowing a viewer to see right into a film and view the embedded structures. Acrylic media also come in a wide range of viscoelastic properties, and offer a degree of control over drying times. A key feature is the availability of viscous media that dry faster than they flow and also of less viscous media that flow faster than they dry. By using media that span this range of flow and drying properties, it’s possible to control how much intermixing and interdiffusion of different layers occurs before drying “freezes in” the structure. Excuse the pun. Titles are both descriptive and often light and humorous.
As a scientist who has dealt with polymer films in a research context, I was amazed at how well-engineered acrylic paint and media formulations have become. Acrylic was introduced as a paint medium roughly 7 decades ago, and became popular roughly 30 years ago. The amount of work that has gone into making these materials do magic is simply amazing – especially when one considers their high compatibility with other latices and with dry media. And they dry clear! Or cloudy if you want them to! Woo hoo!
There is so much new technology and unexplored possibility just in the past decades developments in acrylic paint and media, novel pigments, and other painterly Materials Science, that it actually boggles the mind. The wealth of unexplored possibilities make people who claim that “nothing new” can be done with painting seem like retrograde cave people.