We exist on earth in a context defined by the dynamics of the natural world.

What is the nature of nature's dynamics? Order in nature arises spontaneously. Simple agents interact in complex ways. They self-organize and form higher order structures. On their own. No mastermind, no clockwork universe required.

In this self-ordering process, nature utilizes the engines of symmetry and chance to drive systems to collective wholeness. Self-organization is the operative principle. Interdependence and novelty are primary outcomes.

Sand dunes. Cytoskeletons. Flocks of birds. The human brain.

All share in these complex dynamics. Complexity loosens the grip of the reductionist mindset on our approach to knowledge and opens us to a world of relationships.

In my work, I relinquish compositional control and allow individual, colored shapes to interact randomly. The visual images that result owe their organization to chance encounters among the shapes interacting according to their inherent visual properties. The constraining influence of particular organizing principles of visual perception - scaling, iteration, luminance contrast - drives the individual shapes toward collective wholeness. They self-organize.

Self-organized compositions embody the complex dynamics of the natural world in both form and content. They are reflections of the self-organizing qualities inherent in the structure of our brains and the function of our minds. There is a strong correspondence between the external and the internal.

Earthquakes. Nuclear matrices. Coral reefs. The human mind.

Abstract visual stimuli undergo less cortical processing than other visual forms. The perceptual primacy of abstract visual forms confirms the abstractionist hypothesis of essentiality - there indeed exist primary visual forms that do not rely upon preexisting mental representations for their apprehension.

Self-organized abstraction has a special resonance in our consciousness. The outward expression of our inner, mental life, this art speaks to us consciously at a cognitive level in a language of association while simultaneously influencing us unconsciously at a perceptual level, surprisingly free of preconception.

Self-organized compositions with an emphasis on chance and randomness function to subvert the mechanistic world view we have lived with for three centuries while promoting holism and cooperation. Some maintain that clinging to the old paradigm has brought us to the brink of environmental and social collapse.


What is certain is that nature at all scales is characterized by connections and relationships. To see ourselves as part of a vast, global ecosystem is to recognize the ubiquity of our interdependence - both among ourselves in our social relations, and between us and the animate world within which we are embedded.

August, 2003


© copyright 2017, Jim Modiano