Christine Romanell’s colorful wall sculptures and installations explore non-repeating patterns informed by cosmology and physics, while rooting itself in applied design similar to Islamic patterning. Her use of rotational symmetry to generate dimensional forms allude to movement and create an event horizon, a space where the infinite tessellations of universal physics can intersect with patterns, collapsing the divide between the theoretical and the real.
Romanell lives and works in New Jersey where she’s on the board of Manufacturers Village Artists space in East Orange. She is the founder and editor of NotWhatItIs art blog. Her work has been discussed in Hyperallergic, MIT Technology Review, Art and Cake, ArtFuse, ArtSpiel and WoArt. Her sculptures have been included in ArtPrize and she is a recipient of an NEA grant for her work through Chashama in NYC. She has lectured at Pratt University and taught at the College of St Elizabeth. Her BFA is from the School of Visual Arts (NYC) and her MFA is from Montclair State University (Montclair NJ.)
What happens if a pattern doesn’t repeat but has long range order? My work investigates non-repeating patterns in paintings, light sculptures and installations. The source material for the endless permutations in my work come from the properties of self-similarity, meaning the same form at different scales. Fractals are the most common example of self-similarity. Less common are quasicrystal patterns which use rotational symmetry with a complicated set of rules to achieve self-similarity. The repetition of difference is a means of transformation. Descriptive and evocative, pattern is an imitation of the infinite.
My work seeks to reveal connections between a variety of disciplines – material science, astrophysics, mathematics, and medieval Islamic Architecture. In the 1980s, the quasicrystal, an aluminum magnesium alloy, was accidentally created in a lab. That same material was then discovered in a meteorite in the 1990s. Quasicrystals are somewhere between a crystalline and amorphous substance that use the same five-fold rotation symmetry also found in the mathematical Penrose tiling. The Penrose tiling, discovered in the 1970s, fills a flat plane with no gaps, using two rhombus shapes and never repeats. Some aspects of medieval Islamic tile design were based on five-fold and ten-fold rotational symmetry, considered to be a quasicrystal long before any of these discoveries were made.
These patterns channel a deeper meaning that transcends the merely decorative. If quasicrystal patterns permeate such a wide span of time, material, and culture, could we be tapping into something much larger than ourselves? Carl Sagan once said, “We are all made of star-stuff.” That longing for connection to the origins of creation is the driving force behind all my work.