Dutch artist Jennifer Townley, whose Perpetual Transience exhibition is showing at the MB&F M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva until 11 June, has a unique take on geometrically engineered kinetic art.
An early love of geometry and a predilection for engineering, combined with an interest in the work of graphic artist M.C. Escher, led her to see order in a world where chaos reigns. 'Nature, particularly its mathematical structures, is a great inspiration to me,' Townley explains. 'Looking at it makes me feel peaceful and strengthens my confidence in the thought that the world is actually a beautiful place.' Her pieces go beyond works of art, elevating it out of the one-dimensional with gears and wheels that are more commonly seen in horology. Here, they are used to create mechanical sculptures which subtly distort the observer's perspective with their hypnotising and repetitive movements.
The result is silent, peaceful, captivating. The tranquility Townley sees in the machines is the direct result of their very mindlessness. 'You can easily imagine machines to be natural organisms; brainless creatures that are driven by a force and move around. Mechanical watches share the same phenomena, they could be some strange insects living on people's arms and in return giving them the time.'
Like a watch, there is so much more to the sculptures then first meets the eye, and even seemingly solid shapes are constantly shifting. In Cubes, the cubes transform gently into diamonds which are lulled hypnotisingly backwards and forwards. We're teased by geometrical shapes again in the De Rode Draad piece, where a striking piece of red thread appears and disappears, noiselessly forming new outlines. In Lift, differently sized revolving cogwheels create erratic, almost uncomfortable movements that twist your expectations of what is coming next. Squares is similarly unpredictable, reminiscent of a mechanical watch movement in its interlocking gear wheels that create shapes which materialise and dissolve as they make their revolutions.
Mesmerising as this may be, it is also laced with a sense of unease. Townley was keen for the viewer to feel alternate states of tension and relief and, as the order of the repetition clashes with the chaos and unpredictability, you can't help but feel anxious. Ultimately though, the finished effect is sublime, even serene: 'As an artist I hoped to recreate the natural beauty and let other people see it too,' she concludes.