The Butterfly Effect

2020 - Fine Art - Amy Jowett

Amy Jowett’s work often explores the overlap between past and present, drawing on the documentation of process as a part of the works themselves. Their practice exists in relation to archaeology and philosophy: focusing on presence, the accidental and blankness in space. In broader terms they also work with: materiality, epistemology, ontology, and non-linear time.

They work in variety of media, beginning with photography and often returning to photography at the end of a piece - but the process itself consists of assemblage and disassemblage with sculpture, using casting and metal to create unique imprints on paper.

Jowett is currently based between Newcastle upon Tyne and the East Midlands.

‘The Butterfly Effect’ 

Text by Sajil Kaleem

The Butterfly Effect is a collection of prints made by Amy Jowett that seem to present themselves at first sight as a record of movement within a space. Jowett used a coding program to allow for these notations and lines to come into existence virtually, and then printed them to bring them back into the physical realm. I asked them why it was important for the piece to fulfil its conception as a physical object, and they spoke about the importance of grounding these pieces in real life. I think it can be easy to allow for concepts and philosophies to run away from us and forget where they stem from, and for whom they exist for in the first place. Jowett does a wonderful job rooting the idea of the Butterfly Effect in our world through the grainy medium of ink and paper. The work then is encouraged to have a traceable impact itself, not unlike the theories Jowett is so enraptured by.

The orbital lines in all seven prints are suspended against a dark background, the inkiness of which gives the page a texture that is reminiscent of old forms of documentation. This background encourages a luminescence from the gently faded lines, whether they exist as a green-y blue, or are floating against an aqua blue. This is a luminescence that encourages an ethereal reading of this work that makes you think of outer space, placing them within a realm that is decidedly not our own, but not far removed from our recognition.

They appear to be records or documentations of ideas that are so much larger than the prints can truthfully communicate, and it is this withholding of communication that becomes so enticing as a viewer. Do the shapes the lines form have meaning? Is the overlap of the various planes significant? Within this realm, is it a never-ending expansion or is this documentation all that is meant to exist?

The orbital lines purposefully do not spread to encompass the page, and therein lies a harmony that is makes me think of musical notation, with different notes being hit through the different colours and careful composition, with repetition that would certainly be mesmerising in motion.

The composition of these prints is intriguing through the consideration of the process that allowed for their existences. Jowett is insistent about the responsibility of authorship being removed from their hands, and this is certainly seen in the way the lines were originally created using a computer program. By allowing a machine to control the pattern of the lines that are central to the aesthetic consumption of these prints, Jowett seemingly relinquishes control over the part of the work that most obviously faces the viewer. However, knowledge of programming and the effort that goes into coding reveals Jowett’s determination to illustrate these ideas through a whisper of their own voice. By considering their computer-generated nature, these formations cease to exist as painstakingly fluid drawings of the possibility of our greater impact, and instead emphasise the lack of control that we experience due to the knock-on effect of things interacting with one another, thus going back to the titular reference of the Butterfly Effect.
“[The Butterfly Effect is] a powerful insight about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences. The idea came to be known as the “butterfly effect” after Lorenz suggested that the flap of a butterfly’s wings might ultimately cause a tornado. And the butterfly effect, also known as “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” has a profound corollary: forecasting the future can be nearly impossible.” - Peter Dizikes

Jowett’s decision to use print is one that shapes our reading of their work. As a method of making, it requires a continuous process of addition but more significantly, removal. Not only must the acid burn Jowett’s desired image onto the copper plate and create indents, but the ink itself must be added to be removed again. The images as we see them today cannot exist without the appropriate removal of the material that allows for the possibility them to be seen.

Visually, the rubbing motion required for the removal of the ink results in the textural qualities of the page that ground this cosmic work in a familiar earthiness. Similarly, the mistakes that often happen when lining up a plate with paper beautifully illustrate in real time the idea of things out of our control resulting in a recognisable outcome.

Knowing the title of these prints before seeing them certainly informs how we understand them. The lines and marks that may seem to exist independently of each other, to the extent of them being able to form the image that you see, become wholly interdependent and questions arise as to where they originate and where they reach their end points. These prints seem to capture a singular moment from the chaos of what happens when forms meaningfully interact with eachother, which Jowett freezes in print so it becomes palatable in a recognisable form within white borders and familiar proportions.  

Jowett’s work asks to be understood within a multitude of dimensions, in an endless number of formats and quirks that deepen the viewers relationship with the theories Jowett gently pushes to the forefront of the mind with their title. Perhaps that is the point; demonstrations of the Butterfly Effect exist in every place you can look, but Jowett mediates our encounter with it. Whether this is a result of contextual cues, or a specific comment they are making - it becomes irrelevant because strict authorship over these ideas do not seem to be a concern of Jowett’s. It seems more significant to, as a viewer, contemplate these collections of thoughts through abstraction and visual exploration, and to begin a dialogue with works that are present, where the artist is not.

Read Amy’s essay on Sajil Kaleem’s work HERE.