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The Saanich News
December 6, 2000

by Ingrid Paulsen

Art and science - the two disciplines may seem diametrically opposed, but Elias Wakan links them together seamlessly.

The Stanford University educated artist borrows principles from his two areas of study - mathematics and philosophy - to create mystical-like three-dimensional forms that are now on display at UVic's McPherson Library Gallery.

Wakan chose as his canvass three different mediums - paper, wood and photography.

"I have fun with names. One I've called Moebius Trip. You may remember the Moebius strip from school math. It is when you take one piece of paper and put in a half twist and glue the ends together. Then you cut it and it is twice as long. It is an interesting phenomenon explains Wakan.

He teamed up with a mathematician friend on a wood sculpture that was inspired by the same "phenomenon."

"It intrigues me to have all identical pieces repeated in the hundreds." He and his buddy returned to the drawing board several times before they were successful. It took three months, a lot of anxiety and a little error on the side of luck to bring the piece to its cyclical completion.

"When you are working with a mathematical concept you can rigorously prove it is possible," says Wakan. But everything changes once you attempt to take a concept from theory into physical reality. "I had decided on an angle and checked it with my friend mathematician and cut 400 pieces and taped them together as a mockup when I realized it wasn't going to work."

Eventually, mounting impatience and a combination of errors spelled Eureka. "I just needed one more piece. Somehow all the errors added up and on faith I had been gluing them together. By the 250th I wasn't certain if they would meet. They easily could have been an inch out." Instead, they fit perfectly.

Wakan draws parallels from his art and his latest obsession with biological sciences. The repeating patterns he manipulates or captures in art are also found in the building blocks for all living creation. "All the organs of the body are made up of identical cells. If you look at the spleen or muscle under a microscope you will see millions of identical cells."

But it is the combination of those cells that engenders very different physical forms. And Wakan is one artist who seems bent on a meticulous exploration of just how those differences can occur. The result is aesthetic flowing geometry - art in form; science in foundation.

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The Saanich News
December 6, 2000
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