Jennifer Townley

I recently came across an artist who does interesting mechanical sculptural works. The Dutch artist, according to her web site, ”

The works derive from her fascination with science, with an emphasis on physics, engineering and mathematics. Geometric patterns in Islamic art or mathematical drawings of Dutch artist M. C. Escher often serve as an inspiration. Images where lines and figures match each other so perfectly they could be repeated indefinitely. This infinity, regularity and obedience is what Townley also finds fascinating about mechanical machines; they are robust, strenuous and seemingly immortal. She is captivated by how a machine can convert a simple circular motion (rotary engine) into a very complicated nonlinear or chaotic movement pattern.

When it comes to the ‘cool factor’ Jenifer’s work is definitely in the area of cool. That being said, maybe it’s that I’m seeing her work transition and move based on the videos that I’ve seen, and I can’t help but feel that I’ve seeing the work through someone else’s perspective. In many pieces, especially those that are static, sometimes all you need is a photo of the work. Imagine though if the photographer took the photo of the Mona Lisa at a strange angle, or maybe too far away, or possibly even too close to the piece. You wouldn’t get to look at the things or areas that interest you. It could, in extreme cases change your perception of the work. This is what I think is happening to me with Jennifer’s sculptures. I know that they are cool, and that I would most likely stand mesmerized in front the pieces, but the video doesn’t do it justice… That is of course my opinion.

161 Days,   2012,   30 x 30 x 10 cm
Unique piece Metal, wood, electric motor, mechanical parts, white cord, lead.

So knowing that I have to kind of adjust my perception of her work into a more, “Wow, I bet that would be cool to see.” frame of mind, I want to give Jennifer the highest praise. The pieces that I’ve seen were effective as combining and contrasting both perception and shape. I was drawn to her piece, 161 Days. It is a combination of moving gears along with white string connected at various points around the gears. (The color of the string is important because it creates contrast.) It is an interesting joining of the shapes and perception, as Jennifer has stated she tries to accomplish. As the gears turn, the string will take on new shape as they are pulled in different angles. The eye focuses on the shapes and it can actually draw you in, and I guess maybe mesmerize the viewer.

There are several different paths that an artist can take when creating. I tend to view the quality of the piece on the end result. Kind of like the old saying, “How does it make you feel?” concept to art. There are others who will look at the technical aspect of the work, maybe the intricacies of the drawing, or the one observation that I personally don’t like to hear, “It looks so real.” If it looks so real, I mean, why not take a photograph? [small rant–sorry] You get the idea though, there are different aspects, or paths that an artist can take, and Jennifer has done an excellent job working with the perception  of the viewer, and less with the technical side of it. Her work can feel soothing and yet, makes me a little uncomfortable. If I’m correct on the simplified aspects to art, then my guess is that Jennifer is definitely in the, “How does it make you feel?.” camp.

If you’ve got the time and want to get mesmerized by her work there are videos on her site. I’ve included the video link here to one of her pieces, “Asinas”