Michael J. O’Rourke: À La Recherche du Centre Exact: Portola Valley

  • ©,



    À La Recherche du Centre Exact: Portola Valley


Creation Year:



    Iris print on paper


    13" X 10"



Artist Statement:

    I think and feel most clearly and understand my world most clearly through my eyes. I tend to notice and remember the way things, places, people look. Later, when I try to think about these things, I find myself thinking most clearly when I think visually. And to help myself make sense of the complexities of the world, I attempt to represent these complexities in a visual format – as pictures, as sculptures, as moving images. This is how I try to understand my life, my experiences, life in general. This is my artwork. I am especially attuned to the spatial aspects of the visual world – to the way things are arranged in space, to the emptiness of spaces, to the clustering of objects within spaces, to the emotional resonances of space.

    What first allowed me to represent space as I was perceiving it was my encounter, in 1978, with three-dimensional computer graphics. I had already been making sculpture in traditional media and becoming more and more conscious of the space of the sculpture rather than its volume. When I stumbled upon three-dimensional computer graphics, I discovered a way of visualizing space without any volume. I composed lines – of no thickness – in an empty space, now made perceptible by the lines. These first compositions were interactive. I called them “virtual” sculptures.

    Space is emotional. The space of a cathedral can be imposing. A corridor can be threatening. The enormity of a night sky may be awe-inspiring. The spaces of these first computer compositions had their origins in emotional states. Trying to understand, to “get a handle on,” to create a handle for my feelings – about death, about what was passing back and forth between a woman and myself.

    Twenty years later, I am still thinking visually, still concerned with space, and still making spatial compositions that help me understand the world and my/our emotional reactions to it. More recently, emotional issues predominate in my work, even while the underlying perceptual issues continue. When a man and a woman come together, what is happen­ing? What is this powerful emotional urge we feel to unite with another? What is the nature of the almost overwhelming feeling of one-ness we can feel with another? And the profound feeling of alone-ness we can feel when we lose that sense of union?

    Throughout all of this work, I have always worked in a variety of media, both computer-generated and traditional. The technology of the work is significant to me only in so far as it stimulates new ways of seeing or understanding things. The computer has consistently had that effect for me for 20 years. But I also work, with equal enthusiasm, in non-computer media. The interplay that happens as I move from one medium to another, from one way of thinking about the issues to another, has always been fruitful for me. The goal is always the same: to understand my world.


Affiliation Where Artwork Was Created:

    Pratt Institute