1917 - 2009
Juan Geuer's goal is "to study our perception beyond science and art and to investigate our creative ability for adapting new visions".
For Juan Geuer science is an activity as creative, inspired, and dependent upon perception as art. He is interested in the parallels between scientists and artists and their respective involvements with observation — their attempts to view nature in ways ever more complete, the scientist with apparatus, formulae and statistics, the artist by attention and understanding of the filters that colour perception.
Juan Geuer was brought up in a family of Dutch artists and became himself an artist, working first in glass in the 1940s and later turning to easel painting and murals. He left Holland with his family just before the beginning of World War II and immigrated to Bolivia. By the time he came to Canada in 1954, he had traveled widely and tried his hand at several professions. In Canada, he worked as a draftsman at the Dominion Observatory of the National Research Council through the late 50s, the 60s and the70s, where he was exposed daily to the beauties and intricacies of science. Having only a little academic background in science, he learned from the scientists and, always an independent thinker, drew his own conclusions. Geuer maintains that both science and art are creative endeavours requiring of their practitioners an open-mindedness and a willingness to accept nature's surprises.
By the 1960s, Geuer had become disenchanted with the idea of producing art as a commodity for sale to a limited public; he began to seek alternatives that might better reflect the creativity in everyday life. Eventually he began to view his scientific activity as inseparable from his art. He turned from painting to making more conceptual work in the early 1970s. Juan Geuer's interest in finding a meeting ground between science and art is clearly stated as a mission of his company, The Truth-Seeker Company, formed in 1973. Geuer sees science as a theoretical network of systems that can only be verified by referral to the real world, or nature. But that which we know as nature is still only a concept based on the perceptions of our senses. Science can extend sensory perception by instruments that enable us to observe and analyze nature, thereby enriching our understanding of it.
Conversely, art for Geuer requires an open attitude to nature, a willingness to accept what is given, if the artist is to act "as the mirror which transmutes itself into as many colours as exist in the things placed before it," (Leonardo da Vinci's quote on an artist's purpose). Geuer reaffirms in his art the necessity of humanity maintaining an honest dialogue with nature.
Some of Geuer's works incorporate scientific apparatus. Other works use or analyze natural phenomena, like the colours of polarized light or earthquake activity. For Geuer, the equipment and methods of science can be useful to the artist who cares to understand them and to use them to allow the ordinary person entry into the universes that science can reveal.
In Karonhia, 1990, a work owned by the National Gallery, a simple scientific device is at work in aid of the observation of nature - mirrors. The mirrors are positioned with precision to reflect the sky, providing an opportunity for observation of its changing colours and weather conditions. Designed in response to the conditions of the architecture, Karonhia which means "sky" in the Mohawk language, frames and reflects the sky in four directions from four observation points, providing a constant daytime show of natural visual phenomena that draws visitors' attention to an aspect of nature that is sometimes taken for granted.
H20, another work in the Gallery's collection incorporates sophisticated and original equipment used for the observation of another natural phenomenon, water. Laser light is passed through a drop of water as it forms, swells and falls from a controlled source. The water drop acts as both lens and image. Its image is projected onto a wall by the laser light passing through it, where the viewer can watch it, large-scale. The magnification is itself fascinating - one can see the surface tension of the drop, a force that for Geuer is a dynamic and mysterious force, believed to be based on hydrogen bonding, that permeates all biological processes. One might also see bacteria and other matter if they are present - each drop becomes a unique microcosm, observable for the duration of its existence. In H 20, Geuer brings the unimaginable into a form that can be perceived and contemplated.
Geuer has extensively exhibited his work both within Canada and internationally, in solo and group exhibitions. Key among his exhibitions were his showing of several pieces at the List Visual Arts Centre of MIT in 1986 and his solo exhibition in Rotterdam at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in 1985.
Born Netherlands: Soeste, 17 April 1917
Died in Ottawa, Ontario, 02 May 2009
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