Quantum Chaos Catalogue

A paradigm shift is occurring, away from the concrete and indivisible towards uncertainty. Thomas’s art is grounded in the contention that the quantum ‘turn’ in theoretical physics can be reflected in experimental contemporary art.  

The quantum world is fiendishly difficult to comprehend—physicist Richard Feynman remarked, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

What we do understand is that it is fundamental to existence. Thomas’s current research questions quantum and nanotechnologies that are utilised as part of his concepts of capturing reality in the act of happening. New emergent technologies and traditional materials are explored in his work in relationship to how he visually expresses an alternative comprehension of the invisible, inaudible and intangible phenomena studied in physics.

Thomas’s experimental artworks explore the liminal space between classical and quantum chaos. This space is a conceptual and contextual location of a permeable membrane, paradoxically existing between the two worlds. If a small drop of ink is placed into a glass of water, the immediate visualisation of classical chaos takes place. When the classical chaotic ink particles continuously bifurcate, at some subatomic point, classic theory is abandoned  in favour of a new set of quantum rules informed by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (1927). 

An electron is seen as being analogous to the movement of a spinning top. When a spinning top goes out of its spin cycle, it falls into chaos in the same way an electron in a quantum position is governed by its spin. The experimental project draws from the analogy of the axis of a spinning top that creates a cloud of points that disappear and reappear based on the probability data from Professor Andrea Morello’s lab at University of New South Wales, developed by PhD students Serwan Asaad and Vincent Mourik. In Thomas’ digital artwork, a sorting algorithm developed in collaboration with artist Jan Andruszkiewicz in 2019 utilises speculative quantum data to transform a photographic image. In the artwork ‘Quantum Chaos Weave, data affects the materiality of photographic images of the material felt, referencing Gilles Deleuze’s and Felix Guattari’s concept of smooth and striated space. The smooth space of felt is not woven, knitted, knotted, intertwined or laced. It is not a striated space where the woven fabric measures the boundary of the body’s movement in space. It has its own integrity; its tensile strength is born of chaos.  The material becomes a second skin between the body and the world. 

Felt is a supple, solid product that proceeds altogether differently, as an anti-fabric. It implies no separation of threads, no intertwining, only an entanglement of fibres obtained by fulling (by rolling the block of fibres back and forth). What becomes entangled are the microscales of the fibres. An aggregate of intrication of this kind is in no way homogeneous is nevertheless smooth, and contrasts point by point with the space of fabric (it is in principle infinite, open, and unlimited in every direction; it has neither top nor bottom nor center; it does not assign fixed and mobile elements but rather distributes a continuous variation). (Deleuze and Guattari 1987)

This fibrous character becomes reconfigured by the speculative quantum chaos data using a sorting algorithm to reposition every pixel in the photograph of felt. The program randomly selects an image to affect from over 223,013 data sets. The animated motion creates a smear, smudge and blurring of space that exists over time as the felt image is sorted from its classical state to one born out of quantum chaos. Each sort of the data weaves a series of linear transformations of the felt to reveal new patterns that correspond to a probability of meaning: chaos begetting chaos as an ongoing, entangled real-time process visualising a liminal space between worlds.

Thomas’s artworks, whether digital or analogue, serve to examine the paradoxical data of the invisible and unmeasurable atomic and quantum world. ‘Quantum Chaos Series’ is a visualisation of the shift in our cultural understanding of what exists in terms of the difference between the classical (“real world” experience) and the quantum world of uncertainty.

The series builds on this history of making the invisible visible by taking the information gathered from scientific experimentation and speculation. Thomas’ artwork attempt to translates his internalisation of these speculations into aesthetic visual expressions.

The ‘Quantum Chaos Series’ of paintings in this catalogue are central to Thomas’s processes of attempting to explore the potential of visualising quantum phenomena. The paintings utilise four different laser cut squeegees one with teeth 3 mm, 6 mm, 9 mm and 12 mm apart routed on the edge of a 120x900x15 mm lengths of plywood. The squeeges enable the recreation on an analogue digital grid exploiting the imperfections irregularities of the painted surface. Each painting is a confluent overlay of gestured brush marks, which are then squeegeed to produce multiple layers. Each layer is then partially erased to expose spaces and qualities that are tangentially linked to experiencing the liminal space between worlds. 

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.