Seattle painter Jesse Higman is the creator of a world where everything shimmers on an exaggerated scale, either macroscopic or microscopic. With the use of “Illuvium,” Higman creates within his paintings an affect of an unmistakably organic, earthly feel. Using masonite as a canvas, Higman dilutes acrylic paint mixed with mica flakes and pours the paintings onto the canvas, which is weighted to allow a slope which the paint will travel to. Illuvium, a geological term referring to the way particles settle on flood plains, is really about the art of these mica flakes settling along their course. The resulting textures are planetary, cell-like, while the mica flakes grant a shimmering presence that breathes life and density into his work.
Looking at his paintings, which are large, you see that they could be of many things: an aerial view of a retreating tide from a network of grasslands, cells and tissue seen under a microscope, the nearly mythical creatures that live in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean, the terrain of another planet, a spray of blood, the moon.
What is interesting about this method is the active role that time and chance play in his work. Higman casts a single gesture, pouring the paint in a certain direction on a chosen part of the board, and then, for the most part, the painting is out of his hands. The mica flakes travel and settle on their own accord, an outcome that cannot be calculated or predicted.
Higman sums up the importance of his process:
“As I sit with a cup of paint in my hand, on the edge of a blank board that took days to set up, I try not to lurch forward like a horse into the stream. I promise to take more time to see how the water is flowing before I move. Once I begin, there is no stopping. Pouring over the same place twice creates craters and destroys the quietly settling particles. Investing too much energy into the system creates aberrations like cancers. I find that curiosity, confidence and play leads to beauty.” (source)