Blueprints are cool for the same reason a lot of art is cool. You can’t quite wrap your head around what you’re looking at. It’s something clearly full of planning and purpose, but there’s too much going on. Swallowing the whole thing in one single bite is just a bit too much for the human mind to digest.
Maybe this is why the latest work by Robert Strati is so fascinating. He mixes detailed schematics with abstract art, combining topics from music to astrophysics and hot air balloons in intense diagrams that constantly sidestep literality.
"I was in Ohio listening to an experimental band called Queen Mae and the Bells, and their minimalistic music made me start imagining a new way to represent sound," Strati tells Co.Design. "From there, I started composing the visual elements used in diagramming (points, lines, and curves, etc.). I quickly started to envision schematics for buildings, ships, astronomical maps, cross-section representation, and ran with it."
He’s since deemed this process "diagrammatic representation," and its ruleset is to use the simplest of elements to explore "complex and dramatically varying subjects." Working in Illustrator, Strati applies the same visual language to portray everything and anything that pops in his head. Cars can live right beside quantum physics in the same frame and style, so each individual piece becomes an abstract blueprint for the entire universe.
Strati’s work is part of a potential trend of schematic abstraction (my term), led by artists who repurpose the language of engineering to explore ideas through invented measurements. Why this sort of work is so striking, I have no idea. From an engineering perspective, it’s a lie. From an artistic perspective, it’s stiflingly regimented. But Strati agrees that combining these two disparate perspectives "activates a unique cognitive process in people."
"This process has the quality of simultaneously being both highly analytical and steeped in abstraction," he says. "I believe these elements have deep implications concerning how we perceive and process our visual reality." I’d add that his work has implications for how we perceive and process any data or accepted truth. When I look at a blueprint, I can’t account for all the mathematics at work supporting walls and ceilings from collapse—just as when I look at any piece of art, I can’t claim to understand the intent, or even that the artist’s perspective is worthwhile in the first place.
[Hat tip: Triangulation]