Artist uses math, imagination to create works that resemble puzzles

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PORTLAND — Frederick Lynch’s abstract paintings look like mosaics, pieced together with a kaleidoscopic vision.

They resemble geometric puzzles in repeated patterns.

Viewing some of his artwork is like examining cells through a microscope, with magnified shapes constantly multiplying and repeating themselves.

Thirty works by Lynch, one of Maine’s outstanding contemporary artists, are on display at the Portland Museum of Art through July 11.

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“My work is about systems that aid in producing new and seemingly countless shape variations. The systems that I utilize are designed to leave constantly startling patterns and configurations,” Lynch explained in the exhibit catalog.

The artist finds much of his inspiration in nature and its endless repetitive patterns — branching, veining in leaves and molecular systems.

Lynch, who creates paintings, works on paper, wooden sculptures and painted reliefs, has created his own style that combines scientific exploration and creative discovery.

According to the PMA, he often begins a work by drawing a 120-degree line and then further divides the picture plane into hundreds of increasingly smaller shapes, each layered with variations in color, line and scale.

In recent works, Lynch has dissected these geometries, isolating them into individual units or segments, as he terms them. Once distilled, the shapes are magnified in drawings, gouaches and wooden constructions.

Although the segments are unique, they are conceptually linked to the ones that came before.

The PMA’s “Division and Discovery: Recent Work by Frederick Lynch” exhibit marks the first time these sculptural segments are displayed alongside companion drawings and large-scale paintings.

In an oil painting titled “Division 75,” Lynch created what looks like a three-dimensional, stained-glass window, using geometric forms that interact with each other and multiply. There is a certain harmony in his forms through the repetitive patterns.

With “Segment Collective 4,” Lynch created a relief sculpture that looks like the shapes of a puzzle fitted together.

Born in 1935, Lynch moved to Maine in 1972 and taught at the University of Southern Maine for 25 years.

When he first came to Maine, he learned the art of boat building in Lubec. That influence may have helped inspire him to use precise geometric measurements in the patterns of some of his wood art. His forms seem to explore spatial relationships using geometrics and mathematical divisions.

Lynch earned a bachelor of fine arts degree at the Massachusetts College of Art in 1962, followed by a master’s degree in education from Westfield State College, Westfield, Mass.

His work is in major collections in New England, including the Graham Gund Collection, Boston; Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Mass.; Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland; Little Rock Art Center, Arkansas; University of Southern Maine; and the Chapin Commission, Portland Public Library.

The museum at Seven Congress Square is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with ID, $4 for youths ages 6-17 and free for children under 6. Admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Pat Davidson Reef has a master’s degree in education and has taught art history at Catherine McAuley High School in Portland. She has written two children’s books, “Dahlov Ipcar, Artist,” and “Bernard Langlais, Sculptor.” She teaches children’s literature for teacher recertification for the American Institute for Creative Education.

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