Robert Najlis

Research Statement

Gilles Deleuze, in his theory of the plane of immanence posits that everything is a product of emerging and converging elements of the physical world. This is fundamentally different view from metaphysicians such as Jean-Francois Lyotard, who contend that there is a separate plane of reality apart. My research is focused on this question of the material nature of reality. I draw on Deleuze’s materialist metaphysics, folds of “moving matter animated by peristaltic movements” (Deleuze, pg. 97), to create an art that is the process of becoming.

My current work consists of a series of abstract paintings, some of which are augmented and integrated with interactive sound art. Through my experience in artificial intelligence research and complex adaptive systems, I have developed a method of composition based on the interactions of local maxima and minima in an emergent search space. This is a method that is at the same time, not all-over painting, and yet also not a hierarchical method. Additionally, the paintings draw on my experience in both Western and Eastern artistic theories of space, composition and color. The cross-cultural nature of the work derives from a shifting set of axioms with which to view the world, and allows for altering paradigms in how we think and perceive. The paintings themselves are sewn onto a large piece of fabric and allowed to hang freely. This allows for a sense of the body and a physical presence, underscoring the materialist research question.

Creating a reactive space provides a unique opportunity for participatory artwork. Through my paintings as well as my nascent installation projects, I create an interactive space with a combination of recorded and computer programmed sounds and modulations. These sounds are most often engaged through the use of sensors which gauge the relative presence of the participants. This work draws upon the influence of installation artists such as Chiharu Shiota, as well as musical composers that include: György Ligeti, John Cage, and heterophonic music, such as the Silk and Bamboo style of Chinese folk music. The creation of such a physical sensorium speaks to the philosophical questions of materialism and metaphysics without creating a semiotic work running counter to the Deleuzian materialist philosophy of art.

My research is multidisciplinary, multicultural, and encompasses traditional and contemporary technologies. While my studio practice primarily involves oil painting, it has expanded to include sound art, and more recently to installation art. This new work is influenced by my previous Master’s degree in computer science, where I first began my research of complex adaptive systems with Douglas Hofstadter, and in my work at Argonne National Laboratory. My research is also influenced by living in Asia, and my study of Chinese language and calligraphy. In the end, my work forms a cohesive whole through the questions of materialism and metaphysics; how we understand the nature of the world around us.


Deleuze, G. (1988). Foucault, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.