Different forms of abstraction and action painting have been born over the

Different forms of abstraction and action painting have been born over the past century, but the watery and mysterious Illuvium technique developed by Seattle artist Jesse Higman is among the most stunning and unusual.

Higman is confined to a wheelchair and has limited use of his arms, but through his innovative and philosophical thinking, he invented a method wherein he pours iridescent flakes of mica and pigment onto a prepared surface, which creates flowing forms that dry into shimmering snapshots of wave movements, river deltas, swarms, the flow of life itself. For our watery clime, the style seems particularly apt, but they truly have universal appeal.

The results make abstract art more accessible and representative of the balance of chaos and order underlying the process. Order: The pristine preparations around a specially designed table create bends in the surface of painted masonite, establishing the direction of the flow. The pigments are diluted in ratios to achieve specific effects. The surface is wetted. Chaos: The pigments are poured, and no one can predict just how everything will react and settle as it dries. There are just far too many variables, making it an elegant allegory of life itself, of creation in all forms.

Higman knows deeply and personally how this unpredictable flow of life can result in chaos, and how the creative impulse is a means of making sense of it all. He has the calm energy of a true shaman, but is also a bit of a wild child. He’s close to a lot of rock royalty, having designed album covers for Heart, Alice in Chains, and other major acts. Like his art, Higman is a balance of order and chaos, dictated by a clear mind and heart.

He has big plans for the coming year. A major grant from the city is allowing him to construct larger tables, at which he hopes to unite as many as 20 people to work on a pour simultaneously.

He works large and small, but at any size the work is accessible. Black blackgrounds with carefully chosen palettes in abstract forms fit into most any environment. As a gift, going with a more modestly sized piece is smart, as it will be easier to place. The pictured piece, Reverie, is indicative of the Illuvium technique, but no two pieces are alike. Consider the shapes and colors available, and you may just end up with the perfect gift for the art lover in your life. E

Prices vary. jessehigman.com.

Higman at the helm.

Higman at the helm.