ON the painting's right panel, a room featuring a variety of odd maps, colorful cubes, spheres, and geometric forms opens up into the eternal space of the sky. On the horizon line, skyscrapers rise in the distance in perfect Renaissance perspective. A mysterious, enormous globe hovers at the outer limits of the room.
In contrast, the painting's left panel flattens space, and a wall with a map halts the viewer. It takes a while to see it, but everything about the painting speaks of the balance of opposites. Black and white, red and blue are archetypal complements. One panel is light, the other darker. One draws the viewer's eye into the foreground and present tense of the painting; the other into infinite space near and far. An astonishing variety of cubes and spheres call to one another. This painting, titled ``World Game,'' is all about paradox and balance.
In art, there are many kinds of balance. Artist Clark Richert embraces the balance of symmetry with a singular devotion.
But the symmetry he seeks to create emerges from his experiments with the balance of opposites.
``World Game'' was inspired by the writings of Buckminster Fuller, who proposed that a computer-operated ``world game'' be played by representatives of every nation, who would solve the world's problems on an enormous sphere (shown in the center of the painting). In doing so, they might come to realize that humanity's problems are, in fact, solvable.
Mr. Richert is interested in the world. He studied science and math in high school, and was about to follow in the footsteps of his scientist brothers and sister, when he suddenly switched to art. Now the chairman of the Fine Arts Program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, Richert says scientific theory is still an essential component of his work, but he realized early on that all scientific theory still fails to touch what he calls the ``c'' word - consciousness.
He speaks of 10-dimensional space, illustrates six-dimensional space in another painting, and still involves the ``golden mean'' or ``divine proportion'' of classical Greek art in much of his work, which he says, shows up with unexpected variety in nature and math. ``When the smaller part is to the larger part as the larger part is to the whole'' you have the golden mean, he says.
``Symmetry simplifies,'' says Richert. ``I like simplicity.... At one time, my whole concern was pattern and symmetry. Somewhere along the line, [the paintings seemed] too austere. So I decided I would try to think of symmetry in a different way. I decided if I was truly interested in the symmetrical, I had to balance the representational with the abstract, the constructive (the planned, deliberate, cerebral) with the spontaneous gesture of Expressionism, the objective or rational with the subjective or intuitive.''
He describes the sudden perception that intuition affords as the deep probe into nature, clarity unrestricted by self-doubt, the sense that one part leads to another in a confident and direct way.
``I now feel that when intuition is operating, then the best art is produced,'' he says.