Joe Doyles’s Star Chart Inspired by Polynesian ‘Stick Charts’


Had a conversation with Joe Doyle today, always a pleasure talking with and hearing about what inspired some of his work. I’ve been fortune enough to acquire a few of his Abstract Illusionism pieces with plans to continue.

During the conversation we spoke about some of his earliest work, one being “Star Chart” featured in galleries and a number of publications in the late 70’s. Though never specifically written about in any publication I can find, the real inspiration for the piece came from Polynesian navigation charts sometimes referred to as “stick charts”.

Joe Doyle’s “Star Chart” 1975

Star Chart (1975) acrylic on canvas 72”x 72”
Star Chart (1975) acrylic on canvas 72”x 72”

According to Tegan Mortimer

“These are deceptively simple grids made from small sticks and coconut fronds, which represent the major ocean swells in the South Pacific, with small shells showing the location of islands. The charts showed how the swells interacted with the island shores, the undersea slopes, and currents coming from different directions. While the stick maps were easy to construct, it took many years of study to be able to accurately interpret the real ocean dynamics which they represented.”

Here’s an example stick chart.

Polynesian navigation device showing directions of winds, waves and islands.jpg
By S. Percy Smith, Public Domain, Link


Abstract Illusionism – Joe Doyle (1941)

Abstract Illusionism - Corium X by Joe Doyle 1986
Corium X by Joe Doyle 1986 27.75″ x33.25″

I recently picked up this piece entitled Corium  X by Joe Doyle created in 1986 . In the 1970’s Doyle helped established Abstract Illusionism, one of the earliest styles in postmodernism. Doyle was born in 1941 in New York City. He received his B.A.  and M.A. at San Francisco State University in 1969 and 1971 respectively.



This is one of those pieces that will be enjoyable to examine many times from many angles ..

corium-closeup-1 copy

The following is paraphrased from Doyle’s retrospective book “Tea Cups, Firing Squads and Very Large Bombs: The Art of Joe Doyle 1967-2009”


In the mid 1970’s Doyle made a huge leap in his work and began experimenting with optical spatial illusions in a style that became known as abstract illusionism. The genre is characterized by gestures of paint that give the illusion of shadows and floating expressions above the picture plane. Doyle also worked with traditional three-dimensional imagery and perceptual experiments with cycloptic vision. Abstract illusionism allowed him to create vibrant complex work that played with traditional gestural painting while adding a new twist: the semblance of depth. Corium is one of those examples


In Corium, a hand-painted serigraph frame this period, curvilinear stripes float above a gestural field. The ground appears to be punctured by two holes, revealing a space behind the plane marked with pencil scribbles, a persuasive illusion in another medium.

A modern music artist you might enjoy listening to while absorbing one of the pieces from Joe Doyle is NZCA/Lines.