ARTIST'S STATEMENT: GEOMETRY
Updated: May 13, 2019
“In 1968 when Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clark made the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, they needed a form that would indicate the presence of something unknowable and ultimate. What they came up with was a great, gray, forbidding slab that appears to a group of apes at the beginning of the movie and later reappears on the moon, sending out a piercing signal in the direction of Mars. Kubrick and Clark reached for a form that was at once absolute and ambiguous, a form that had a tremendous amount of authority and an unruly indecipherability… A form as clear and simple as a monolith thus lends itself to paradoxical interpretation as something absolute and other-worldly on the one hand, and completely mundane on the other. And it sits in the razor’s edge between the two.”
Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock, 2003
As an artist who makes abstract art, I often get asked what my work is about. It’s understandable because my paintings are rather cryptic and there’s really not a lot to see: there are no people, no recognizable objects, or places that can be identified. The paintings are just shapes and lines that are arranged in a certain order. The shapes also often repeat and most of the time they are in a single color.
I have practiced a few, quick, phrases that I use to help guide viewers to a general direction, however, they really don’t go far enough to explain what I’m trying to say. Sure, people get a better idea but ultimately, the Minimalist / Reductive art that I make will always be confusing or frustrating. Due to this, a very common (and easy) reaction is people would just leave it as something they don’t understand and walk away.
Regardless of the lack of representational imagery, there’s actually a lot of meaning that I place in my work. Art is about communication after all. The challenge that I face is how to express my ideas within the rules and limitations that I place upon myself. It’s not easy. The purpose of this short essay, the first in a series of four, is to offer an expanded version of my current artist’s statement. I’d like to provide my audience a better idea of the different philosophies that guide my work. There are several of them: Geometry, Meditation, Buddhism, and Minimalism.
I will begin with a focus on Geometry because it is the most obvious characteristic of my work. It’s the first thing that people notice but, at the same time, I believe it’s the main source of confusion and misunderstanding. I’d like to clarify that I use geometry because I think shapes are universal and that they symbolize organization. My paintings pay homage to the order that they represent. Additionally, geometry is used as a compositional tool by many artists. It is nothing new. My desire is to bring it to the forefront because it exemplifies the beauty that I would like to express.
GEOMETRY IS UNIVERSAL
As a young artist in my early 20s, I was a representational painter who was inspired by French Neo-Classical art. The academic style was important to me (and still is), but at some point, I felt that images were not enough to capture the abstract nature of ideas. I became disinterested in creating illusions of the realistic world and I was not concerned with telling stories. I became a conceptual artist and slowly I absorbed abstract art.
I think one of the reasons why I was drawn to geometric shapes was because I saw something pure and universal in them. Shapes are easily identifiable, but they can also be removed from the world we can recognize and so they become something else – something more difficult to comprehend. Just like the gray monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, geometric shapes are both perfect and mysterious.
Curiously enough, in some religions, the words perfect and mysterious are often attributed to something Divine.
GEOMETRY REPRESENTS ORDER
Since early human history, sacred meaning has been placed in the arrangement of forms and shapes. Geometry transcends different cultures, religions, and time periods as it is used to symbolize how humans observe their environment or as a means to represent their beliefs.
Stonehenge, in Northern England, is a prehistoric example that comes to mind. Although its purpose remains a mystery, it is known that the monument is aligned with the Winter and Summer solstices. Its builders understood the movement of celestial objects and so the stones act a calendar. The geometry connects itself to temporal patterns that can be found in Nature.
Similarly, Buddhist mandalas have designs that depict Nature as well. The placement of shapes symbolizes a cosmic map or diagram of the Universe and its organized perfection. They are used to aid in meditation, in rituals, as well as is in the planning of temples.
The way geometry is used to bring order to something that is otherwise chaotic (not even mentioning its mathematical applications) is another reason why I am attracted to it. Shapes provide a sense of predictability, like a calendar. Shapes emphasize my belief in the mysterious order that exists in Nature, like a mandala. The compositions that I design are extensions of these ideas. Each painting is like a prayer that acknowledges the different ways geometry can manifest itself. It is a form of worship and so, in some ways, I make religious paintings.
GEOMETRY AS A TOOL FOR COMPOSITION
Artists have often utilized geometry as a tool to help with their compositions. The artwork above, by the American painter, John Singer Sargent, is an example. The portrait of Mrs. Raphael looks ordinary enough, however, when the geometric framework is revealed, the placement of the objects begins to make sense. Shapes become related, organized, and the planning involved becomes obvious. The technique is based off of the compositional theory called Dynamic Symmetry. The balance and organization in some works of art are often hidden to the casual viewer, yet, it is one of the most important elements that holds the painting together.
Dynamic Symmetry appears in my paintings as well. Although it was coincidental and not something I thought about on purpose, it was inevitable because my compositions were based on dividing the rectangular frame of the canvas.
When I first learned about the hidden symmetry in older works of art, it made me realize that the orderliness I was pursuing was not new. Artists have used geometry to organize images for hundreds of years. Many great Western artists, such as da Vinci, Cezanne, and Picasso have used it. Although I would never put myself in a similar stature as them, it is a fact that we share something in common. The main difference, aside from my minimalist approach, is that I am not concerned with creating illusions of objects. I make geometric paintings focusing on the compositional idea itself. By reducing the image into more basic forms, I bring the foundation into the front instead of covering them up with recognizable places, things, or people. Because of this focus, everything else, for me, becomes unnecessary decoration.
“The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can clarify in paint.” – Georgia O’Keefe
Making abstract, geometric art, for me, is a choice. I choose it because it helps me bring into physical reality, through painting, the ideas in my head that I cannot describe in pictures or words. I choose shapes because they create a language that is universally identifiable. I choose geometry because of the multiple and beautiful ways it organizes the visual world. I choose to reject representational imagery because they are distracting and unnecessary in what I’m trying to say.
My work is about the meditative process of repetition, the philosophical neutrality found in Buddhism, and the basic tenets of Minimalism and Reductivism – all of which I will discuss in future writings.
*Aside from examples of my own work, I do not own the rights to any of the other images included in this personal writing.