We want to know where we are. So, we picture our universe and our place in it. When we do we invariably use the circle, the square and the triangle. We have pictured our cosmos for millennia. In the area of Germany 4000 years ago we made a cosmic map of copper and gold ( example 1). It’s a circle. From Hildegard Von Bingen we have a celestial picture of the Earth and its seasons in 1210 (example 2). For Hildegard, Earth was the center of the universe. The Sun revolved around the earth as demonstrated by the fire red ring surrounding earth. Notice that Hildegard’s cosmos is framed within a rectangle like a Persian carpet.
The same geocentric universe was described a couple of centuries later by Giovanni di Paolo with his image of God creating the Cosmos, a series of concentric circles with earth at the center. Water is indicated by blue-green circles and, at the center is yellow-brown earth. The red circle of fire denotes the path of the sun. Finally, there is the deep blue of the dome of heaven, the celestial circle of sky (example 3). Always there is the circle. Using the same symbolic rings of color I have digitally created a cosmic map of Rome (example 4) with the organic garden growing earth represented at the center by an expanding tree. And, oceans from Europe we see the Aztecs with their celestial calendar and representation of the cosmos, another series of concentric circles with triangles and squares (example 5).
Looking back to ancient Babylonia I find triangular cuneiform letters on a circular tablet (example 6) describing the universal math of geometry long before Euclid and Pythagoras. Here are triangles, squares and circles. These are the shapes our mind generates when organizing space-time. These are the automatic shapes we choose to organize our maps and our pictures. They are fundamental to how we perceive. Consider the cupola in Beijing from the mid 1400s (example 7). Here are squares turned to diamonds framing circles. Whether viewing Tibetan mandalas or Hopi prayer circles we rely upon the foundation shapes of the circle, square, and triangle.
I found the swirling spirals of galaxies reappeared in the concentric rings of water circles (example 8). Mandelbrot’s fractal geometry tells us there is a mathematic tissue connecting these forms. In example 8 I freely gesture with elliptical circles letting them distort, bend, and blur. I swirled the symbolic colors for water and fire around one another.
For European artists, mediaeval and Renaissance, there was the dome of heaven, an arch of deep blue which fit with the structure of their ecclesiastic architecture, architecture inherited from ancient Rome. As I borrowed the form of the heavenly arch I also borrowed ( as did so many other artists) characters like angels who inhabited that heavenly blue space. The symbolic meaning of an angel was useful to poets, architects and painters. I recycled this idea in my mixed media work “The Triumph of Art” which I introduced in my last blogpost. Here I will show you the evolution of that image. I started with my semi-abstracted painting of the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC (example 9). I borrowed my angel from a church in Rome (example 10). I enhanced her celestial blueness. I merged the two images together to create a variety of new images (examples 11 and 12).
I don’t want to ignore the cosmological architecture of triangles, curves, and squares nor the math of linear perspective (a Renaissance system invented to help visually describe the philosophical order of the universe, that everything has a respective location and an appearance which correlates to that location.) Recall the Chinese cupola in example in example 8.
Kandinsky too, seeks spiritual meaning in the cultural inheritance of cosmic color and ideal cosmic forms (Socrates). He uses circles and triangles to create his metaphysical abstractions ( example 13). I tried to create a metaphysical unity using the same fundamental shapes but, rather than point my triangles down as Kandinsky did I point them in multi-directions. Principally, the design works as a triangle pointing up. I borrowed the language of architecture from trestles and bridges on the St. Louis waterfront ( examples 14 and 15).
I invite you to an exhibition of my new works opening on Thursday July 2nd at the Attic Gallery in Portland, Oregon. The Attic gallery is at 206 SW 1st Avenue. I hope I will see you there on the evening of this first Thursday in July. Telephone at 503 228 7830 or, www.atticgallery.com .