Since the Fine Ounce Goldsmith Collective will launch its 2012/13 exhibition series (entitled Breath of Fire) with the first show at Merchants on Long on the 8th of November, I would like to share some of the thinking behind my body of work for the exhibition series.
The underlying concept of my current work can be described as an ‘investigation of roundness’.
On a conceptual level, the idea of a circle is most intriguing. A circle (which is mathematically defined as a “simple closed curve” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle)) divides a two-dimensional plane into an interior and an exterior, the latter arguably being defined by the positive space inside, and the former by the negative space around it. Depending on what each space is “filled with” or utilized for, an interesting play of tensions develops: The circle can either be interpreted as a hole (defined by what is not there, i.e. the removal, circumscription or non-existence of material), or as a disk, sphere or convex/concave lens (defined by what is there, i.e. the presence of material), or a ring (where the actual dividing line between negative and positive space harbours the matter or substance). Either possibility of interpreting a circle results in a rich array of further contemplations for me:
Holes might become entry and exit points to something, perhaps allowing travel through time and space by means of a wormhole, or simply acting as a tunnel or funnel – guiding matter (or the absence thereof) between two end points. Since holes are defined by what is not there, they present an insubstantial presence of some sort, and therefore a wonderfully intriguing contradiction. Holes also act as interfaces, mediators and connectors, for they inevitably provide access to, reveal and incorporate what lies beneath, beyond or behind them.
Disks, spheres or lenses on the other hand grow into the third dimension, and so have the ability to gain a life of their own. A suspended sphere, for example, can mutate into a drop until the precise moment in time when the original sphere is substituted by two smaller, separate spheres. Alternatively, spheres can harbour detail, surprises or even secrets, whilst semi-spheres become bowls or vessels, containing or spilling their contents.
Circles, however, not only have a conceptual, mathematical, geometrical or material aspect to them, but also a symbolic one. As a symbol, the circle often has significant meaning attached to it.
In Japanese, for example, the word for ‘circle’ is ‘Ensō’, which represents both a common object of Japanese calligraphy, as well as a concept strongly associated with Zen. As a Zen symbol the circle signifies absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe and the void (also called ‘Mu’ in Japanese, meaning negative (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative))). In Zen Buddhist painting, ‘ensō’ is also understood as the moment when the mind is able to let go and simply allow the body/spirit to create. The Zen circle is usually brushed onto silk or rice paper in one flowing movement, expressing the movement of the spirit at that time. Zen Buddhists believe that “the character of the artist is fully exposed in how she or he draws an ‘ensō’. Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true ‘ensō’”. Some artists will practice drawing an ‘ensō’ daily, as a kind of spiritual practice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ens%C5%8D).
Some Buddhist artists paint an ‘ensō’ with an opening in the circle, whilst others complete it. For the former, the opening may express various ideas; such as that the ‘ensō’ is not separate, but rather a part of something greater or that imperfection is an essential and inherent aspect of existence. The principle of controlling the balance of composition through asymmetry and irregularity (i.e. the denial of perfection) is an important aspect of the Japanese aesthetic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ens%C5%8D).
Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX. Enso ca. 2000 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ens%C5%8D).
The notion of “denying perfection” in association with a circle (a potentially perfect entity) represents another intriguing apparent paradox for me.
Circles, however, not only represent insight, grace and the universe such as for Zen Buddhists. As something elemental, circles also refer to strength, balance, regularity and rhythm, as well as to eternity, cyclic change, repetition and the recurrence or passing of time. Watches and clocks in the Western world are, for example, fitted with circular faces, hinting at the circular/cyclical passing of time, whilst the traditional Chinese calendar represents another example of cyclical time-passage marking.
Two Chinese calendars with their two interacting cycles (the 12 animals of the Zodiac interacting with the 5 elements respectively) (http://www.infoplease.com/calendar/chinese-zodiac.html; http://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-zodiac.html; http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/01351/festive.htm).
The symbolic content of a circle (i.e. its reference to enlightenment, elegance, mental/spiritual completeness, eternity, change and the passing of time), combined with the many conceptual notions named at the onset, result in the circle being a fascinating enigma for me. Many facets of both the symbolism and the conceptual content have found their way into a very experimental approach to my current work, consisting entirely of (ear)rings.
On a formal and technical level I allow myself to be guided entirely by the truly endless number of interpretations and mutations of a basic circle, by the vast possibilities presented by materials, colours and their interplay, and by the resulting changes in the pieces’ expressive qualities. In every piece I play with repetition, contrasts, opposites and tensions in some way, often utilizing an element of surprise to engage the wearer/viewer. Lastly, my use of colour and titles is determined by associations with “fire” and “dragons”, playing on the subtle link between my pre-occupation with circles and the fact that we presently find ourselves in the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese calendar.
Investigating roundness I. Details from Breath of Fire series, 2012 by AnGela.
Investigating roundness II. Details from Breath of Fire series, 2012 by AnGela.
Investigating roundness III. Details from Breath of Fire series, 2012 by AnGela.
By Gela Tölken