Sunday, September 07, 2014

ARTWORK ARCHIVE ~ Mathematical Sign Series

Whilst still in the early exploratory stages of finding out what sort of artwork I wanted to do, I started using signs and symbols as the creative beginnings of them. I found then, and still do now, that I need something to kick start and get the creative juices flowing. My training in Graphic Design played its part too, leaving me a fondness for gouache as a medium and for the forms of international signage. These signs of necessity are simple and communicate universally.  They also, perhaps unconsciously, draw on fundamental forms which  often have archetypal resonances.  These resonances and meanings are sometimes buried within them. Mathematical symbols are a case in point. Extraordinarily simple marks, ones easily scratched into stone, clay or wood, these signs for add, subtract, divide and multiply are some of our most ancient human signs. Imbued with a rich mixture of meanings with practical, religious and magical significance

The four paintings as shown below were created over a period of twelve years. As a consequence they also chart developments in my artistic process, changes in the style of my work and a growing confidence with what I want to do with it.

Completed in 1994, it's one of the earliest of my completed pieces. I'd only begun painting my own artwork a year or so before. Even at this stage, themes that reoccur in subsequent work were already making themselves present. A fondness for squares and circles, and work seeping over onto the frame, both make there first appearance in 'Affirmation'.  My sources for design elements were often adaptions from Medieval pattern books or fabric and lace designs. The works title is incorporated into the piece as part of a broad border within it.

This was the first time I'd attempted overlaying gouache colours, and learnt to my cost that I needed to be more aware of whether the colours I was using were staining or fugitive ones. When It came to the final layer of the spiky white circle, the magenta gouache kept seeping through. These sort of technical difficulties arose out of  inexperience and a process of creation where I never quite knew for certain where a piece might finally end up. In this case I learnt that PVA or white acrylic could 'seal off' the surface so staining colours wouldn't come through and I could then paint white gouache on top of them. The overriding feeling i was after was to create a visual sense of the plus/add sign's intrinsically positive nature

Affirmation by Vidyavajra

Though painted the following year in 1995, I was still following pretty much the same creative process and resources as before. The title 'Apportion' is woven into a border design, the cursive lettering I chose has its mirror reflection placed opposite it. The resulting border is reminiscent of Art Deco though that was entirely arrived at by chance, it wasn't a consciously created effect at all. Both the background pattern and that used in the central 'Division' sign are adaptions from a book of Medieval Tile Designs, where i devised my own colourways. Across this I've spread symmetrically an array of bright Ultramarine Blue squares that sing out against the more earthy browns, greens, and bronze of the background tones.

With this piece I was trying to give visual form to dividing as an apportioning, with the attendant qualities of equality and fairness that these concepts imply. I didn't want to risk painting the white flowers over the top of the background colours. So, I played it safe and painted them on watercolour paper separately and stuck them on top afterwards. Though each is a part of a series, I didn't want to frame them the same. Given the time span over which they were painted it wouldn't have been possible anyway So each piece was framed as seemed individually appropriate.

Apportion by Vidyavajra

Again painted a year later in 1996, things have this time moved on both in terms of my creative process and confidence. I've stopped using design sources and the more traditional patterning of the first two pieces. Though you can't read any lettering saying 'abstraction' it is there, but abstracted so it can't be read. I drew out on tracing paper the letters for Abstraction, then divided them into 1 inch squares, which I then cut out and reassembled randomly to create the basic structure for the piece. This method of messing around with an element, be it lettering or symbol, to create the finished design, has became an ever increasing feature in future work.

The essential visual theme for this piece is to be drawn in, sucked in by it towards the central Subtraction sign. The subtraction sign itself needed a focal point to complete this effect, hence the small circle of gold paint in the centre. The ever decreasing radials then dominate your focus as a result. Because of the changes in my method of creating it and drawing it out onto watercolour paper, this piece departed from my 'evolutionary' approach in the creation of a piece. It required a more deliberate and thought through process. Whilst this had its benefits in avoiding those unexpected problems I'd had before, it meant my process of creation become more strongly directed and controlled. This created for me an air of frustration with the detail  and sheer slog this process involved, that I've only recently overcome. I revamped the frame of this piece for my exhibition last year. The original white frame with gold turning lines running across it and the glass, I was never that happy with as the effect I was after never really worked.

Abstraction by Vidyavajra

Whilst the first three were painted in three subsequent years, 'Amplification' wasn't finished till 2006.  The reasons for the gap is complex, but getting more involved in Buddhism and being Ordained in 2000, were significant factors in reducing my productivity. My creative focus went elsewhere for a while. However, by 2004-5 a number of changes had occurred which meant I began reconnecting with my artwork and this unfinished series. One of the things that had stalled 'Amplification' was uncertainty about what exactly to do.
Sometimes just being caught in a series of pieces can so stifle the creative process you have to go off and do something else.

The main visual element in this piece is the multiplication sign X itself. It exists in in five different sizes, in the background twice in the foreground circle  an even larger one is suggested on the frame which itself is made up of small X shaped tile dividers.  One element that interestingly connects this final piece with the first, is the use of a lace pattern in the white circular design. The frame was the last element to be created for last years exhibition. The central picture had been lying around in a folder for seven years unframed. Again this was due to uncertainty about what to do.with it. In some senses this painting marked the highpoint of my 'controlled' method of working. The experience of painting hundreds of tiny X's for the background had driven me potty taking weeks and weeks of work. After that I wanted to start gently making subtle deviations and experiments with this style. To break out of the prison I'd created around my work, to transgress a few of my own rules and established methods of working.

Amplification by Vidyavajra

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