Elements 6×12

I previously posted a small piece that acted as a proof-of-concept for this much larger work. The smaller piece was made of 6 cm squares while this is made of 10 cm squares arranged in a 6 x 12 grid, with thicknesses of 5, 10 and 13 mm. All pieces are made from cut and sanded polystyrene foam, painted with acrylics.

Each of these elements began as improvised brushstrokes limited to circles, rectangles and triangles. Through a long process of revision and reduction they were reworked to essential forms and arranged within a horizontally-oriented grid. Any vestige of sign or reference was stripped away. What is left is a field of vision that is primed, ripe with opportunity for the emergence of relations based solely within the context of the viewer’s personal experience.

The analytical mind is quickly occupied in the essential seeking of patterns and repetitions, joints and separations, similarities and differences, and the emotional mind is then free to engage with the emerging symbols that, as aesthetic events, force us to think in terms of meaning. Just as lightning exists as potential within a thundercloud, so symbols and their meaning manifest from the potential of the individual viewer, who acts as shaman, myth-maker, oracle, conjuring representations of elemental human truths in flashes of direct experience.

The abstract painter Brice Marden, when asked how he wanted viewers to engage with his work, said, “Just pick a line and follow it. Hopefully, you begin to disappear.”

Pick a shape and relate it to another, as a living, dynamic being rather than as an object of distraction or utility. As a wise character in Margery Williams’ most famous book says, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.”

Click through for more close-up photos, a video, some work-in-progress pics, and even an animation that shows several early stages.

Shadows cast from one level to another offer ever-changing liminal shapes that unify at one time and then separate at another. They show the existence of a deeper reality than just the dualism of black and white.

The shadows are constantly-changing tricksters, mixing categories, crossing boundaries and blurring definitions. Only by being open to the play of ambivalence can we hope to see the whole, the Real.

Different lighting conditions activate the environment as part of the experience.

The piece is made from polystyrene foam insulation, as well as foam grocery trays.

The soft foam is very, very unforgiving. The slightest scratch or pressure can ruin an edge or surface. Most pieces were remade, some several times.

The whole piece took four months, a large part of which was focused on planning and organization.

Here’s a video of assembling all the elements for the first time before fixing them in place.

One of the first arrangements was a 6 x 9 grid. I decided to extend it to 6 x 12 to better meet the viewing arc of the human eye, which is what most people are equipped with.

Just a few of the many, many versions that were edited during pre-production.

One Comment on “Elements 6×12

  1.  by  Robin Campbell

    Keith: I love the Brice Marden quotation, and I love your work. So lovely to disappear into…

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