Round And Round

November 27, 2008

For a long time I have been fascinated by the elegant simplicity, cultural history, and semiotic significance of the shape of the circle. In my graphic design work I will always try to use a circle if it makes sense to do so. And if it doesn’t then I get annoyed, but persevere. Some examples of using the circle in my own work are: the Highpoint Lowlife logo, artwork for vinyl centre labels, background patterns, and graphic shapes in illustrations.

After having recently travelled through TIbet, Nepal and now Thailand – all with deep Buddhist/Hindu cultures – I was introduced to the Mandala. I had seen these things before but wasn’t familiar with the name Mandala (literally: “circle” in Sanskrit) and had never seen so many in such a short space of time, and certainly not in as much detail. They are circular images (and sometimes model structures) which are drawn, painted or created in coloured sand, often meticulously and in great detail. A square is common inside the circle of most Mandalas. They are intended to depict a “wheel of life” and to encourage spiritual and religious focus and meditation.

So it was with surprise, interest, and some synchronicity, that whilst delving into some of Carl Jung’s writings on Alchemy and Synchronicty (which Thorsten and I have developed appetites for studying), I discovered Jung had at one time begun drawing his own rudimentary versions. He’d treated his Mandalas as a pictorial definition of the unconcious self, which he’d described as “my whole being – actively at work” and “the archetype of wholeness” – archetypes of course being one of the core principles of Jungian psychology.

In short, Jung arrived at the idea that the shape of the circle represents the self and to a greater extend, a person’s inner “God” (which he elaborates on significantly in further writing). And though Eastern mandalas have been used historically to encourage people to search their subconcious, Jung was using them to describe the subconscious.

All this talk of circles and religion led me to think of another famous circle: the numerical figure zero, and its many religious (and otherwise) connotations. I also wondered if this all fit into alchemy and chemistry somewhere? Apparently, zero is the atomic number for Neutronium which sits at the centre of the Chemical Galaxy, and led me back to a modern looking mandala.

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One Response to “Round And Round”

  1. thor Says:

    nice! I’m just about to set off for the train, and have my Synchronicity book ready to start!


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