Posts Tagged ‘circle’

Shape One

January 16, 2010

The Shape began close to a ghost road in East London. Ostensibly, the junction at the southern tip of Kingsland Road is a crossroad. Except it isn’t. The junction is the convergence point of four roads: Kingsland Road, Old Street, Shoreditch High Street and Hackney Road. But, in fact, there is a phantom fifth: a small invisible right turn leads Kingsland Road into Old Street: Ophir Road. As far as I know, its naming is obscured, perhaps even unmarked on street level, but the ever roving Google Eye discloses the past as simply as the present.

If that is not intriguing enough – that an ancient road can exist but not not be seen – then its name offers a further enigma. Ophir is a biblical name for an unidentified region. The name is linked with King Solomon’s Mines: a mythical treasure trove purported to exist in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and China, among others.

From Kingsland Road I took Ophir Road, unknown to me at the time, and my perambulation – and Shape One – began. I hadn’t planned the shape, and in fact I wasn’t conscious that the shape had begun either. I was heading to the Artbook Bookshop on Pitfield Road and as soon as I turned the street corner I could see the bookshop was closed. A small panic arose, subdued only by reaching the sign in the window. I would have to wait a further  forty minutes until it opened and it was then I decided on my derivé.

I crossed Old Street diagonally, to the corner of Tabernacle Street, where a nondescript religious brick monument stands opposite another, doomed, brick bastion which holds a far more powerful and contemporary resonance: The Foundry. Along Tabernacle and right into Leonard Street, sidling beside the church nestled among the bars, graphic designers and architects. Along one side of the church prose had been sprayed on a long jet-black construction hoarding. The silver sprayed words disjointed, dodging and weaving the fly posters. It read:

NO Different to Our Fathers Sons
OUR BOYS We Bring Em Back
In Shrouds
Wrapped tight in UNION
We say that they our Glorious
We name these Boys as BRAVES
We call these MEN
We tell them to their Graves
For until Each one is
Pray For
Our Collective Violence
And if we say they died in vain
AND SHATTER Bitter Comfort Dear!
Held Dear Close
They Do Not Die In Vain My Friends…
They Do Not Throw Their Turn A WAY
They Die So We Can See Ourselves
Real Souljahs

It finished abruptly, the final word missing. Perhaps the author ran out of time. Perhaps the author was caught.

What followed was a series of loops. I walked in a circle around the wheel at the crossing of Leonard Street and Paul Street, and then I took another loop around the old Church and back onto Leonard Street to head East. I crossed  Great Eastern Street (presumably named after the 1862 railway company) and up Charlotte Road to cross Old Street and into Hoxton Square. There I made a full anti-clockwise circuit.

On Coronet Street, behind the Lux bar, stands The Vestry Of St Leonard Shoreditch Electric Light Station with its Latin motto carved in stone:

E PULERE LUX ET VIS (‘Out of the dust, light and power’).

Over time since 1895 it burnt refuse to create steam which powered a generator for electricity. Only the shell remains now. Inside, students use the huge chambers to learn the circus trade. From here, I sauntered up a Hoxton vein (Pitfield Street) into the heart of Hoxton, past The George & Vulture pub, past the Habidashers Alms house, bombed in World War I.

By now the bookshop had to be open. So I moved south down Pitfield Street and Shape One ended.


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.