Seeing Round Corners, Turner Contemporary
Seeing Round Corners: The Art of the Circle, Turner Contemporary, 21 May - 25 September 2016
Taking its title from an experimental drawing by Barry Flanagan, Turner Contemporary presents the first major exhibition to explore the centrality of the circle in art. It reflects a vast range of themes and ideas from roundness, rotation and visual perception to wonderment and cycles of time.
The exhibition considers the ways in which artists have gravitated to this universal and recurring form. From the globe of the earth and the rotation of the planets, to the shape of the human eye or the smallest atomic particle, the circle - as a form and as an idea - is at the heart of our relationship to the world. Seeing Round Corners: The Art of the Circle explores the significance and symbolism of the circle and sphere in art and culture; architecture and engineering; astronomy and geometry; optics and perception; religion, spirituality and everyday life.
In recent years questions have been raised by artists about the dominance and subsequent legacy geometric abstraction has had on 20th century art. Many of the artists represented in this exhibition, such as Ben Nicholson or Bridget Riley, are just as associated with the straight line or rectilinear form tht defines the visuals of Constructivism and Modernism. In this context, at best the circle was utilised as a formal counterpoint that did not tally with the dynamic trajectory of the straight line. Rather the circle connoted the irrational, the organic, the corporeal. As a symbolically female shape the circle was perceived as introspective, mystical and symbolically representational – a problematic issue in the quest for pure abstraction.
The exhibition is not chronological, it jumps around time, showcasing circular phenomena that we barely notice as such, from the spring (seen in minimalist Carl Andre’s floor-bound coil of silver sheeting) to the rainbow (viewed in a work that couldn’t be more different, Francis Danby’s melodramatic 19th century painting, The Shipwreck).