polar-coaxis series @
...Who can say what goes into my work.
Not even I would say it
The ‘goings in’ mean nothing in the balance
The work represents itself
It is the manifest invention, a religious practice...


Sacred Geometry And Esoteric Recurring Themes In Root2Art

Is Sacred Geometry Really Sacred?

In the early years developing my work I attempted to study every geometry that has been used by cultures to structure art. I was careful to do this as I didn't want to repeat investigations that have already been made. I'm also fascinated with many relating subjects and am continuously trying to sniff out theorems that might lead me to material for my own artistic development.

My own feeling is that 'sacred geometry' is a term used by those who do not fully understand the nature of geometry. It is a very alluring subject and once one starts to dev into it one finds all manor of prosperities that seem so perfect that they must allude to some special truth. but I strongly feel this is an error and the result of an incomplete understanding.

Lets look at a parallel from science. water and chlorophyll have very unique properties that are dependent on their workings on a quantum level. These properties are not found anywhere else in nature and yet water and chlorophyll are found almost everywhere there is life. There are still many scientific unknowns about why water and chlorophyll behave the way they do. The scientific community does not however assume that these things have some sacred property, it is the norm instead to accept that we simply do not yet understand the complete picture and one day when we have developed the technology to look closer we will probably understand it fully.

So why do curious Euclidian geometric relationships so often pick up the status of being sacred. I have identified three factors:-

1. Just about anyone with a compass and rule and a bit of intuition can play with geometry and find seemingly perfect symmetries and curious relationships. Without the depth of experience, required discipline and rigor demanded by the scientist or mathematician, the layman tends to see the beautiful interconnections and not the simple underlying principles. It is then easy for the layman to attribute seemingly complex yet perfect interconnections to a divine order. It is interesting to note that there is no 'sacred mathematics' and yet geometry is just the delineation of one aspect of mathematics.

2. Geometry is a purely abstract and conceptual language. It was Plato who said, "geometry is the purest philosophical tool". When we see seemingly perfect results in the geometry it communicates with us on a non-verbal and thus deep level. Again we can easily relate this experience to the revealing of some 'other' special truth. It is also interesting to note that Euclidian geometry is not as ubiquitous in nature as 'sacred geometers' would have us believe. In fact i'd say simple because it is a purely conceptual discipline, it appears no where outside of the conceptual mind. The perfect square and circle is nothing more than a concept. And if we want to look at how geometric relationships relate to proportions found in nature then Euclidian geometry should be noted more for its absence from nature than its ubiquitous presences. It appears rarely in cosmology which after all makes up most of the universe and the classic reference to the golden section being related to growth in nature is better describe with fractal geometry. The sacred geometers primary pass time seems to be overlaying faces, leaves and art with simple geometric forms and finding crude correlations. Maybe the crude correlations are there, but that's all they are. Euclidian geometry exists in a 2 dimensional theoretical plane. Any attempt to relate it to a 3 dimensional (possibly more) world of stuff is at best crude. There are many other forms of geometry such as topology that are much better at describing the archetypal forms of 3 dimensional nature.

3. We seem hardwired to find beauty in symmetry. this is another subject in itself, but simply put, many relationships found in simple geometry are commonly perceived as beautiful. I personally feel this is more to do with the recognition of the abstract purity of geometry than the way it actually looks.

The geometry I use is very abstract and as least like nature as it comes. When I started with the whole root2art thing I consciously decided I wanted to make something as different from nature as possible. That is to make something as abstract as possible. Simply because I could not add to what nature already does a trillion times better than one human could ever imagine doing. The geometry in my work is also not there to structure a layer of art, but it is the very fabric of the compositions. Every boundary in my work sits in what i call a geometric model.

The irony of all this is that I strive with every piece to create something that can invoke a 'sacred' feeling in the audience. I myself am deeply moved by 'sacred' art and music.

I like Picasso’s line about "making great art is about making the most convincing lie" - In other words, creating the illusion of a special truth.

I also like the story of the Bodhidharma who when asked by the pious emperor - "What is the supreme meaning of the sacred truth" - the Bodhidharma replies - "Vast emptiness, nothing sacred".

I guess having said all this 'Sacred Geometry' is just a name. If it is used to describe something that produces a sacred feeling in people then it's a valid name. I shouldn't get to hung up on the use of words:)

Bull Neck & Halo Icon

The Polar-Coaxis motif is an example of a recurrent visual theme that has woven itself deeply into my body of work over many years. This theme in essence is very simple. It is like a bald head on a bullish neck, a bowed hoody set against a halo, or a human foetus. My root2art motifs do not look like either in the detail, but in terms of general form, which is the level of composition which most excites me, there is a likeness in all these forms. In this family i also see a Madonna.

Giotto - Madonna and Child

To me this visual form whether it is manifest in an abstracted screaming head or a tender icon painting has an expression that resonates with my marrow. I dare say this is just a peculiarity to myself.

Above Above: 'Oh my Pubescent Head of Discontent', 1992. Above: A derivative of this visual theme shows up again in 2000 .

Above Above: More teenage angst - 'Bullneck, 1998' and a counterpart Above: from 2002. Note the detail to the right has its halo on the inside of the head like a tourniquet around a bulging neck muscle.

The visually description of the stretch and compression on an imaginary volume as it is bent around a central point is another key ‘function’ within the head element of this motif. The above drawing was a study I made for ‘Firstmodel’ in 95, and I remember that showing this kind of tension was probably the foremost goal I had when shaping the visual language which would later become Root2art.


Spanky by Stephen Powell
Stephen Powell's glass works

Zen Circle Painting

A geometry of the Madonna and Buddha in art

polar-coaxis series @