Shell Dartboard (1998, 105cm x 105cm)

The organization of elements into regular, self-contained or predictable formations is a way of imposing order on experience. Diverse and divergent events can in this way be located within a matrix of rational order whereby a coherent, autonomous form is felt to incorporate all relevant phenomena.  Pattern and symmetry in visual form can offer a satisfying sense of order imposed but may also allude to the notion of a universal, underlying order. Diagrammatic representation of ‘hidden’ structures, such as that of a snowflake, help to make the ‘invisible’ more knowable, but in addition to their elucidatory function they attain an aesthetic charge from their assertion of  a pervading geometric logic. But where patterning, even in symmetrical form, is felt to be too driven by aesthetic interest an alternative response may form. Pattern for pattern’s sake is disorderly in that it is eschews any broader revelatory function and limits its concern with intuitively felt affect. Here we might sense a gender division in cultural associations of pattern and symmetry: the long tradition of masculinity laying claim to the rational and orderly end of the spectrum has meant that gratuitous involvement with patterning (at the spectrum’s other end) is perceived as a feminine concern. The work presented here, although not conceived of as a series, represents a number of responses to the idea of pattern’s unstable meaning. In White Light Rice, diagrammatic illustrations are constructed from dyed and undyed rice packed behind glass. The grain that constructs the images reminds us of the hierarchies at play in declarations of knowledge and rational order. Shell Dartboard presents a form of symmetrical patterning that rests comfortably in masculine territory but the construction of the pattern from shells calls to mind the kind of crafted objects that sentimentalize organic forms. As hardened defence against the outside world, the shells represent the protection of a vulnerable heart and the impenetrable facade of external appearance.


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