For a mid-career retrospective, artists usually pull together works drawn from the span of their working life, plotting the history of their career. Gordon Froud – perhaps best known for his large, virus-like polyhedron sculptures made with traffic cones and fantastic, complex geometric patterns made with plastic coat hangers and cable ties – both did and didn’t take the opportunity when it was offered by the Standard Bank Gallery.
He says he didn’t want merely to repeat the process he went through a few years ago for an exhibition called “A Retrospective of All the Exhibitions I Never Had”. This wasn’t a “proper” retrospective either – he’s a prolific artist and chose to show mainly works that wouldn’t be recognised.
Instead, he decided the catalogue should serve the more formal retrospective function and that he’d put on a show of new works that attempted to explore “how all the pieces [of his oeuvre] start to fit together” as “a way of pulling together all I’ve been working on”.
When you reach the top of the stairs and enter the main exhibition space of the Standard Bank Gallery, you’re greeted by a 6.5m white “Conevirus” sculpture, the largest he’s ever made, and a series of the familiar black coat-hanger sculptures.
They haven’t lost any of their power. There’s a kind of alchemy in their intricate beauty and the sheer joy - or surprise - they evoke is synonymous with Froud’s work. He evokes the funny feeling his vision was always in coat hangers, if only you could have seen it. For him, art is about allowing people to see what has been right in front of them, but invisible; making them look again.
These works are a good starting point because, he explains, the way he constructed them – creating beauty using mundane objects and repetition – prompted one of the central ideas of this exhibition. He started thinking about how beauty has a pattern – a sort of underlying structure or geometry.
This exhibition is about his deeper exploration of the patterns of proportion, shape, form and numbers that seem mysteriously, and invisibly, to order the universe, from the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Mean to the Flower of Life, the five Platonic solids and Metatron’s cube, which encapsulate something irreducibly simple and incredibly complex.
Froud has represented these ideas in over 100 works, broken down into four main “chapters” – geometry in nature, in architecture, in the body and spirituality. He’s done this through drawings (not something he’s known for), photography, printmaking, digital imaging, embossing and even a video – an animation using the shadows cast by one of his geometric sculptures.
His usual colourful palette has been reduced to monochromes. That pared-down purity also finds expression in the way the frames don’t have borders, so they seem more like windows, suggesting the viewer is looking through rather than at something.
The exhibition is an installation in the truly arty sense of the word – the symmetry and balance in the way he’s placed the artworks seem to harmonise with the classical architecture of the building – essentially a circle within a square. The exhibition in its entirety evokes an almost tangible sense of the forces and patterns he plays with in the individual artworks.
The odd, random atom, the “third element” as he refers to it, is the viewer. Our movements as we bounce around in the tightly structured geometry of the exhibition complete the work, giving chaos back to the order.
"Harmonia: Sacred Geometry, the pattern of existence” is on at the Standard Bank Gallery between 13 April to 15 June 2018