Geometry and Art: sacred patterns that underlie the world
It is hard to turn away from one of the digital prints in Gordon Froud’s latest exhibition, titled Harmonia: Sacred Geometry, the Pattern of Existence.
Entitled Human Figure 7, the piece shows a man standing with both hands on his waist. There are seven geometric patterns traced on the image that are so dominant it is possible to forget that this is a representation of a person.
This fascinating exhibition brings home the realisation that geometry plays a very important role in everyday life, and that it is usually taken for granted how geometric patterns interact with people.
"I deliberately created the human figure image in a way that does not objectify the models. The models are photographed in their underwear, but a viewer hardly notices that and instead is drawn to the geometric patterns," Froud says.
A loyal supporter of the arts, and an influential figure in Gauteng’s arts community, Froud took two years to conceptualise the exhibition, which tells the story of geometry in human existence through the prism of four major concepts: the human figure; city structures such as buildings and lifts; the spiritual aspect and geometry in nature.
"I always research before conceptualising an exhibition. In this case I read 300 books about geometry in the past two years that clearly painted vividly the role that geometry plays in human existence," says Froud.
"For example in Greek mythology, just like in other religions of the world, including ancient Egyptian belief systems, geometry has always been regarded as sacred. It is also sacred in Ndebele culture where geometric patterns play an important part in art.
"In Greek mythology, you could not speak publicly about geometry as you would be stoned. Only certain important people in that society were privileged to be associated with geometry," he says.
Until now Froud has been best known for sculpture, but has deviated from that form for this multimedia exhibition.
"The truth is I work in different media and the only medium that I cannot handle is painting. I simply cannot paint, even though I can teach it. The last time I painted I felt that the pieces were horrible, even though they all sold," he says.
A senior lecturer in sculpture at the University of Johannesburg and an art curator, Froud has created 151 works of art for this exhibition, ranging from small crystal glass works to a monumental 6.5m high polyhedron made from 18 giant road cones. His large cone virus sculptures have become iconic in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and most recently in Richmond in the Northern Cape. They can be found on rooftops, in parks and streets.
I would suggest that if one looks at the statement that God created a man in his own image, perhaps it is in geometry that a micro-macro man-God pattern becomes evident
His steel-mesh geometric sculptures have been featured at the Nirox Sculpture Park, Hermanus FynArts festival and the Boschendal and Almenkerk wine estates.
This exhibition extends beyond his iconic sculptural works as it includes drawing, printmaking, digital imaging, embossing and even animation. Froud finds sacred geometry in the landscape, the cityscape, in the human form and spirit — reinforcing the extent to which geometry is inherent in corporeal existence and in the patterns of the universe.
Froud’s exploration of the spiritual is not partisan (he does not ascribe to a particular belief system) but explores sacred geometry across many belief systems from ancient Egypt, the Maya, Judeo-Christianity and Islam, to contemporary belief in aliens. He also explores the interdimensionality of beings, the authenticity of crop circles and more.
"I would suggest that if one looks at the statement that God created a man in his own image, perhaps it is in geometry that a micro-macro man-God pattern becomes evident," he says.
Froud has been a mentor to many well-known names in art such as Mary Sibande, Laurence Lemaoana, Lerato Shadi and Happy Dhlame. He also gave many of them a break at his Melville-based gallery, Gordart, in the mid 2000s as part of his development programme.
At Gordart, Sibande developed the idea of her famous sculptural piece, Sophie. Shadi is now based in Berlin where she is producing art and furthering her studies.
Froud also taught Same Mdluli, who is now the first black curator and manager of the Standard Bank Gallery.
"I have always supported the arts and mentored young artists as that is very important in creating a vibrant art scene in SA, otherwise we will end up with a situation where the young artists we teach end up working at Shoprite Checkers."
Harmonia: Sacred Geometry, the Pattern of Existence is at The Standard Bank Gallery in central Johannesburg until June 15.