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paintings and watercolors for the exhibition NY Art Live at the Hankyu Gallery. Osaka, Japan, May 2017

The Circle

We start with the eye. The first circle any of us see is the iris and pupil of our mother’s eye. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote; “Who would believe that so small a space could contain the images of all the universe?” The tiny circular opening of the iris in our eyes admits so much of what we know of our world. The sensitivity of the human eye shades our every step with nuance of color, form, and motion. Coupled with the range of our human consciousness we are able to identify and distinguish the thousands of images and sensations that flood past us every moment of every day. An ordinary miracle to say the least, and one that is easily taken for granted in the midst of our busy lives.

So we look to the heavens and we see the circle of the sun, the circle of the moon. We are aware of our world as the circle that we can see around us, and we know that all of these things are in motion. Each day as the earth turns on its axis, each of us makes a great circle around the center of the earth our planet. In the course of a year we will all complete a circle around the sun. Each month we watch as the moon, sun, and Earth do their circular dance through space while we spin through our own circular routines.

The circle is one of the few perfect geometric forms, a unified closure of a single line. Its 360 degrees are used to describe and plot the surface of our planet. The simple math of crossing points on circles, latitude, longitude, help us find any place on Earth, and help the satellites which circle above us to find us, direct us, fill our phones and our curious minds with information. And its description has challenged mathematicians to devise their most subtle formulations.

The complete nature of the circle has elevated it to a symbol of divinity throughout the world, whether in the halo that surrounds the head of a deity in paintings or sculptures, or in itself, its own perfection. St. Augustine famously described God as a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere, in other words all pervasive, literally everywhere. In this the circle becomes a great symbol of unity. Perhaps in our time, when a complex array of political, regional, and national interests so often clash and struggle for dominance, a sense of unity can be hard to find. Perhaps this is why, following the difficult US election, and its difficult aftermath, I have found great peace within the curving line and perfection of the circle. Each of us yearns for some certainty in our fragmented world so I have decided to focus for now on the circle as a personal symbol of hope in the restoration of wholeness and a more peaceful inclusive world. The circle seems to me the perfect symbol of an embracing, energized whole.

The use of a compass to create a circle, “recreates the primal act of creation, starting with a center point, the origin of the cosmos. In the religious sense, the point is imagined as the divine, in the scientific sense as the moment of the Big Bang. Where there was once only undifferentiated space, the compass draws a form that distinguishes inside from out. Equally, the act of drawing a circle with a compass describes the coordinates of individual life, origin and expansion, the fulfillment and circumscription of potential, the orbiting and perambulations around what feels physically and psychically like home.”

In a sense, each of us is a circle, contained and complete within ourselves yet expanding out to others like the circular ripples from raindrops on a pond. There is much to meditate upon in this seemingly simple form.