I keep stumbling across squares, from Instagram applying square filters to my uploaded images, doing a boxset with 30x30cm dimensions to viewing an exhibition called “Windows” where you’ve guessed it – the brief involves working to square dimensions. A foreword as printed in the “Windows” catalogue by the organiser, curator, NoPlaceArt:
“Classically speaking, portrait or landscape tends to be the most common compositional layout. Both portrait and landscape are used to depict the external world that we live in. What about the composition of a square? A square has similar dimensions but is equal for all sides. With this in mind, it could be suggested that the square resembles another form of window, one that does not resemble the external world, but a window that looks internally to the mind of the artist.”
Does this mean by removing size and final presentation variables that it unclutters the image so that the viewer has to peer inside to learn each artist’s hidden meaning? We can’t judge or make assumptions based on the final look so must work harder to interpret and apply meaning to what we see. I really love this concept of the square, how I’m currently enlarging my images to either print analogue or digitally, but at the same time I’ve been revealing the square pixel and obscuring the image with it. So maybe I should also look at this idea of ambiguity and what a square shape brings to help develop my ideas.
The viewer can no longer judge using the normal conventions or expectations of wanting to see a landscape or figures in the work based on the shape of the canvas.
Do you still see a landscape in my square artwork or is it an optical illusion?
In Dan Howard-Brit’s essay “The Circle Inside the Square (also printed in the Windows exhibition catalogue) Howard Brit pointed out that on a recent tour of the Tate Britain in search of the Square shape he expected to find none. However, he did find some (about half a dozen he quotes) however they were all in the 20th Century area of artists. Nothing in the 19th, 18th or 17th century displays. So, the concept of the square canvas is a more recent development.
Howard-Brit links the square composition back to his much-loved LP collection as quoted;
“……the true pleasure, the true life-affirming portal to a world of expanded possibilities and unknowable experiences, was the sensation of flicking through racks and racks of second-hand LP’s….”
So, the real question is; what do you associate with when confronted by a square?
Nostalgia? Unprejudiced? Impersonal? Decent? Objective? Impartial? Ethical? Sporting? Above-board? An even playing field?
I think I will definitely explore squares more in my work.
More Instagram squares can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/tammy_smithuk/