FAT 2: Visual Research (part 2)

At the same time, I also investigate the iconographical application and influences of shape from different angles. In terms of historical and cultural context, geometrical shapes had been adopted since long time. Geometric art during the Ancient Greek time is well known with geometrical decoration. During the Protogeometric period, geometrical shaped motifs like triangle, dogtooth and zigzag forms are widely used on Greek artifacts, such as vases and Athenian tomb stones. In John Nicolas Coldstream’s (2003, p. 275) Geometric Greece: 900–700 BC, he described the favorite motif like spirals, cables, arcs, circles have been found on Greek pottery (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2). Coldstream (2003, p. 25) suggests that “for ninth-century, painted pottery of Athens is outstanding for its technical excellence, its elegance of shape, and its harmony of shape and decoration.” Its Early and Middle phases are considered as most influential and sophisticated time for the whole Geometric art period.

Fig. 1, image from Geometric Greece: 900–700 BC, 2003

Fig. 2, image from Geometric Greece: 900–700 BC, 2003

Geometrical shapes such as square and circle have been widely utilized in both China and Japan. According to  Koji Miyazaki’s An Adventure in Multidimensional Space: The Art and Geometry of Polygons, square and circle symbolize heaven and earth respectively. Taking Chinese ancient coin as an example, the outer shape is circle yet its negative space is a squarish die-cut window, it is commonly interpreted as a combination of heaven and earth. Similar idea can be found on many Chinese and Japanese traditional architectures (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4) and cultural/religion collaterals. More precisely, Miyazaki (2006, p. 36) suggests that the circle, square, and triangle represent Tian Huang (emperor of heaven), Di Huang  (emperor of earth) and Ren Huang (emperor of people) respectively in the ancient Chinese age of mythology. Besides, circle, square, and triangle also symbolize water, earth, fire in terms of five element iconography. Generally, it’s interesting to know that Japanese prefers the triangle shape over square and circle. 

Fig. 3, image from An Adventure in Multidimensional Space: The Art and Geometry of Polygons, Polyhedra, and Polytopes, 2006

Fig. 4, image from An Adventure in Multidimensional Space: The Art and Geometry of Polygons, Polyhedra, and Polytopes, 2006

Reference:
Coldstream, John (2003) Geometric Greece: 900–700 BC. London: Routledge
Miyazaki, Koji (2006) An Adventure in Multidimensional Space: The Art and Geometry of Polygons, Polyhedra, and Polytopes. Tokyo: Shokokusha Publishing Co., Ltd.

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