Rhythm and Repetition

Round and back back, 2010, Monel, Simon Cottrell. In permanent collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia. Photo Credit: Gallery Funaki

Round and back back, 2010, Monel, Simon Cottrell. In permanent collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia. Photo Credit: Gallery Funaki

Simon Cottrell’s pieces evoke a sense of movement, rhythm, and repetition. Each piece has no beginning or an end in itself but might prove to be the start of another path or an end to an existing one. I was particularly taken by this dynamic quality, not to be confused by the ‘poetic of the unfinished’, because as the curation of 'Output to Paths' at Gallery Funaki suggests, Simon Cottrell is the growth of an artist. His work is not about the final piece, it is about what happens after the design, that works of art inevitably have lives of their own, which in some cases, surpasses the lives of their creators.

When I was looking at the pieces, I imagined at any moment they would grow by themselves, adding new shapes, accumulating and collecting things around them to rearrange themselves into another composition. The work had an ephemeral character that exuded feelings of wonderment of the infinite unknown. There is no singular way to interpret them; rather it is a plural language in rhythm and repetition. A plurality that comes from continuity and movement instead of the number of forms used. In most cases in fact, only one shape is used, but repeatedly and in a deliberate rhythm. This repetition, it seems, might be the basis for good design.

Understanding the continuity and relationships between the pieces is more crucial than to try to understand each of the pieces on display. The longitudinal poster that took up half of the gallery’s wall space illustrated Mr. Cottrell’s interest in the paths opened up by a design output.

In the words of the artist himself, he is attempting to embody “the possibilities of a tenuous calm or of complex simplicity”. This ambiguity that echoes with his work perhaps is an apt quality to reflect the unknown future; of what paths might we face with each act, with each design.

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He achieves this ambiguity by several means. He uses shapes that at a fleeting glance might allude to something familiar, but never specifically references any single subject. He breaks up and fragments simple forms to create ambiguity in the object’s outline, and he counteracts allusions to nature by an obvious man-made craft using the metal alloy, Monel, his material of choice.

These techniques hold valuable lessons for themselves which are at once inspiring and ambiguous. The juxtaposition of forms immediately denotes a collective consciousness and the way Simon has done this lends a magnetic quality to his work, challenging the viewer to examine the pieces and to be immersed in his work, leading to active engagement, which relates to a quality of social participation that every architect should have a good hard look into.

 


By Steven Chu

Steven Chu is a Burmese-Australian architect and the Founding Director of Alter Atlas.

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Steven Chu