Expanding the Circle

The Enso, Japanese for circle, is an inspiration for imagery in the work of Karen Margolis. A sacred symbol in Zen Buddhism, embodying infinity and perfection, she is attracted to this mystical aspect as well as the paradox of imperfection, and she reinterprets the circle in both positive and negative space, in a struggle between destruction and creation, as a shared language connecting body to mind.

Atomic Enso, 2017, 14×11″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

My art develops out of a compendium of ideas from science, metaphysics and Buddhist philosophy as well as my own musings. I merge, layer, overlap, and otherwise condense imagery into a singular essence, the circle. Connecting the microscopic to the universe, the circle represents a particle, neurotransmitter and an Enso, which is a sacred symbol of Zen Buddhism, embodying perfection and infinity. I’m attracted to the circle’s mystical iconography as well as its paradox of imperfection and reinterpret the circle in both positive and negative space, as a shared language uniting physical to mental. As my primary means of communication, I expand the circle’s vocabulary through architecture and color, imbue it with meaning as well as encrypt it to obfuscate comprehension.

Angor, 2017, 14×11″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

 

Chthonic, 2017, 14×11″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

Having spoken at length about the general creation of my work in Interalia’s September 2015 issue, Connecting Rhythms, I am focusing on my Integration series in this issue. Compositions on paper record my interior monologues as encrypted data. I begin each work by burning holes in paper to produces space and volume, allowing forms to emerge within the lattice structure. It is a symbolic act of penetrating inward. Then I convert journal entries into color-encoded fields of dots. I work from a flow chart I developed that categorizes and assigns a Pantone reproducible color to each emotion. Evocative of the interplay between neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain, the compositions consequently elude individual content to convey a universality of the mind’s operations. Burned holes, embedded map fragments, as well as linear elements indicate attachments and states of mind.

Scattered reflections, 2017, 14×11″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

 

Enantiomer, 2017, 14×21.5″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

As a student of psychology, I learned that emotions are the patterns of meaning we find within ourselves. My intention with this work is to offer a glimpse into the ephemeral nature of the mind’s operations by translating meaning into pattern. But, with errors in color mixing as well as extemporaneous thought invasions, my system is flawed so the works ultimately are as much about inaccuracy and subjectivity as they are about documenting fleeting moments.

Tathata, 2017, 14×11″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

 

Gethsemane, 2016, 24×18″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

Detail of Gethesemane

Another layer of my work considers what we think we see and know. In breaking up the solid, the image is redefined. So it is not just the circle, but also the space surrounding it and the matter between the holes, the interstice, that takes on significance. This integration of material and empty space articulates a transitional state fraught with uncertainty and contradiction as the entity is fractured into components. The act of viewing the image is to see the whole and constituent molecules simultaneously, which produces ambiguity as to whether the narrative is presenting formation or disintegration of the entity.

Anagnorisis, 2016, 48×18″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

Detail of Anagnorisis

In making art about what you can’t see, as opposed to a perspective of the natural world, I like to think I create a physical presence for what cannot be perceived and bring beauty to internal processes.

Deviation 2016, 48×18″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

 

Irregularity, 2016, 48×18″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

 

Lucubratory, 2016, Triptych, each 24×18″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

Detail of Lucubratory

 

Splenetic, 2016, 40×30″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments on paper.

Red Shift, 2017, 24×54″, watercolor, gouache, thread, map fragments

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www.karenmargolisart.com

All images copyright and courtesy of Karen Margolis

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