Mention the name Gordon Froud and most will conjour up images of his virus-like modular constructions of objects such as hangers, cones, plastic plates or dice. The addition and repetition of elements read ultimately not as a uniform monolithic object but rather as forms intended to be read as the sum of their parts. His current showing, ‘Harmonia: Sacred Geometry, The Pattern of existence,’ is an extension of this work and an introduction to the many other creative facets that make up this artist. I caught up with Froud at the Standard Bank Art Gallery, and spoke about spirituality, inner city Jozi, geometry, viruses and how this latest body of work could potentially be his boldest.
Nolan Stevens: It seems for this show that you are branching off into a different conceptual process altogether. The work I know of yours, such as the Sperm Babies and viruses, has a far more antagonistic view. A virus eats away at things, the Sperm Babies were like these deformed creatures, but now with this first glimpse of your newer works, it seems like your work is becoming more spiritually inclined.
Gordon Froud: I don’t think my work has ever really been antagonistic, unless I was taking on a specific cause like Xenophobia, but I guess I’ve always been a bit of a commentator. The viruses were actually intended to be a very positive thing instead of a negative. When I read up on viruses for my Masters, I marvelled at how clever they are and how they literally take over cells. I figured that they’re probably the smartest things on Earth at the moment and they’ll probably outlive us all. However, within that, my working with viruses was often about the materials. I took unexpected materials and turned them into visually pleasing things to a point where one could almost criticize them for being too decorative. I guess there is quite a shift now because my art has become a bit more serious. The focus has narrowed down. I’ve always seen myself as more of a spiritual type person than as a religious one. I don’t subscribe to any one belief system. If I did vaguely associate with any one religious way of life it would probably be closer to Buddhism, just because of it’s all-encompassing nature. If you look at my bookshelf, you’ll see that it has all the religious texts in it: from the Christian Bible, to the Torah, to the Book of Mormon, to the Koran, a whole range right through to the more flaky kind of belief systems like Scientology. In my lifetime I’ve been a Jehovah’s Witness, I’ve been Anglican, Ive been Seventh Day Adventist, Scientologist, so I’ve always been interested in that as a kind of process. Coming back to the exhibition, in the essay that I wrote for the catalogue, I ended off by saying, if one subscribes to the image of God, whatever that might be, then surely God must be a mathematician because that’s the one thing that underpins everything in the universes, in our creativity, in the world, in everything from the vibration of the Earth, through to the expanding universe, through to atoms.
Is that a connecting thread between the works you’ve done previously and the works you’re exhibiting now?
Ja. The viruses, for example, came out of my Masters study on modularity, repetition and choice of materials for creating meaning. It was in the course of doing that, that I studied the Fibonacci sequence and geometry in architecture and nature, and out of that I extended into the study of viruses and looked into specific viruses. That led me back to the geometric structure, because viruses are totally geometric.
What has your thinking process been leading up to this exhibition? Everything I’ve seen this far feels ominously like a salute to your career.
I was offered a retrospective and I turned it down. I’d done a retrospective at the Nirox Project space and instead of having to haul those works back here, I proposed that we treat the catalogue as the retrospective and make an entirely new body of work for the show. There are more than 130 works on this show, all new – some of them refer back to older works. The majority of the work is new. Right from the table top photography that I did when I was in residence with Willem Boshoff at Nirox, through to photographs of rafters taken in Ireland and Germany, and then through to the drawings of the City.
How much do the geometry or structures we are immersed in, affect us as organic forms?
Greatly, I think. You can walk into a room and feel a certain sense of discomfort and only later realise that the ceiling is too low. Even in configuration of office spaces, if we go into things like feng shui. If things get changed around, suddenly it could change the whole dynamic of the space, and how people interact with one another.
Is that something that you were conscious of in the implementation and presentation of your work and how that would make your audience feel?
Yes, absolutely. I worked with four chapters and it’s meant to be read like a book from left to right. Going from nature to the city, and then from the body to the spirit. I also looked at architecture of the Standard Bank building because the whole show is about sacred geometry. It is in actuality a circle, with a square, within a bigger square, and it goes back to that old geometric principle of squaring the circle; to try and get the maximum amount of floor volume out of the same length of space. The way that I’ve designed the entire exhibition is on left/right symmetry, but also on transverse symmetry. So where ever the viewer is within the building you are aware of the geometry of the building. I’ve even had another wall built into the gallery for the show, to complete the symmetry for the hanging of the works.
Yes, the curcular form has always been at the core of your work. I do wonder if this exhibition could possibly be an opening into different kinds of materials audiences associate you with. I mean could we now start seeing you presenting drawings more actively?
Probably, because there are a whole lot of drawings I had never got to. The show is quite specific, because the kinds of things I wanted to be working with were almost too experimental for drawing. I doubt that I’ll ever have a purely drawing exhibition. That’s one of the things this show has taught me is even though I’ve enjoyed the drawing; drawing isn’t my happy place. I enjoy the making of things. I think the geometry will become more important in my future work.
My last question to you is, what are you hoping that people will take with them after seeing this exhibition?
I’m hoping that they will have a realisation For me it’s a reminder exhibition; it’s a reminder of the obvious. Of the things we see everyday but don’t see anymore. I want people to be reminded of the importance of geometry because we take it for granted. It’s about the geometry of the body and a reminder that this awesome city that we live in is designed on geometric principles. Hopefully people will also come away with a renewed sense of the seriousness of my practice.
Despite the seemingly unexpected avenues that Froud’s latest body of work present to us, whether in the form of digital prints of figures reduced to a repetition of triangular shapes seen in his Figure With Geometry, top the atomic abstracted forms of his Geometric Embossing 1, which murmur traces of his additive past works the likes of his Sperm Babies, even in the cityscape drawing View From August House; where Froud wears his town planner’s hat there is as much a sense that he is continuing in his tradition of creation through replication and addition as there ever was. The only difference now is that this showing of ‘Harmonia: Sacred Geometry, The Pattern of existence’ presents this to us in a variety of unexpected and exciting ways.