circle sequence – new work by Ian Thomas
Ian Thomas has an obsession with circles. Incessantly drawing them in rows of three becomes an unthinking act after a while, semi-mechanised even, given that the circles are traces of vinyl records – 12”, 10” and 7” – drawn at different speeds, naturally; the artist’s body the arm across a (turn)table, his hand its stylus.
In Chinese philosophy, there is a belief in the ‘continuity of being’, in which all human action is continuous with ministrations of the natural and artificial worlds, connected by flows of energy, without source nor end. A Eurocentric reading of Thomas’s work will see him striving towards a state of being that is represented by a circular system of energy flows in equilibrium; each circle a self-sufficient world interacting with others without losing its identity.
Thomas’s circles however refuse this stability in their doubled, repeated, slipped and messy appearances. They bleed, splatter, disappear and rub up against each other like a swarm of bees. Their senses of self, dispositions and locations are not predetermined but emergent from the overall movement of the multitude, arriving from the artist’s hand and body in an act of material discovery of difference, in which error, variation, and serendipity thrive.
The circles jostle, perhaps not for space, but to make space. And all of this in the presence of the frame, the conventional boundary of art making. In spite of this, and as though indifferent, the circles are never broken by the frame. The circles themselves have indeterminate relations with each other, moving between presence as dark line work, and absence as white shadows that do not completely map on. There is no assimilation here, only fierce conversations with art where they resist being the interior of a painting, where there is a healthy disrespect for their framing. The circles constantly speak across their frames, to the next work, and the next surface. In fact, it is circles all the way to the next wall, into the gallery, to the world.
Thomas’s circles open the outside of frames to be a part of the art. Working between frames in this way, Thomas practices art in a way that allows us to see an unbroken continuity between the natural and designed worlds, between thinking and actions: from the natural gestures of the hand, to thinking around a problem, to the spinning of the globe.
Prof Stephen Loo
UNSW Art & Design