Conrad Shawcross – Lattice Cube Sequence (2011)


Cosmological principles and historical scientific theories form the foundation of the work of Conrad Shawcross (b. 1977, London, lives and works in London). Abstract philosophies and experiments for making sense of the world – and often the eventual failure of these approaches – form a constant source of inspiration and fascination for Shawcross’s artistic practice. His sculptures and mechanisms are therefore not so much about reality as it appears to us, but more about the essence of reality as it is presented to us by theory. The work of renowned chemist Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994) served as the inspiration for his Slow Arc Inside a Cube (2008). Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for her research into the structure of insulin and described her research process as ‘trying to work out the structure of a tree from seeing only its shadow’. Shawcross’s Slow Arc Inside a Cube consists of a metal cage containing a robotic arm that moves a light source in a fixed, rhythmic cycle, creating an impressive interplay of light and shadows on the surrounding walls. The installation becomes a metaphor for science, which requires us to attempt to peer just around the corner of what we can observe and just beyond our own boundaries.


In his most recent work, Shawcross focuses on the abstract systems and modules that lie behind these scientific discoveries. Notions of the perfect geometric form underlie Lattice Cube Sequence, the work he created for Lustwarande ‘11. Shawcross has placed four monumental, aluminium, cube-like sculptures in the middle of the park. The four works function as a series, which appears to be slowly moving outwards and opening up. Each cube is based upon the tetrahedron, a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces. The tetrahedron is one of the Platonic solids, a regular polyhedron that is viewed as the optimal way of dividing a cube into symmetrical lines. Plato associated each of the regular polyhedrons with cosmological properties, linking the tetrahedron to the element of fire. Each of Shawcross’s cubes consists of 48 tetrahedrons. In the first cube, the tetrahedrons fit together exactly and have a clear central point of energy, where all of the shapes are connected. The distance between the tetrahedrons increases in the next cubes as they move away from the centre. In principle, this movement can be repeated endlessly.


In that respect, Lattice Cube Sequence is closely related to the work of the minimalists in the 1960s and 1970s, including Donald Judd, who also focused on a single ordering principle that could potentially be repeated infinitely. It is geometry derived from nature, which lends clarity to the construction and omits any ornament or superfluous detail. The pure form that remains has a cool and industrial look that is in stark contrast to its natural surroundings. However, the park structure of De Oude Warande was also designed according to principles of geometry and the divisions of space here share a common starting point.


Laurie Cluitmans / translation Laura Watkinson


Co-production of fundament foundation, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, and Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam