Abstract Critical

Peter Halley

The website of the artist Peter Halley contains a useful archive of his writings. Here is Halley on ‘The Crisis in Geometry’, from 1984:

“For, like these crises, the crisis of geometry is a crisis of the signified. It no longer seems possible to accept geometric form as either transcendental order, detached signifier, or as the basic gestalt of visual perception (as did Arnheim). We are launched instead into a structuralist search for the veiled signifieds that the geometric sign may yield. These questions arise : to what purpose is geometric form put in our culture? Why is modern society so obsessed with geometric form that, for at least the last two centuries, we have striven to build and live in geometric environments of increasing complexity and exclusivity? Why has geometric art been so widely accepted in our century, and why has geometric imagery gained an unprecedented importance in our public iconography?”

  1. Lucinda Holmes said…

    I disagree with the statement that geometry is a no longer a transcendental order. Geometry is used in a whole range of data visualizations which we use to organize our perception of the world. To me contemporary use of geometry still has the ‘aura’ of religious works within it. I feel that geometric based art is an emptying out of the signifiers that give location or purpose to the different elements within the picture but reveal a grand scheme, a higher structure that we still look for in art. Art as a cultural aid to societies contemplative reflection that religion had given us.

  2. Sam Cornish said…

    From what I have read his writings are exciting even troubling but Halley’s paintings seem far too safe in comparison. Instead of unsettling our familiarity with the geometric, as the writings suggest they should, the paintings seem to sit securely within it. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see an artist who could make an art which – completely visually – posed the same questions?