Mel E Squared
Artistically, 2013 has been a year of epiphanies. I spent some time contemplating why for the last 10 years my artwork has been predominantly about squares. What is it about the humble square that I love so much?
The answer came about quite unexpectedly after reading an article about dreams, the sleeping rather than the aspirational kind. I experience a lot of strange dreams so it caught my eye. The article talked about how dreams are our brains way of making sense of the world and help us work through the puzzles of the day. It also suggested that the brain will continually work through anything that perplexes it until it is deciphered. Immediately, a memory came to mind, one I had never shared with anyone but which on reflection has haunted me for many years.
The memory takes me to school, being told off by a Maths teacher. I’m being told off after I had returned some unifix cubes (the dirty pale blue coloured ones) to the Maths department. I did not return the cubes in the shape they were given to me and as a result I am being told off. The cubes were given to me in several large cubes.
The reason I did not return them in large cubes was because I didn’t understand how they fitted together. I genuinely could not comprehend how to take all the small cubes and make them into one big one. I was shouted at in front of other students and was told to put them back together as they were before. I remember this incident being particularly upsetting, not least because of how the teacher handled it but because intellectually it made me feel inferior. After my teacher’s outburst there was no way I was going to admit that I was struggling to figure out how to piece the cubes together. I ended up just leaving them in a drawer until I left school; fearing punishment and further embarrassment the puzzle remained unresolved.
Over the years I remembered this memory, not consciously thinking about the cubes but rather the associated emotions that arose from the experience. It wasn’t until I read the dream article that it suddenly struck me that my brain, subconsciously, may have been continually trying to solve the puzzle of how unifix cubes fit together! I realise this may all sound absurd but having realised this I believe that I’ve been subconsciously thinking about squares and cubes ever since that day. I also realised it was around the same time I started to like abstract painting, in particular, Kandinsky and Mondrian’s work from the 1920s.
The majority of my creative ventures have always somehow involved squares or geometry of some kind. After leaving school I studied photography – framing everything in squares, my favourite subject to photograph? Industrial buildings and warehouses which were rigid and often cube like! I was also deeply into collage well into my twenties but remember only ever cutting out square pieces of paper to make them. It wasn’t until I started painting at university that my fascination with squares really started to reveal itself – ironically due to an encouraging teacher!
As a result of this epiphany I bought some unifix cubes to figure out how to arrange them into one large cube and finally solved the puzzle! It was all a bit too easy and I wondered why on earth I’d found it so challenging.