Friday, June 10, 2016

Carousel Presents Symmetry's Portal: More Insights from Margarida Sardinha Concerning Her Current Work

I've been following the work of Lisbon-born artist Margardia Sardinha since I first discovered and interviewed her in late 2010. Her current exhibition in London is called Symmetry 's Portal.  It is the fruit of of her many years being extensively focused on the concepts of symmetry and optical illusion. The exhibition expands geometrically a wide photographic survey of the Alhambra in Granada documented by the artist. You can read our 2015 dialogue about the Alhambra here. I have been continuously impressed with the direction her explorations have taken.

Her exhibition at the Carousel in London opened last week and will run through July 1. By means of photographic assemblage the artist deconstructs symmetry and has generated illusory semblances. Symmetry 's Portal is thus a body of work of optical illusions where the symmetric and random are diluted in three-dimensional works originated from two-dimensional planes.

EN: Until I saw the photos of your installation at Carousel I was unaware of the scale of your work. How were these pieces produced?
Margarida Sardinha: The series Symmetry’s Portal comprises 30 works (150x94x35 cm) and an animation film that were produced at my studio. The 30 works’ backgrounds are printed on vinyl and the polyhedral shapes attached to them are printed on photographic paper and then assembled by me. I outsourced the printing and the plexiglas boxes that enclose the works from a local manufacturer.

EN: Your first visit to the Alhambra was in 2011. How and when did you first take an interest in symmetry?
MS: Symmetry has been a long sought interest of mine since my work deals with geometry. But before I went to the Alhambra I read specialised books on the subject such as Marcus du Sautoy’s “Symmetry – A Journey into the Patterns of Nature”, Keith Critchlow’s “Islamic Patterns” and Roger Penrose’s “Shadows of the Mind”. I also saw a very interesting and extensive retrospective of the works of M.C. Escher at the Alhambra galleries and then further read “Godel, Escher and Bach” by Douglas Hofstadter.

EN: It seems like a labyrinthian quest as you following Ariadne's Thread through symmetry's designs. Have there been points at which you felt you had breakthroughs and came to new understandings? Can you describe these?
MS: I suppose the first great breakthrough was to be able to recognize the 17 two-dimensional regular tessellations that are possible on a flat plane. You see, in symmetry there are only 17 regular ways of dividing a two-dimensional pane into regular tessellations and these can be all found in the floors, walls and ceilings of the Alhambra. It is extremely rare to find all these types of symmetries all in the same place – only some Egyptian temples also display such knowledge. When I went to the Alhambra I was on the lookout for these different types of symmetries and as I photographed the place I was able to find and understand them.

EN: How does understanding symmetry give us a greater understanding of and appreciation for the universe we live in?
MS: Symmetry has an uncanny way of finding its way everywhere – from a flower way of growing to manmade constructions it seems to surround us and even be part of us. Hence, I take a Platonic stance on how we perceive the world, which appears to be subconsciously guided by innate forms linked to geometry and symmetry thus by understanding these subjects we can better understand ourselves and our subconscious backgrounds.

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For more: 17 cool quotes by Marcus du Sautoy.
To learn more about the artist and her work, visit

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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