Joan Waltemath on Lynne Woods Turner

In Search of the Edge

From a distance the uniform yet undulating waves in Lynne Woods Turner’s graphite and tea-stained drawing appear soft and delicate. Underlying the waves, a precisely gridded structure is not initially apparent, but as one comes in closer or zooms in, a penciled-in pattern of circles constructed along a grid can be seen to account for the movement within the waves.

Turner’s work can be dauntingly complex, even for a fellow geometrician. Its initial complexity raises the question of whether to approach the work by trying to understand the details of its construction or by simply allowing oneself to experience the effect it creates.

Variations in the density of the tea-stained waves play off the regularity of the rows of circles, each of whose centers lies on its neighbor’s circumference. Glancing over the field of waves, the underlying center/circumference dialectic emerges as its core, bringing to mind “an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.”

Most often attributed to Blaise Pascal, the metaphor traces its origins to the Pre-Socratics, to Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Empedocles, and can be found resonating through the 12th to the 16th and 17th centuries. In “Pascal’s Sphere,” Jorge Luis Borges writes, “It may be that universal history is the history of the different intonations given a handful of metaphors.” The infinite sphere, in its various permutations with their attendant shifts in meaning, has been used variously to describe God, Nature or the Universe.

In an earlier draft of his manuscript, it can be seen that Pascal considered describing the sphere as fearful rather than infinite, but ultimately chose the latter. A closer look into the way Turner uses these terms reveals that the circumference is not nowhere, but touching at every center, which in turn lies on the circumference of its neighbor. The rich layering of circles and centers creates a kind of net or woven fabric that undulates with the waves in motion, while the geometry of the circles remains fixed on a plane.

It might be that an infinite number of metaphors can be drawn from these relations, but none is more relevant here than the contemporary paradox of the dual nature of light as both particle and wave. We cannot focus on both at the same time.

Setting these classic terms in her own order, so that their concurrence binds them in structuring a field, Turner creates a place where the interrelationship of elements takes precedence over hierarchy and time is absolute. Recalling the dialectics of the Greeks, who argued as to whether matter was fixity or flux, she presents an index that is both familiar and of her own making.

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