John Pickering

John Pickering was born in 1934 and was educated in classical sculpture.
During the 1970s he found intuitive art increasingly inadequate as a vehicle for his ideas, so he turned to the rigour of geometry and more specifically to the principle of inversion, which then became the basis for much of his work.
Classical music has been a strong influence, especially that of the Second Viennese School and Stockhausen.

A short documentary video of John Pickering is available on the DVD.

MP.MQ = MR²               John Pickering
The purpose of my work is to emphasise the spatial qualities of structures and to realise them on a civic scale.
When choosing an object to invert I have a good idea what the transformation will look like, selecting the centre of inversion is of crucial importance to the spatial appearance of the ensuing structure. From here I then explore, within the logic of the piece, additional possibilities which generate far more material information than is finally required. The expressive and aesthetic nature of this process comes into play and the beauty of the structure eventually emerges.
Less tangible influences have an impact; previous art and architecture, the unity of musical experience with special ideas. For me the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen merges with the observation of the object to give a heightened rational and emotional experience.

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Click an image to enter the gallery.

Short video of a sculpture 1

Short video of a sculpture 2

Music and the inversion principle
The inversion principle can be used for transforming one thing into another, for both large- and small-scale form. It produces a certain skeletal consistency but is not the rigid system one might suppose, as it allows the artist imaginative choices and flexibility, enabling personality to be imposed as part of the process. Logic is nothing to be afraid of when applied to art; it is simply part of human thought, spatial relations, balance and the law of nature. It is the human imprint on the method of inversion that is of real significance.
The relation between the inversion principle and music is one of similarity rather than exactitude. The twelve-note method, as devised by Arnold Schoenberg, is in essence a simple device for ensuring complete structural unity in the spheres of melody and harmony. It affirms the unity of musical space and the relationship of all ideas in a work.

The twelve-note series takes four equally important forms: the original, the original inverted (so that each interval falls instead of rises and vice versa), the retrograde (the original series played in reverse), and the retrograde of the inversion.

This is analogous to the points A and B inside the circle of inversion and the points A` and B` outside the circle of inversion.

The four forms of Schoenberg’s twelve-note melodies.

Schoenberg’s four forms of melody are analogous to the points A and B inside the circle of inversion and the points B` and A` outside the circle of inversion.

Using the sphere of inversion, when the infinite number of points surrounding the sphere are inverted to inside the sphere, the points become more compact the nearer they are to the centre of the sphere (the centre of inversion). If these points are interpreted as sound, then a stage is reached when one musical note cannot be distinguished from another and the sound becomes an intense and dense noise. This feeling of angst seems to flow through most of the music of the Second Viennese School, as reflected in the works of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. The same effect can be achieved with MP.MQ = MR².

Karlheinz Stockhausen has forged a new musical language that has profoundly inspired me, giving rise to various parallels in my work. For example, in his Kontakte, the composer uses what he calls ‘moment form’ to make ‘vertical incisions’ that ‘break through horizontal concepts of time’. In Klavierstück X, he includes long silences when the listener is meant to complete the space from his memory of what has gone before.
Stockhausen has thus introduced a completely revolutionary way of listening to music, and I see this music as enfolded within the beauty of the sensual spatial curves of inversion. I like to imagine Stockhausen’s music being performed inside one of my own structures (made on a grand scale), so that the sensuality of the music emanates from the curvaceous sculpture around it.

The work of constructing an object
The vertical and horizontal planes are fixed first, then by triangulation and projection other key points in space are calculated. Having completed a sufficient number of these inversion points and their relative distances, a rudimentary model can be made. Rotation of this model in space stimulates other possibilities. Questions arise, where should the emphasis be, what should be left out or added? Sometimes it becomes imperative to include a two-dimensional place projection of the structure showing the spheres of inversion or part of another sphere from the family of spheres that could fill the space.

Design Report: John Pickering Inversion of Intersecting Spheres Whose Centres Lie on the Axis of a Cylinder (2002) - PDF Document

The video clips, images and design report are reproduced by permission of IJP Corporation.

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Copyright © 2010 Nicholas Mee. All Rights Reserved.