DC Would you like to have been an architect?
CS No, I don’t think I have the patience.
DC It sounds like you’re treading on our territory already.
CS Well, maybe a little bit! But back to Margate, there were actually three of my pieces in the show – there were the two sculptures but also drawings along the wall. The three were completely disparate in their manifest state, but they were actually driven by the same thing, which was a number, the ratio of five to four. So the light piece on the wall rotated five times, but every time it rotated five times it moved in and out four times. The bronze was produced by an algorithm based on the same ratio, and the drawings on the wall, which were quite faint, were created by a pendulum-driven machine, like a harmonograph, that moved according to that ratio.
DC Clearly, works such as these have a great beauty. But you use a sort of determinism to achieve them, as if you’re frightened of just doing something for its own sake.
CS Well, I don’t like, or do, arbitrary things. I’m not an instinctive artist.
DC But there must be arbitrary elements in your work
CS Not arbitrary as such. Art is not necessarily arbitrary. My work has a relationship to science, and actually visual representation in science can be as arbitrary as some art can. The scientific community represents things that will never actually be seen by the naked eye, such as a model of an atom, and the decisions that are made about these representations are quite arbitrary. The physicist will omit some information and the chemist some other – both will create a full model in their eyes but both may laugh at each other’s depiction. They exaggerate elements and create clout for invisible things, in order to convey what’s important to them.
DC Their representations are not quite as “scientific” as the word suggests.
CS They are scientific, but we do not consider the role of imagination and artistic impression that is in play.
DC How much of your point of departure is nature Is nature behind your interest in proportions and harmonies? Do you think there is beauty within the natural world that is innate, that is not subjective and personal but somehow to do with a larger order? This is a question that concerned modernists in the last century.
CS My works aren’t necessarily meant to be manifestations of beautiful, natural phenomena, because they are not just supposed to be beautiful – they are supposed to create more problems than answers. I am not trying to demonstrate the beauty of fractions. For example, these sculptures in the courtyard could be seen as clouds or crystals rather than trees, and I want to resist calling them anything at all because I don’t want people to come with preconceptions.
DC So what was your point of departure?
CS The shapes of the canopy are based on a system of tetrahedrons in a cascade of five sizes. There are over 6,000 tetrahedrons in all. There are a number of primary tetrahedrons that form a kind of armature from which the next generations of tetrahedrons bifurcate. One of our rules was for these shapes to move out in every direction, almost like an explosion. The shapes can’t overlap or touch each other, so they must move out equally in all directions. Another rule has been set to make the branches move upwards towards the light, to let people pass underneath them.