The Circle

The Circle

The Circle is the simplest of the two-dimensional shapes and the easiest to draw on paper or inscribed on the floor.

BY BEA MARTIN

 

One can imagine the ancients laying out the circles of Stonehenge. They needed only flat ground, a length of rope attached to a stake, someone to walk it around keeping it always taut, and someone to mark the path.

The circle encloses a given area with the least perimeter or circumference and is the most compact of the plane of geometric shapes. A circle has only one dimension, its radius or diameter, and it is located by only one point, its centre. A complete circle appears to have no beginning and no end, and it has no corners. It is nondirectional unless an axis is drawn.

We are surrounded by shapes like circles, the equator of the earth is a circle; the moon and the sun with their halos are apparent circles; a pebble dropped into a still pond generated circles; there are other circles to be found in nature. In architecture, design, and art; besides monuments, round tables, and cities, circles have been used in the plans of stadiums and arenas, inviting staircases, dome structures, churches, and museums. Numerous patterns can be generated with nothing more than a compass, but the pieces, like a Vasarely painting, rarely will be identical.

Circles are all around us. But how often do you notice them? Circles have fascinated people throughout the ages, so let’s explore some of the most famous and mysterious circles in history.

The Magic Circle of Agrippa

The Magic Circle of Agrippa

The Five Tropes (or Modes) of Agrippa, are purported to establish the impossibility of certain knowledge.

The halo

Portrait of San Francesco di Simone Martini Assisi

A halo, also known as a nimbus, aureole, glory, or gloriole, is a crown of light rays, circle or disk of light that surrounds a person depicted in art.

Olympic flag

Olympic flag

The circles in the Olympic flag, are five interlocking rings, colored blue, yellow, black, green and red on a white field, known as the “Olympic rings”. The symbol was originally designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympic Games. He appears to have intended the rings to represent the five participating continents: Africa, Asia, America, Australia and Europe.

The Japanese flag

The Japanese flag

The Japanese flag is officially called Nisshōki “sun-mark flag” in the Japanese language but is more commonly known as Hi no maru “circle of the sun”. The flag embodies Japan’s nickname as the Land of the Rising Sun.

Superficie Magnetica by Davide Boriani

Superficie Magnetica by Davide Boriani

The circular Superficie Magnetica n. 6 is a kinetic interactive work triggered off manually. It is a horizontal black surface measuring 90 by 90 cm, partially covered with iron powder. Users act on an external handle that triggers the rotation of a cord wrapped around a pair of parallel rolls. Another handle moves a second pair of rolls, set perpendicularly to the first one. The two cords are connected to a mobile cart holding a magnet, which acts on the iron powder over the surface. By rotating the two handles the user moves the magnet along to lines composed by perpendicular motion. Magnetism allows for action and motion of metallic elements without direct contact, which in turn would limit the possibility of variation of the image and of random occurrences. The variation of the image is determined through following interventions of the user, thus it can not be foreseen in the limited space of the artwork and it can not be reverted to an initial position in the span of time of its performance.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

The Pantheon has a circular floorplan closed by a dome. The circular hall was a perfect sphere, representing the cosmogonic conception of Aristotle. On one side, the infralunar world is represented by the lower half of the building. The supralunar world, the celestial sphere, is shown in the rounded space, in which the central oculus represents the sun.

Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli

Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli, 1481

The painting depicts the Holy Mother, Mary, holding Jesus as a baby while writing in a book, as two men, possibly angelic figures, hold a crown above her head. The fact that the painting is round is symbolic in itself. Circles often represent the cycle of life, death, and the afterlife, and in this particular piece could be related to the life cycle of Jesus, and also to humans according to the Bible.

Colour circle

Colour wheel

A colour wheel or colour circle is an abstract illustrative organization of colour hues around a circle, which shows the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors etc.

Rotorelief by Marcel Duchamp

Rotorelief by Marcel Duchamp

In 1935, Marcel Duchamp published Rotoreliefs, a set of 6 double-sided discs meant to be spun on a turntable at 40–60 rpm. Duchamp and Man Ray filmed early versions of the spinning discs for the short film Anémic Cinéma. A manifestation of Duchamp’s interest in optical illusions and mechanical art, the two-dimensional rotoreliefs create an illusion of depth when spun at the correct speed. These rotoreliefs were produced in an edition of 500 and were initially displayed and offered for sale at the Concours Lépine inventor’s fair.

Circle in a Circle by Kandinsky

Circle in a Circle by Kandinsky, 1923

“Circles in a Circle” is a compact and closed composition. Kandinsky began a thoughtful study of the circle as an artistic unit starting from this painting. In his letter to Galka Scheyer he wrote, “it is the first picture of mine to bring the theme of circles to the foreground.” The outer black circle, as if the second frame for a picture, encourages us to focus on the interaction between the inside circles, and two intersecting diagonal stripes enhance the effect, adding a perspective to the composition.

Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man

Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man

Leonardo’s famous drawings of the Vitruvian proportions of a man’s body first standing inscribed in a square and then with feet and arms outspread inscribed in a circle provides an excellent early example of the way in which his studies of proportion fuse artistic and scientific objectives.

Pocket Watch

Pocket Watch

The turn of the clock hands determines the logical form of the watch.

Giovanni Pintori

Giovanni Pintori

Giovanni Pintori (1912 – 1999) was an Italian graphic designer known mostly for his advertising work with Olivetti. He is known for his use of geometric shapes and minimalist style in his advertising posters, specifically his posters for the Lettera 22 and the Olivetti logo.

Alphabet by Luca Pacioli

Alphabet by Luca Pacioli

The Franciscan friar and mathematician Luca Pacioli is noted for writing “De Divina Proportione”, a book in vernacular Italian about the principles of architecture and the ratios underlying the human figure. Written in 1496 and published in 1503, the book also includes the result of Pacioli’s research on the correct balance in the shapes of the letters of the alphabet.

Annual Growth Rings

Cross-sections of a tree trunk

Each year, the tree forms new cells, arranged in concentric circles called annual rings or annual growth rings. These annual rings show the amount of wood produced during one growing season.

Rosetta Window

Rosetta Window at Notre-Dame, Paris, France

A rose window or Catherine window is often used as a generic term applied to a circular window but is especially used for those found in churches of the Gothic architectural style and being divided into segments by stone mullions and tracery.

Radio telescope

Very Large Array (VLA), radio telescope system situated on the plains of San Agustin near Socorro, New Mexico, U.S.

The most versatile and powerful type of radio telescope is the parabolic dish antenna. The parabola is a useful mathematical shape that forces incoming radio waves to bounce up to a single point above it, called a focus.

Round Table

Round Table

The Round Table is King Arthur’s famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his Knights congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status.

Shinto Trinity Symbol

Shinto Trinity Symbol

Some view the mitsudomoe as representative of the threefold division (Man, Earth, and Sky) at the heart of the Shinto religion. It was also associated with the Shinto war deity Hachiman, and through that was adopted by the samurai as their traditional symbol.

Bull’s-eye

The bullseye, or bull’s-eye, is the centre of a shooting target, and by extension the name given to any shot that hits the bullseye. By extension, the word bullseye can refer to any design or pattern featuring prominent concentric circles, visually suggesting an archery target, and “hitting the bullseye” is a term for an unexpectedly good success.

Mary Vieira circle and movement

Mary Vieira | Circle and Movement

Mary Vieira based her delicate wire sculptures on the progression of circle fragments.

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

The ubiquitous yin-yang symbol holds its roots in Taoism/Daoism, a Chinese religion and philosophy. The yin, the dark swirl, is associated with shadows, femininity, and the trough of a wave; the yang, the light swirl, represents brightness, passion and growth.

Monowheel

M. Gauthier’s wheel, 1881; right – Harper’s monowheel: around 1892.

A monowheel is a one-wheeled single-track vehicle similar to a unicycle. Instead of sitting above the wheel as in a unicycle, the rider sits either within the wheel or next to it. The wheel is a ring, usually driven by smaller wheels pressing against its inner rim. Most are single-passenger vehicles, though multi-passenger models have been built.

Perpetuum Mobile of Villard de Honnecourt

Villard de Honnecourt

The middle ages’ architect and master-builder Villard de Honnecourt (around 1235) seemed puzzled by the unsuccessful attempts of other perpetual motion machine inventors. To close the discussion and end the ignorance of others, he drew a machine both simple as ingenious, whose operating principle is based on an odd number of moveable heavy hammers mounted to the rim of a wheel.

‘Endless Rhythm’ by Robert Delaunay

Robert Delaunay, ‘Endless Rhythm’ 1934

Endless Rhythm 1934 is a large, vertically orientated painting by the French artist Robert Delaunay. Three coloured disks painted on a pale blue ground move rhythmically in a strong diagonal from the bottom left to the top right of the canvas. The main body of each disk is made up of thick undulating black and white lines. The black line connects with the white causing a twisting effect which sends the eye around the composition in an endless loop.

 

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