c.c. I remember seeing the rectangle books in an early show with a funny mixture of people such as Michael Craig-Martin, you and David Hockney9. I have always thought of the “Directory” as having to do with the idea that it is difficult to find a perfect relationship between a shape and the page that it sits on.
g.d. Instead of deciding what shape to make things, that is to choose, I thought that if you drew all of the possibilities, somewhere in there would be the answer. It was also a kind of spiritual exercise, practical meditation. At Anthony D’Offay’s gallery10 I’d seen a show of drawings by the Japanese print master Hokusai of lions11. Every morning before starting to work he would draw a lion, to guard over him during that day. A little propitious exercise that I guess became a habit. My book took a couple of years to complete, ten pages a day.
c.c. Another book concerned with progression was PRADAKSHINA, which is something to do with Buddhism?
g.d. The subtitle is ‘The Rite of Circumambulation’, that is, walking clockwise around a venerated object. It consists of a series of 28 drawings of a pyramid whose viewpoints are located on a spiral traced on the surface of a dome. The first being at ground level shows as a triangle and the last, directly above is a square. The drawings become more and more alike the closer you get to the top.
c.c. That makes me think of LeWitt again, the first wall drawings of his that I remember seeing, where points on a wall were all joined up, to one another.
g.d. Of course, I was aware of him. I even helped Dave Mann12 and other students draw the pencil lines on a wall piece of his at the old Arnolfini gallery13 around 1968; yellow 9H pencils, I’ve still got one somewhere. But I never bought American minimalism. It was too stripped down. There seemed to be a kind of intellectual suicide about it. I was much more aware of other cultural influences than American, so it wasn’t a driving force with me at all.
c.c. So you didn’t get the point of the new American work. In fact you’ve never been to New York. Why is that, everybody else that you must know has been there?
g.d. I had an American girlfriend for a while, Eileen O’Connor, who was a correspondent for A.B.C. News14 She was always trying to get me to go, saying things like “people will love you, you’re so English, they’ll just eat you up'” Somehow it put me off going. I took heart when I read in the Richardson biography that Picasso never went there either.
c.c. So the influences were not western but eastern, paricularly Indian art. A whole wall of your retrospective has little opened out concertina books of drawings about how to construct a complicated looking diagram.
g.d. It’s called the SRI CAKRA YANTRA which means auspicious circle device. I spent seven years figuring out how to accurately draw it, 1970-1977. I was fascinated by it from the first moment, it’s just nine triangles, four pointing up overlapped by five pointing down.
c.c. What does it mean, how is it used?
g.d. It’s perhaps the most widely recognized image in Tantric art. For me it represented a super charged example of the star imagery that I’d used a lot already. There is a precise explanation of what each part and phase of its construction symbolize, basically it represents a divine moment of supreme ecstatic harmony. I instinctively appreciated what it was about and never felt the need to understand and use the figurative iconography that its different parts symbolized. It was the precise geometry that fascinated me.
9 ‘Tables’. Garage Art Limited. London. 23 Jan – 15 Feb 1974
10 Then at 8 Vigo St. London W. 1
11 The Nisshin Joma ( Daily Exorcisms ) of Katushika Hokusai 1760 – 1849
12 English graphic designer and typographer
13 In Bristol, S.W. England
14 Now with C.N.N. covering the White House, Washington