2000 – Around – Forge Gallery, Bath.


An exhibition of photographs, mono-prints, objects and books to mark the millennium by
Graham Day

This exhibition at the recently opened Forge Gallery presents a selection of works each in some way indebted to the image of the circle.

As a diagram of the cosmos, as a representation of our sense of wholeness and of at-oneness with the rest of the universe, the circle has relevance and meaning way beyond the liturgies of Hinduism and Buddhism. People of widely differing cultures and historic periods have been drawn to the universality of the circular form, to its unique power to satisfy our longing for perfection.

Day’s work ranges widely across cultures, periods and techniques. Neolithic Chinese jades, Jupiter’s satellites, Greek myths, tantric geometry, and coal hole covers are themes explored using photography, paper marbling, printing frottage, artist’s books, and gilding.

Born in London in 1946, Day has exhibited widely in Europe and in the Americas.

His work can be found in the public collections of The British Museum, the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the Bibliotheque National in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as many private collections. He is currently lecturing at Bath Spa University College.

For further information and images please contact:

Angela Cockayne or Robert Fearns, Forge Gallery Penthouse Hill, Batheaston, Bath, BA1 7EL U.K. Tel. 01225 852680

Exhibition dates and opening hours:

Preview; Thursday 13 January 2000 from 6 – 8 pm
Exhibition runs from January 14 – February 19
Gallery open Friday and Saturday 10 am – 5 pm

1. Source Material 1994-6
Colour photographs

Nine examples of metal coal-hole covers set in stone. Photographed in central London and printed full size. Particular to British cities where people lived in houses rather than apartment blocks, with coal being the preferred source of heating, these metal covers mostly date from 1850-1920. They are round to prevent them falling down the frequently opened and closed shute. Their designs are practical, either inscribed to stop people slipping on them or set with glass to light the cellar beneath and have no meaning other than advertising the particular foundry. Day photographed thousands of covers in central London, concentrating on those without any text.

Graham Day Archive London.

2. Transformation Studies 1994-9
Colour photographs, emulsion, metallic paint, acid, oil paint, gouache, varnish on old Hayle Mill paper.

3. Urban Yantra Number 15. 1995
Unique silkscreen printing, gouache, watercolour on Indian paper.

One sheet from a suite of fifteen unique prints (monoprints) derived from a photograph of a coalhole cover taken in central London. The title of this print refers to Indian meditative devices called yantras ~ an instrument ~ these are a geometrical version of the more familiar mandala. Yantras are commonly inscribed in metal although they can be drawn, painted, cast in metal or cut in crystal. As aides to contemplation and miniature models of the universal these exclusively linear designs serve as a ground plan upon which the worshiper builds their imaginary edifice and its inhabitants.

Exhibited: ‘Urban Yantras’ Leighton House Museum, London. 1995

Graham Day, Gallery North, New York, USA, 1997

4. Magic Square of Jupiter 1996-8
Gum bichromate photography, integral marbling, silkscreen printing, oil paint, wax, gold, silver, gouache on Somerset Satin paper.

Complete set of sixteen leaves each depicting a ritual Chinese object. One cong, a symbol of the earth and fifteen bi discs, symbols of heaven. The purposes of these objects is unknown, although they are thought to have had a ceremonial and possibly also a protective function. They have been found in large numbers in burials of the Liangzhu period (c. 2500 BCE) where they were laid on top of the bodies. Jade is a metamorphosed type of rock whose crystals have been crushed together over millions of years to make a matted or felted conglomeration, they do not split or fracture easily, and can only be ground down with a hard abrasive sand. Venerated by the Chinese throughout history, jade embodies the virtues of intelligence, loyalty, benevolence and honesty. Beneath the jade objects Day has written and gilded the names of the sixteen moons of the planet Jupiter. These fall into four groups, the primary four were the first objects seen and named by Galileo with his recently discovered telescope on January 7th 161O, the last four identified by the cameras on board the American Voyager space probe as late as 1979.

Astronomical discoveries are still given names from Greek mythology, although it was Simon Marius, a rival of Galileo, who proposed the current names for the first four satellites: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Galileo had wanted Medicean names to honour his patron. A compromise for the controversy over the discovery and naming of the satellites was suggested by John Hershel in 1852, he proposed that Galileo be acknowledged as the discoverer and Marius’ names to be used. As Jupiter was perceived as such a powerful presence in the sky his moons should therefore be seen as subservient to him, literally his conquests, of which there are many to choose from. For example, the moon Io appeared to move erratically in the sky and was so-called because Jupiter’s jealous wife Juno, had lo (who had been transformed into a cow by Jupiter as a disguise) stung by a gadfly in revenge for her dalliance with the God; this caused lo to wander endlessly across mountains, streams, seas and even whole countries never finding comfort or rest. Of the sixteen Juvian moons fifteen have female names and one male. Beneath the golden names of the moons Day has written in silver the names of those people who have been influential in his life. Beneath these silver (which tarnishes with time and exposure) names, each sheet is numbered, not to create a sequence but to enable the entire suite of sixteen names and moons to be arranged into a ‘magic’ square where columns, rows and diagonals add up to the same total (34). This particular configuration has always been known as the square of Jupiter even though Jupiter has only had sixteen moons since 1979.

So called magic squares seem to have spread west from China, used to arrange ground plans of temples in India, they were very common in the Islamic tradition appearing late in Europe, probably in the 15th century. One of the famous examples being Durer’s engraving ‘Melancolia 1’ which depicts a solitary woman surrounded by objects associated with alchemy including the magic square that Durer arranges to incorporate the year of its making 1514.

5. Subject Object (Nepalese). 1997
Inscribed patinated wood, wax crayon, watercolour, gouache, varnish on modern Naples papers.

Composed of a patinated wooden block and a book. Each successive page demonstrates the progression of the construction of the most famous yantra known as the Sri cakra which is inscribed in the block and ‘printed’ by frottage. Found in Northern India, Nepal and Tibet since the eighth century, the Sri cakra (auspicious circle) is made up of a central point (bindu), nine triangles, four upward pointing representing the male principal and five downward representing the female. Garlanded by two bands of lotus flower motifs, several rings and terminating in a square periphery accessed by four gates at the cardinal points. It has a precise symbolic meaning and strict order of construction. Basically it portrays development from a centre and/or return to a centre ‘frozen’ at the instant of perfect harmony. Elaborate warnings, prohibitions and promises are found in the accompanying texts that detail the efficacy of the materials from which it can be made, the necessary ritualistic preparations that must be undertaken and the best times of the day or month for its construction. Day has returned to this figure after spending seven years (1970-77) working out its elaborate geometry, eventually arriving at an elegant solution for its construction that involved a previously unknown construction for the pentagram that was published in the Mathematical Gazette in 1976.

6. Subject Object (Chinese). 1997
Inscribed patinated wood, wax crayon, watercolour, suminagashi marbling on modern Chinese papers.

Chinese mirrors and the designs inscribed on their reverse fulfill a similar role to the more familiar Indian yantras. Mirrors illustrate a search for harmony with the cosmos and its Gods. Originally made from highly polished bronze, this metal was deeply venerated by the Chinese as being a link with their greatly respected ancestors. A semi-magical approach to finds of excavated bronzes persisted throughout the Han, Six Dynasties and the Tang periods (618-906 CE). Accounts of discoveries describe their magical properties: the power to cause people to faint or to give information about the future. This quality attributed to bronzes of the past to wield an awesome and little understood power prompted scholars during the Song (960-1279 CE) to develop a strong and often highly academic interest in collecting bronzes including mirrors. Collecting, however, did not have aesthetic goals; it was stimulated by a wish to gain access to the virtues of the past.

A companion piece to the Nepalese object (No.5). Each page of the concertina book demonstrates the progression in the construction of the mirror design.

7. Common Objects 1993-6
Gilded resin, gouache on old Indian paper.

A selection of framed objects that developed from the earlier study of coal-hole covers and their perceived connection with Indian art. This group of reliefs show other basic shapes that can be understood and applied independently of language; part of a universal and timeless ‘alphabet’ of form. Not signs or symbols for something else, these precise distillations attempt to be natural forms whose ‘sense’ is determined by our recognition of their inherent power to communicate fundamental responses to the environment and each other.

Marked examples are from the collection of Rose Issa, London.
Exhibited: Urban Yantras, Leighton House Museum, London, 1995.
Graham Day, One Hundred Works, Diorama Gallery, London, 1997