The Mood Edit: A Universal Language of Shapes
Our universe consists of an infinite number of shapes, each one having its unique psychological impact on the viewer. Yet the circle, square, and triangle are the fundamental shapes that define our understanding of ancient and modern art and the basis of design. Their cultural and historical significance is immense, beginning with early man’s rock paintings, to the rectangular Agora of Ephesus or to the circular structure of Stonehenge.
Words by Sophia Schwan
For our monthly edit, we delve into the fascinating works of the graphic artist and designer Bruno Munari (1907—1998) who wrote a trilogy of works, Square Circle Triangle, detailing the relevance of these three basic shapes throughout human history. He begins with the square, detailing,
“As broad and as high as a man standing with outstretched arms, since the times of the earliest writings and in the earliest stone engravings, the square has stood for the idea of the enclosure, the house, the village.”
The square is put in relation to man (and the male sex), emitting a sense of stability and formality. Literally and metaphorically speaking, the rectangular shape is a solid base, a building block and the support for overall structures.
According to Munari, “If the square is bound up with man and his works, with architecture, harmonious structures, writing, and so on, the circle is related to the divine.”
It has no beginning and no end, symbolising eternity, completion and timelessness. Interestingly enough, it is also the shape that is most prominent in nature while the rectangle is more present in man-made shapes. The circle embodies movement and femininity, completely lacking a straight line. From the planets and galaxies to the yin-yang symbol or to rocks that have been smoothed by decades of water lapping away at them, the list is endless.
Munari states, “An ancient text says that God is a circle whose centre is everywhere but whose circumference is nowhere.”
Munari’s work ends with the equilateral triangle, which he defines as an amalgamation of both the circle and the square, existing in between the divine and the man-made. He proclaims it as the shape that can produce the most unexpected results. The Great Pyramids are an ideal example of how the man-made and the natural/divine world meet to form a spectacular structure that appears to be otherworldly.
The symbol of the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary alchemical substance, is a marriage of these three basic shapes to transport an elaborate, paradisiac truth of eternal balance within oneself as well as all other planes of existence. It represents the pinnacle of perfection and enlightenment.
The large circle represents the heavens or the universe. The triangle within that circle is representative of the ether or spirit world. It’s the collective consciousness of everyone and everything. The square is representative of the earth and included within, its four corners represent the four elements. Within the square lies the answer, in form of a small circle — this is representative of the individual or the balance point of everything.
We consume shapes unaware on a daily basis, yet their symbolic value and visual significance permeate our every being. With that in mind, here is a curated selection of physical shapes that have inspired us this month:
Bite Studios Blouse
Dubbed the new, sustainable Céline, Bite Studios is a luxury womenswear brand based in London and Stockholm. The design concept is based on consuming less, each collection building on the previous one with slight alterations being made to the original design product. The blouse is a further development of the basic peace-silk blouse, the soft print and earthy colours giving it a slight oriental touch. A timeless and elegant investment sure to lend you the perfect dose of androgyny.
Baserange, Biano Longsleeve
Aside from the modern, sustainable basics, we particular love Baserange’s aesthetic language that is rich in storytelling, creating a playground for shape shifting, layering and textural clashing. Stylist Katie Burnett brings her signature out-of-the-box mentality to simple pieces, pulling, stuffing, folding and twisting them into a new reality.
Totéme, Bondy Recycled Down Coat
Ethically speaking, down is undoubtedly one of the most questionable materials. Even with certifications like RDS (responsible down standard) in place, animals are harmed in the manufacturing process. Yet, with its superior isolation properties, it is hard to find an equal material. If an alpaca coat still appears insufficient and a full-length puffa is the only answer, the Totéme recycled down coat is an ideal solution.
Zhu Ohmu, Ceramics
Taiwanese artist Zhu Ohmu studied Fine Arts in Auckland and taught herself ceramics to hold her growing collection of houseplants. Her organic forms materialise through stacking, folding, pressing and pulling, resulting in coils of clay lovingly collapsing into each other. Corresponding to biomimicry, her forms emerge intuitively, dictated by the material itself. Entirely made by hand, each piece is pushed to its structural limit, embracing the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi — the acceptance of transience and imperfection — as well as adopting kintsukuroi, the art of mending broken pottery with gold lacquer. Plant and pottery become a union, with the plant embellishing the cracks of the vessel, which in turn becomes a living organism, ever evolving.
Jude Jelf, Aphrodite Vase
Jelf, who studied painting and sculpture at Gloucestershire College in England, has been creating figurative vases playing with the female forms since the 1970s. Together with her husband she runs The Cotswold Pottery studio in the small village of Bourton-on-the-Water. After first drawing her women on paper, she slowly builds slabs of white earthenware clay into Matisse-like forms by hand.
Malababa, Leocadia Bag
Ethically manufactured in Spain, using animal skin discarded by the food industry, European cotton and linen, Malababa’s designs are hand-crafted in Madrid by highly-skilled artisans. Using only rainwater and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 dyes, Malababa have built their own pond where rainwater is collected, filtered, purified and descaled, finally watering a field of palm trees. Their production cut-offs are up-cycled and their cardboard packaging is derived from FSC-certified forests. Our favourite piece is the Leocadia bag that can be worn as a clutch or on the shoulder.
Sophie Monet, Arlo Earrings
The daughter of a wood sculptor, Sophie Monet Okulick works mainly with wood to create her jewellery designs. The pieces are handmade in Venice, California, and although bold in design, their simplicity and ease-of-wear speak to women in search of a timeless but modern accessory made to last.
Actually Existing, Double Petasos Hat
Two circles — double divinity — to adorn your head. Originally destined to become consumer waste, these two discarded rattan hats have been combined to improve their design and functionality, giving them a new purpose and existence. Locally produced with up-cycled materials, this one-off piece has been edited with leather and cotton off-cuts. Actually Existing is a Melbourne based sister duo that builds their creations on the essence of craftsmanship, “to do a job well for its own sake” (Richard Sennett). Olivia and Anna Nicholas studied shoemaking abroad and play with an unconventional design approach that includes creating shoe sketches utilising placemats, cardboard boxes, bath towels and pencils, to name a few.
Moving between otherworldly spheres and supreme man-made design, Kepler plays with a new dimension of feminine deconstruction. Founded two years ago by Central Saint Martins’ graduates Alexandra Hadjikyriacou and Jaimee Mckenna, influences of traditional garment-making as well as the Earth’s landscape amalgamate to form a unique world of design that is elegantly utilitarian. The two worlds of romanticism and raw functionality collide to create a new aesthetic that is as timeless as it is tapping into current trends.
KM by Lange, Vyshyvanka Blouse
Founder of KM by Lange, Kati Lanhe, tapped into her Ukranian roots to create a slow paced collection that can be passed down for generations. An ode to traditional Ukranian dressing, this exquisitely embroidered blouse with an open back is slow fashion as its finest. All items are made from quality materials of European suppliers and handcrafted by a small women-run workshop in the Ukraine.