top of page




Round and Round—Radial Asymmetries


What does changing orientation have to do with perception?

A round form might describe a vision of growth and change most expansively.


Circular fields present new compositional problems and possibilities, both in the creation of the work and the variability of viewing. In my work, I take process to chance in hopes of begetting undirected complexity and nuance. 


No narrative

No irony


No figure

No ground


No up

No down


No on top 

No on the bottom


Animate space is infinite


These are handwrought templates of meditation.


Peter Bodnar III  2/9/11


“Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.”—Paul Klee




Roundness is the suitable shape for objects that belong nowhere and everywhere.


Rudolf Arnheim


After carrying the Arnheim quote around for days I came across a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay on circles that begins:


“The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary picture is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose center was everywhere and its circumference nowhere. We are all our lifetimes reading the copious sense of this first of forms... “


Perhaps an earlier incarnation of the same idea, Arnheim has restated it for a secular world.


As I move through my life, an earlier straight linear concept of time has become curved, tending to exhibit more circular qualities—vortices and eddies the result of youthful turbulence. Circular images and diagrams have great potential to suggest both change and cosmic order as the orientation is not specific, permitting visual engagement that can go in any direction.   


I attempt to create perceptually engaging visual puzzles—images that induce vertigo, a sense of change or imbalance that precedes an epiphany. I am working with various fields and shapes, primarily in pairs, which can be reoriented—both physically and mentally. I explore ways to extend my color touch on an animated surface, ways to channel my current love of 19th century landscape painters thru the muscular 20th century abstraction of Dove and Leger.   


In my search outside the box (of flat rectangular “windows”) for the appropriate painted form, something that is “nowhere and everywhere” suggests a delicious path of discovery for both artist and audience.  


Peter Bodnar III

October 2003




This work represents new experiments in my use of broken symmetry as a generating principle—employing horizontal as well as vertical axes in separate painted parts. I try to engineer animate objects that present change in nature as instantaneous—gaze and feel the earth move. 


The long horizontal pieces were conceived as polycontour cones of vision propagating in linear sequence. They suggest a more efficient use of painted material to hold or activate space.  One can, as always, look at and through them. The hexagonal pieces present a fluid relationship between shape, image and edge.


I return to figure/ground relationships because they seem to be at the center of how a fixed picture might be able to change, or look different over time. 


Figure being fore/focus/positive.

Ground being back/unfocused/negative.


For stability and efficiency in our perceptual realm we rush toward clarity in figure/ground relations as a first order of business. 

The world, however, is. There is no figure/ground without a viewer.  Nothing is permanently in front of or in back of any thing else. Our perceptual capabilities determine the rate at which we receive the environment. They describe us more than they do the world.

Peter Bodnar III  5/ 2001

Traditionally, chance images, anamorphs, and images hidden in paintings have been treated separately. But the three may be historically linked, since they form an almost unbroken chain of artistic practices from Rome to the present. The history of aleamorphs begins in the third century B.C., continues in the medieval interest in natural wonders, and wanes at the beginning of the Enlightenment when people no longer thought of nature as an image-making force...

James Elkins—Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles? (1999 Routledge)






After reviewing past statements, I reflect on the constancy of my pursuit and set out this re-arrangement of words and ideas in hopes of fresh epiphanies  It is intended more as provocation than narration.


I believe in the animateness of the perceptual world and I attempt to make images that manifest that belief. I make animate objects. I try to make sensuous diagrams of growth and change at all scales, harnessing principles of botany & physics for image propagation. I aim to make a painting that revels in its concreteness, yet one that evokes the self-organizing habits of matter, life and thought itself. 


I have long used color symbolically as an indicator of difference, and held contrast in hue above all things. Recently, my study of Homer & Inness and evening panoramas (in walks with my dog) has me working toward a new palette— reaching for coloristic effects that may only belong to a representational subject. Sharp tonal changes simulate light effects which provoke figure /ground reversal—the shift between figure & ground, the observed & the observer.


I find the concept of broken symmetry a useful operative principle, folding the traditional icon of visual stasis into a compelling image of change. The axis of symmetry provides a keen edge—the point of transformation. Change happens at edge. Folded aluminum gives an interaction of form and surface while satisfying my need for material constraint. Concepts of construction and process initiate a work, or series of works. A rather slow, indirect process has been a way for me to quiet the gestural hand yet give forward motion to a piece tied to chance. 


Peter Bodnar III








For an exhibition, Beyond Rectangles, at Swanson-Cralle Gallery


In our western tradition, rectangular easel painting has presented an illusionistic "window on the world". Instead of asking the viewer to look "into" the work, by denying the convention of a frame or border, I would rather have the image advance toward the viewer, proclaiming its identity as an object with a changing face.


The rectangle often acts as a corral for captive visual activity, directing all major elements to the center and relegating perimeter forms to border functions or cropped suggestions.


I feel a work's process must find a way to determine its structure. A painting's ultimate form should unfold from the impulse and accident that brought it to fact. I have long sought to create visceral diagrams of change - in both image and field, figure and ground. I have felt it necessary to break out of the constancy of a rectangular format in order to extend the imagery in as natural and propagative manner as possible.

Peter Bodnar III  1/1993

bottom of page