round like a circle …

I’ve noticed I use the circle quite often in my artworks. Recently I’ve been playing around with mixed media – tissue, acrylic, inks – without specific subject matter in mind, as a sort of midwinter exercise. It’s good to take the pressure off, when deadlines permit. 

Anyway, although these are possibly still works in progress, while pondering them I started to muse on the nature of my marks and, as I said, the prevalence of circles in them (see also the present header image) …

Untitled, mixed media on board. Mari French.

Untitled, mixed media on board. Mari French. 

Some of mine fairly obviously represent the sun and moon, especially as many of my paintings are inspired by the landscape; also ponds (circular ponds are prevalent in my local agricultural landscape); mine stacks (aerial view) or holes in the ground in my Cornish works. 

But aside from literal interpretations, it can be interesting to see what alternative meanings the circle might represent … the more abstract connotations. Look up ‘circle as symbol’ online and of course there are a multitude of entries. I’ve quoted just a few here which I find worth considering. I particularly like ‘the cycle of time’ ‘the great rhythm of the Universe’ ‘potential’ and ‘infinity’ …

The circle is a universal symbol with extensive meaning. It represents the notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, the Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement, God (‘God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’ (Hermes Trismegistus)). As the sun, it is masculine power; as the soul and as encircling waters, it is the feminine maternal principle. “It implies an idea of movement, and symbolizes the cycle of time, the perpetual motion of everything that moves, the planets’ journey around the sun (the circle of the zodiac), the great rhythm of the universe. The circle is also zero in our system of numbering, and symbolizes potential, or the embryo. …

The Circle is the most common and universal signs, found in all cultures. It is the symbol of the sun in its limitless or boundless aspect. It has no beginning or end, and no divisions, making it the perfect symbol of completeness, eternity, and the soul: The circle is also the symbol of boundary and enclosure, of completion, and returning cycles…

Circles commonly represent unity, wholeness, and infinity. Without beginning or end, without sides or corners, the circle is also associated with the number one…

Protection. Circles are often seen as protective symbols. Standing within a circle shields a person from supernatural dangers or influences outside of the circle. Conversely, a circle can also be containing, keeping that which is inside from been released.

Sun Symbols. Circles are frequently used as sun symbols, as well as representing things associated with the sun. The astrological symbol of the sun is a circle with a dot in the middle. The same symbol is often used to represent gold, which is strongly associated with the sun.

The Element of Spirit. The element of spirit, seen as an element equal or superior to the physical elements of fire, air, water and earth, is commonly represented by a circle.

Untitled, acrylic/mixed media on art board. Mari French.

Untitled, acrylic/mixed media on art board. Mari French.


Collagraph print, Mari French.

Collagraph print, Mari French.


4 thoughts on “round like a circle …

  1. Thank you Mari. I used to work as a Group Analyst (psychotherapy), and sitting in a circle was of paramount importance. There is an equality. No-one designated ‘leader’ or ‘in charge’ although patients would have preferred that (safer/easier). The cross group transactions, mirrorings, contrasts were always powerfully productive, even when difficult. I often wish many things were conducted in circles. Hate the didactic I’m out front and you lot face me in serried straight lines! I’m posting on Facebook an image I sold this year, which relates to some of your thoughts on circles….maybe!

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