With The Patterns of Absence, Conrad Shawcross has created a work that is akin to stained glass windows, which are activated by the light of the sun behind them shining through. Composed of two counter-rotating discs, each is peppered with a series of complex layers of perforations. Their incremental counter rotation allows light to permeate through the voids within their surfaces, producing an effect that triggers associations reminiscent of those experienced in nature, such as the shifting light upon the sea, the twisting motion of a vortex, or a murmuration of starlings.
The Patterns of Absence series coincides with the launch in 2021 of the public commission Beacons, which continues Shawcross’s exploration of optics and visual perception. Beacons comprises four monumental discs that stand atop the Ramsgate cliffs in East Kent, U.K., casting a colourful semaphoric message of hope far out to sea. The optic potency of the works is further enhanced by the cranking of a handle that turns each pairs of perforated disks. The movement of these against each other and the sky creates optic interference and so further activates receptors in the eye, which enhances the ability to send the cryptic message – the word ‘home’ written in semaphore, chosen by local school children – even further out to sea.