Geometrical Forms in Painting



Painting is an act of applying paint, color or any other medium to a support base giving the result of a painting. Paintings may be decorated with clay, sand, scraps of paper and so on. Painting is a form of expression and an artist can use abstraction or other aesthetics to manifest the expression. Geometrical forms are also widely used in paintings, and that is my topic today. I chose this topic because it inspires me towards knowing what lies behind the paintings used with geometrical forms, as Socrates say, "And as long as he has the right opinion about that which the other has knowledge, he will not be worse guide than the one who knows, as he has a true opinion, though not knowledge"

In this topic, I will explain the history of painting briefly, the use of other medium apart from geometrical forms in paintings and the use of the geometrical forms. I will also look at different paintings and how the geometrical forms have been used to communicate a certain expression or meaning. Whoever started portraying geometrical forms in paintings in the ancient time would be living his or her dream now if he or she was alive, as the forms are very much appreciated in almost every painting, as stated in the Alchemist that, "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting"

History of Painting

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The earliest evidence of painting was discovered in Arnem Land shelters, in Northern Australia, where used pieces of ochre is estimated to be 60,000 years old. There is also a rock painting preserved in a limestone rock-shelter in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia that is 40,000 years old. There are also cave paintings in Portugal, France, China, Spain, Australia, Indian and other parts of the world. There are also other oldest paintings in France at the Grotte Chauvet known to be 32,000 years old. In the Eastern cultures, ink and color ink were predominantly used to add richness and complex traditions into paintings, while in Western cultures, watercolor and oil painting are the know media with complex and rich traditions.

Geomeric abstraction is the use of geometric forms in a painting though not always. Art historical critics and artists working within pure strains of abtraction from time to time suggested that geometric abstraction represents the height of a non- objective art practice, which calls attention to the two-dimensionality of painting as an artistic medium. Therefore, geometric abstraction might function as a solution to problems that concern the need for modernist painting to eliminate the illusionistic practices of the past while addressing the naturally two dimensional nature. Wassily Kandinksy, Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian were among the first modern artists to explore the geometric approach in their abstract work. No one follows a particular procedure to put the shapes together in order to make it attractive, just as the Socrates in Meno say, "Virtue would be neither an inborn quality not taught, but comes to those who possess it as a gift from the gods which is not accompanied by understanding".

Geometric abstraction is also present among many cultures throughout the history like Islamic art, which existed centuries before the movement in Europe. Geometric patterns were used to connect visually with science and art, as key Islamic thought of time.

Geometrical forms as used in different paintings.

Geometric forms are regular shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles, cubes spheres, cones and other regular forms and it's not entirely a contemporary or current phenomenon. In ancient times, artists also produce very colorful patterns that were geometrical in nature. It is believed that Pablo Picasso to have started the geometric conceptual , to the fact that he could paint different angles of people and objects on a single the fact that he was able to paint the different angles of objects and people on a single plane. And so it is said in the Alchemist that, "When you want something with all your heart, that's when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It's always a positive force".

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Many artists and modern society today have paintings and artworks where a geometrical theme prevails. The past conceptual artwork has influenced paintings to have geometrical forms in them. Many artists depend on using their artistic skills by blending painting and geometrical shapes to bring out unique paintings. It is the same way Socrates put it, "All other human activities depend on the soul, and those of the soul itself depend on wisdom if they are to be good"

However, not all prepared objects are geometric. Many designed forms have irregular shape. Nor are all naturally occurring objects organic just as snowflakes and soap bubbles are among many geometric forms found in nature. This form of conceptual artworks has found an ally with the advent of modern technology. The use of geometrical forms in paintings is used to convey emotional or expressive feelings and ideas.

Bruce Pollock used geometric shapes to give an observation of nature and show a live situation in many of his paintings. Through his observation of nature, he uses geometric to unite the micro and macrocosms, the reality which is expressed through the circles, spirals, hexagons and polyhedrons that form the building blocks of his paintings. This is also portrayed by what is said in the Alchemist that, "People learn early in their lives what is their reason for being". Many of Bruce compositions are filled with tightly clustered, repeating forms. He states that, nature's geometry is fractal. Fractals are forms that retain the same structure when repeated at all levels of scale. They are self-organizing, which means that they can be scaled or nested one inside the other ad infinitum. You can see this in Yellow Dextral where circles fit within circles or in Regulus where hexagons fit within hexagons to form a multi-faceted pattern. Most of my paintings from the past ten years have been built on a system of circles and hexagons that employs fractal geometry. The patterns formed by repeating circles or hexagons can be used alone or meshed together.

Just like in the Alchemist, "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it", when an artist desires a unique painting, geometrical shapes can give that form. In the Images de Guatemala by Carlos Meridia, the shapes are almost all organic and more complicated than simple geometric shapes like rectangle and circle. The orange clothing on the person on the far right side of the painting is a geometric shape as it has simple angles and lines. In the painting Grey Rectangles by Jasper Johns, its formlessness is corrected by geometric shapes being placed symmetrically. "That is why knowledge is prized higher than correct opinion" the Socrates say.

The Happipelican by Mark Warren Jacques is a painting of a beam of light over quite water in an ocean with the stars in the sky, bringing a sense of a peaceful and quite night. The blue, pink, white, green and red beams of light are triangles, while the light stand on the water is a big triangle with several lines of different colors. At the centre one can see a rectangle in blue color, making the whole painting beautiful. This portrays an artist who loves geometry painting and can do anything with the shapes to bring out a stunning painting. In the Alchemist, "When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there's no need at all to understand what's happening, because everything happens within you".

Geometrical shapes can also be used to manifest universal laws rather than an individual artistic expression. The series of paintings Imago Mundi and Circle/Cycles by Vicente Pascual have refined arrangements of geometric forms against monochromatic fields, which portrays typical post-war paintings. The straight line represents stability, assertive masculine element and reason, while the circle stands for poetic, feminine element which is active. The circle that is at the centre of these paintings represents infinity and totality as well as movement towards and round an invisible core, symbolizing journey to the essence. The dance of the Whrling Dervishes or Native American ritual dance around a fire, all demonstrate significance related with the circle. Both paintings operate well in ancient and modern world as their main objective is in timeless and universal values outshining the person and limited. Pascual's mid 1990's paintings like Fragments of 1996 were the natural outcome of geometrical essence of forms which are the continuation of landscape paintings he had before. Pascal didn't look at the triangle as a symbol of mountain, but as a symbol of what mountain symbolizes. For a person who shares these interests in a painting, Pascal's artwork is worth being identified with. The Socrates in Meno say that, "It would be reasonable to send him to those who practice the craft rather than those who do not".

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Bruce Gray is a Los Angeles artist who enjoys using geometrical shapes to expressive his feelings in a painting. In Raindrops is an impressive colorful modern contemporary painting on canvas. The painting is composed of smaller circles from inside and moves in bigger circles towards the outside in different colors. The outer circles merge with other big circles and each embraced in smaller and bigger triangles. Bruce has also painted Eye Candy which visually stimulates colorful abstract modern geometric contemporary painting. This painting shows that Bruce enjoyed working with segmented geometric shapes and bright colors. This provides a helping hand from the Alchemist which states that, "When you are in love, things make even more sense". When you look at the painting, you can see many circles from smaller ones to bigger ones in bright colors. Some parts of the circles have several lines in different colors making the painting beautiful. The bigger circles overlap other bigger circles, and the overlapping areas are enclosed in triangles. Bruce's painting known as Spots is done with acrylics on canvas. It is also a bold and impressive colorful abstract modern geometric contemporary painting. It is composed of only with different colors on a black background. Various darker colored circles disappear into the black background as you step back from the painting.


The perception and representation of intensity is what enables painting. Painters express shapes by putting together surfaces of different intensity. Use of geometrical shapes in paintings were used in ancient times and are still used now to express individual feelings, universal laws and nature. The shapes can't be avoided in whatever the type of painting as they add flavor to the painting and most important, add form to the painting. And just like artists, it is stated in the Alchemist that, " Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him"


David Sylvester. About Modern Art. Retrieved on July 28, 2009, from <>

Julie K. (2009). An Interview with Artist Bruce Pollock.