Tag Archives: circles

The symbolism of the circle

A circle is a plane figure bounded by one line, and such that all right lines drawn from a certain point within it to the bounding line, are equal. The bounding line is called its circumference and the point, its centre.
— Euclid, Elements, Book I[1]:4

What do we think of when we see a circle in a symbolic setting? Here are just a few of the connoted meanings that spring to mind alongside some I have purloined from the internet

  • circle of life
  • no beginning, no end/eternity
  • the sun
  • perfection/beauty
  • a group of people with a similar interest
  • π – pi
  • simplicity
  • containment
  • protection (and its counterpart, exclusion)
  • inside/outside
  • camera lens
  • the centre of our universe/ourselves (Bremner, 2011)

The circle has been understood for all of recorded history, and the invention of the wheel is seen as one of the pillars of the birth of civilisation, but interestingly I have found it surprisingly difficult to find academic texts with any explanation of the circle’s symbolic meaning. There are new age explanations aplenty, but many fewer academic pieces. It seems that the circle’s symbolic meaning is heavily tied to religions; lots of religions across the Earth and across time. It’s meaning in magic and pre-Christian religions as protection is well known, as it its Christian appearance as the halo. It has featured regularly in art since the earliest cave paintings and is popular today in design and photography (to just name two arts).

Below, I have gathered together some online examples of the circle which have different connotations, as a small typology, and will add to it as I think of other meanings. I leave it to the reader to decide what these are. It is also worth looking at this blog post, which references some examples of circles in modern art.








Feedback from assignment 1

A copy of the feedback can be seen here: holly woodward_assn_1_dic__photography tutor report form – RT notes

I was not sure what Wendy was going to think of my assignment, which as my originally conceived idea had little to do with digital images, and was therefore pleased that she found it engaging. She clearly understood my concept of adding another plane to the photographs which overlaid the original and masked it. She mentioned the binary nature of the two layers and thought that there needed to be this tension for the images to work.

She talked about playing with the size of the images, both by blowing them up much larger and by putting them together in larger group, like that of Evan Roth’s Landscape with a Ruin. I think this is probably the way I will go for the Thames Valley Group’s Time exhibition, with a grid of many images.

Wendy was less taken with the originals than I had expected, largely because she felt the shiny gold backing was too obvious. As I like the patterns, I think I will revert to the matt gold backing that I started out with for future experiments. She suggested that I consider rephotographing them to finish the process of ‘making’. I need to look into this, and particularly John Stezaker’s work. What does ‘making’ mean, how does rephotographing/scanning finish the process, and how do the new images differ from the originals?

Finally, we discussed my interest in circles (and spirals) and I should research this further.

I also explained my first thoughts for assignment 2, which will most probably involve some primary archive material I have relating to the operetta composers Gilbert & Sullivan, and she approved them, saying that the assignment is a framework to structure research and one should not feel too constrained by it, providing there is a clear pathway from the initial ideas to the finished piece.

Things to do, following feedback

  • look at the work of John Baldessari, Carol Rhodes, John Stezaker and Evan Roth
  • consider the process of ‘making’
  • write 500 words on the circle motif