Giles Round

Giles Round's contribution to Nought to Sixty

Giles Round (born London, 1976, lives in London) creates sculptures and assemblages that employ geometric structures, monochromatic panels, lights and typographic schemes. His works utilise the formal language of modernist and minimalist art and design, and explore a synthesis between material and shape. But these balanced 'displays' also address the cooption of such conventions within décor, and the use of modular elements within high-end living spaces. Moreover, Round's works are highly ritualistic, employing the repetition of purposeless form to invoke the romantic hedonism of a hallucinatory state. Linear structures of mahogany or brass are often a central feature of Round's sculptures, formed into the angular shapes of frames, supports and grids. These planar shapes and modular units make up improvised stage sets, upon which are hung or placed secondary elements, an interaction of structure and ornament that references the homemaking of such pioneers of art and architecture as Donald Judd and Ernö Goldfinger. In Time Just Falls Away (2006), a triangular wooden frame supports a series of hanging neon shapes, while a canvas becomes the projection screen for pulsating coloured text.

The relationship between line and volume that is explored by Round in these structures is also found in his typographic work. The artist has created a series of fonts that mimic this formal balance, and which he uses on the posters, hangings and animations that feature within his installations. These 'signs' contain texts that fluctuate in their legibility, overwhelmed by the structure of the font and its grid-like presentation. Containing phrases of romantic excess, their semantic collapse evokes an altered state of perception; the bourgeois refinement of forms and arrangements shifting towards a giddy, transgressive lyricism. Round's Nought to Sixty project makes reference to the British sculptor and printmaker Eric Gill (1882–1940), through a phrase lifted from the latter's diaries: “Strange days and nights of mystery and fear mixed with excitement and wonder strange days and nights strange months and years”. Round's use of the text – which operates as a leitmotif throughout the exhibition – evokes Gill's influential work as a typographer, but also the latter's complex persona. During his lifetime Gill presented himself as a deeply religious man, publishing numerous essays on the relationship between art and religion, and encouraging the formation of arts and crafts communities. This worthy image was shaken when the artist's diaries were published in the late 1980s, documenting his adulteries, incestuous liaisons and experiments with bestiality. The confrontation between noble aspirations and transgressive desires that is apparent in Gill's diaries is mirrored in Round's exhibition. The poised arrangement of frames, lights and cut-outs – the latter featuring an aspidistra, the Orwellian symbol of bourgeois existence – forms a stage set in which an image of order is overlaid by the shadows of Gill's “strange days and nights”. The rhythm of the phrase echoes throughout the show, both as a formal structure (echoing Gill's stone-carved memorials) and as a pulsating lyric. Round's three-dimensional compositions are totems of authority, but also reveal the tendency to excess within the heart of idealism.

Nicola Lees