Andrew James Smith

Artist, Retired Installer
Design@Riverside, School of Architecture, University of Waterloo
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

As an artist, for five decades, I have been preoccupied with creating designs based on arrangements of regular polygons. The first of a series (that would quickly span over 300 variations in ten years) came to me one morning while camping in the hills overlooking my home and the Pacific Ocean. It soon became apparent there were two principals to organizing the shapes: 1. each polygon sharing a side, or having a side parallel with the others, or 2. each polygon sharing an apex, or having an apex aligned with others. A few of the designs exhibited both attributes; one I call the Protogon, exhibited a portion of both attributes, but because of its uniqueness failed to be included within my “Five Variables”, until I scanned the whole opus.

Protogon Red Line
43 x 43 cm
Digital Pigment Print on Archival Paper

This view of my Protogon is comprised of a section of the theoretically infinite field of regular polygons with sides of equal length, and shapes that share a side with consecutive shapes. The unique red-lined spiral on the Protogon traces its shared sides. My first sketch of it was just a doodle on lined notebook paper in 1968. Commencing in 1969, I made more accurate drawings of the Protogon and other designs using a pencil, protractor, straight edge, and compass on paper (some of which I made by hand). Then, for three decades, my involvement with these designs was eclipsed by the very technique I was developing to express them - paper making. I had invented systems of color watermarking and held exhibits of my pulp-paintings.

The Protomid Sculpture
43 x 28 cm
Photographic Pigment Print on Archival Paper

Eventually being separated from my paper studio, I once again focused on content. By the new millennium, I started scanning my polygon designs, and eventually the overlooked Protogon. Influenced by working as a gallery installer in the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo, I began extruding ones I had converted into vector graphics. I first used Google Sketchup on a Mac to project my 2-D version into the three dimensional view I call the Protomid. I then carved a 18 x 21 x 21 inch sculptural version of the Protomid from 24 pieces of basswood, sealed with BIN (a white pigmented shellac) and took this photograph. The ribbon of shared sides clads the Protomid as it wraps around its elevation.

The Protomid Sculpture
45 x 53 x 53 cm
Basswood sealed with white, pigmented shellac