I symmetrise, I meditate, I repeat. | A List
The work, Mind Corridors by artist Albert Yonathan Setyawan, poses the curious question: Is symmetry in the eye of every beholder? (Photos: Mizuma Gallery)

I symmetrise, I meditate, I repeat. | A List

I never bought into the hype over symmetry and why so many people regard it as the epitome of beauty. To me, it is associated with exactitude and mundane repetition. So, when the exhibition Variations on Symmetry came up, I went in search of enlightenment.

The title of the solo art show by Indonesian artist Albert Yonathan Setyawan, held at Mizuma Gallery in Gillman Barracks, sounded like a contradiction. How can symmetry, by its very nature about uniformity, promise deviation and variation? Not one to pass up on an exercise in curiosity, I visited the exhibition, ready to have my pre-conceived notions of symmetry and its values shaken. And boy, was I in for a treat.

Stepping into the gallery, I was greeted by a visual spectacle of intricate ceramic art pieces and mesmerising paintings on the walls. In a sweeping glance, the works presented a cohesive picture of symmetry.  But as I got up close to individual works, I started to notice what Setyawan wrote about in his exhibition essay – the slight variations and differences in each unit of symmetry because of the way each piece is cast, carved, cleaned and put together or painted by hand.

gillman barracks variations of symmetry

Hypnos, by Setyawan, is made up of 204 terracotta pieces.

The ceramic works, in particular, have shadows falling on individual pieces in different ways because of how each piece is variously positioned and lit. This in turn, highlights different details in each piece and imbues individual pieces with their own unique flavour.

In that moment, it also dawned on me that symmetry possesses values outside of aesthetics. I saw the monotony of life — each day a mirror of the previous, with 24 hours and a set rhythm, as liberating. While each day might lie before us in fundamentally similar ways, with the symmetry offering structure and orderliness to our lives, it also affords us room to get playful and spice up the mundane.

My appreciation for the beauty of symmetry in everyday life deepened when I went for a meal at a restaurant in Gillman Barracks after the exhibition. There, on my plate, was an almost symmetrical plating of food. Rather than dig in straightaway and scramble the food on my plate, I took my time to admire the layout and capture the moment on my phone. Symmetry: 1, Me: 0, and happily so.

Details about Variations in Symmetry here.

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