Speculation about Form and Element
in the principle of No-Form

by Hans Richter

Are the Square and the circle elements of pictorial language? And if so,are there more elements than these two? For instance, as Cézanne meant in his three dimensional way, the pyramid (triangle), the cube (square),the cylinder (oval). What makes an element elementary? Answer: its non-reduceability into another form except by breaking it up. Like prime numbers, for instance.But what is the psychological significance of a form element? Is there an attitude to a form element different to that to a composed form element?To a composed form and rare form that attracts our attention by being unusual?Do we look in the same way or is our attention attracted in the same way to elementary forms as to composed ones? Or, in the terminology of my own work, is an elementary form identical with no-form in contrast to a composite form which is, more or less, a natural, subjective, invented one that appears in nature? Is it not a fact that there are two different categories? Isit not a fact that we do behave differently both psychologically and emotionally in the two cases? We look at the square or the circle in one way and in another at special forms. Are square and circle not unspecial forms in comparison to all the others? If so, why? Is it because the elementary forms do not appear in nature?
The answer to this sense of difference might lie within ourselves. The square has a very direct relation to our body, inasmuch as it is a balance between our uprightness and the soil, the earth we are walking upon. This walking and standing is, by itself, a balancing act - one perceives this in children.In this way, the square may be conceived of as not only a surface or space but as the expression of a dynamical experience throughout our lives. But it is, of course, also a surface and a space, elementary housing: stone upon stone, wood upon wood, and on top a cover; a feeling of being at or in home - covered, limited, protected against the non-I. I think this kind of biological connotation including the esthetic one which might have grown out of it, has something to do with our familiarity with the square and with it being somewhat outside what we call form. The circle may go back to similar roots. Here's the first, primitive housing-the cave- and even more, of course, the skies, the sun, the moon. Round is identical with the sun and moon as THE elementary-every-day experience. I experience these connotations as an artist; not just the geometrical differences between forms, but differences between natural forms and no-form. I experience two categories: One, elementary = no form, not forms created by man but elements.Two, natural forms, including the geometrical ones.
Our perception is regulated by our body and brain. We can neither see nor imagine forms other than those for which we are conditioned. Theoretically, there might be innumerable other forms, but they are outside human experience.The way we are constituted, the whole scale of our form perception and sensation is related to our world, and this world is all square and all round.
(Hans Richter by Hans Richter,
New York 1971, p 164)

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