An exhibition of new works by Conrad Shawcross at Victoria Miro Gallery, London, marks a significant development of the artist’s Paradigm sculptures and features two new mechanical works in addition to a unique new sequence of photographic prints created by firing a laser through a series of faults in glass fragments. United by an aesthetic akin to that of scientific models, the abstract works continue to deal with notions of time, entropy and disappearance.

Conrad Shawcross’s Paradigms are an ongoing exploration of the tetrahedron, geometrically a four-sided non-tessellating form and conceptually the symbol of an indivisible unit of matter. As a building block, the tetrahedron behaves as an irrational number, creating sequences that in theory, extend into infinity without repetition.

Major examples include Paradigm, 2016, a permanent installation commissioned by the Francis Crick Institute in King’s Cross, which is one of the tallest public sculptures in central London. The title of the works refers to the notion of the paradigm shift – a leap of imagination that jolts scientific enquiry forwards and collapses pre-existing notions of what is true – identified by the American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1922–1996).

The previous series of Paradigms embody the epistemological metaphor of the ascending stack and display a visceral physicality. By contrast, the latest sculptures are far more ethereal, and seem to almost disappear as they rise up and expand. While strikingly distinct both conceptually and aesthetically, the new works still obey the same geometric parameters and constraints and, as a result, the new forms contain a central helical stem. The twisting spine supports a series of branches which in turn support hundreds of fragments that as a whole echo the once solid surface of the Paradigm skin.

For Shawcross, an aesthetic of the designed, scientific and the rational serves as a device to cloak more poetic, philosophical and metaphysical themes, which are foregrounded in these new works. A variety of surfaces and materials articulate the field array; dark surfaces counterpoint the reflective or semi-transparent skin to create interference and disruptive reactions to light, all of which further accentuate feelings of dissolution and perplexity, drawing viewers into an ever-changing experience as they move among the works.

Speaking about the new Paradigm works, Shawcross notes that ‘A potential way to think of them is as some sort of complex model by a scientist or a mathematician. While they appear to be functional or of rational intent, their meaning remains elusive. They contain a temporal element that seems to convey growth, entropy or collapse. On one side they could represent a complex chemical such as a protein chain or amino acid, but to complicate this interpretation, a strong sense of the passage of time runs through the form …‘

13 SEP – 27 OCT