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  • Barbara Hepworth, Discs of Eshelon, version 2, 1935, Plaster. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts © Bowness.
  • Paul Nash, Eclipse of the Sunflower, 1945, Oil on canvas. Courtesy British Council Collection.
  • Barry Flanagan, Seeing round corners, 1967. Felt pen & ink on paper. Private collection © The Estate of Barry Flanagan courtesy Bridgeman Art Library.
Sat 21 May - Sun 25 Sep 2016

Turner Contemporary presents the first major exhibition to explore the centrality of the circle in art. Featuring more than 100 works – from 3000BC to the present day – Seeing Round Corners: The Art of the Circle brings together artworks and artefacts that reflect a vast range of themes and ideas from roundness, rotation and visual perception to wonderment and cycles of time. The exhibition encompasses sculpture, film, painting, design, installation, performance and photography, with works by leading historical and contemporary artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Nash, Barbara Hepworth, JMW Turner, Theaster Gates, Rebecca Horn, David Shrigley and Bridget Riley.

The exhibition considers the ways in which artists have gravitated to this universal and recurring form. From the globe of the earth and the rotation of the planets, to the shape of the human eye or the smallest atomic particle, the circle - as a form and as an idea - is at the heart of our relationship to the world. Seeing Round Corners: The Art of the Circle explores the significance and symbolism of the circle and sphere in art and culture; architecture and engineering; astronomy and geometry; optics and perception; religion, spirituality and everyday life.

The exhibition was conceived and co-curated by artists David Ward and Jonathan Parsons. In partnership with Turner Contemporary, they have sought to achieve broad cultural and historical scope across the exhibition. The result is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view Leonardo da Vinci juxtaposed with Barbara Hepworth and Alison Turnbull; William Blake with Wolfgang Tilmans and Carl Andre; ancient Egyptian sculpture with Anish Kapoor and Nancy Holt. The exhibition makes connections across eras and disciplines, creating a breadth and richness conceived to ensure fresh inspiration on every repeat visit.

Ward says

“I have often thought that very simple works of art can stimulate multiple associations and sometimes, the most complex responses. The circle has this potential because it resonates with so much in our everyday lives and with objects and phenomena that have shaped the development of civilisations around the world from the most ancient of days. The circle has the capacity to embody immensely diverse metaphorical and poetic experience.”

As artists, Ward and Parsons see the world from a particular creative perspective that is evident in their unique organisation of the exhibition. Every work and its position has been mapped to offer visitors new insights, highlighting the adaptability of ‘roundness’ as the circle is transformed into discs, spheres, spirals and ellipses. They also explore the idea of the circle as a source of comfort and warmth, associated with human embrace, touch and the eye.

Parsons says:

“The means by which human beings have come to understand and navigate the perceptual world are fascinating in their diversity, but they also reveal a certain unity. How and why are objects and images produced? Who makes them, what are they made of and why are they significant? This exhibition, I hope, shows that the artefacts we create to make sense of our experiences demonstrate a common humanity, which is something to be recognised and celebrated.”

Some of the works in the exhibition have never been seen before in the UK, including a new film entitled Lids and Straws (One Minute) by Christian Marclay and Tabletop Mobile by Alexander Calder. Other key works include: The Leonardo Notebook - two diagrammatic sketches from the celebrated Codex Arundel from The British Library; a beautiful view of Stonehenge at sunset by JMW Turner; three works by landscape painter and pioneer of Modernism in Britain Paul Nash; a film by Marina Abramovich and Ulay; another by Lindsay Seers; A Complicated Relationship between Heaven and Earth. When We Believe, an installation by Theaster Gates, a version of which won the prestigious Artes Mundi prize in 2015.

Richard Long’s Blaenau Ffestiniog Circle will also feature and the artist will be at Turner Contemporary on 4 May to create a site-specific wall painting.

The exhibition is supported by the Business Circle, a group of local businesses – Boys & Maughan, Miles & Barr, McCabe Ford Williams – with a passion for arts and education.

Ian Pascall, senior partner, McCabe Ford Williams says:

“We are pleased to be among the founding members of the Turner Contemporary Business Circle and co-sponsors of Seeing Round Corners.

We look forward to considering the extensive works of art and artefacts that feature in this exhibition, viewing circles from new aspects and viewpoints.”

List of artists in the exhibition


Marina Abramovic and Ulay

Roger Ackling

Carl Andre

Wilhemina Barns-Graham

David Batchelor

Joseph Beuys

William Blake

Alexander Calder

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Hannah Collins

Francis Danby

Ian Davenport

Edith Dekyndt

Sonia Delaunay

Edmund de Waal

Hisao Dōmoto

Marcel Duchamp

Manuel Espinosa

Garry Fabian- Miller

Barry Flanagan

Ceal Floyer

Theaster Gates

David Hammons

Mona Hatoum

Dan Hays

Barbara Hepworth

Patrick Heron

Nancy Holt

Rebecca Horn

Gary Hume

Runa Islam 

Anish Kapoor

Langlands and Bell

Richard Long

Robert Mangold

Christian Marclay

Lisa Milroy

Shiryū Morita

Gabriel Orozco

Nakahara Nantenbō

Paul Nash

Ben Nicholson

Peter Newman

Samuel Palmer

Vicken Parsons

William Pether

Bridget Riley

Peter Sedgley 

Lindsay Seers


Trevor Shearer

David Shrigley

Harry Thubron

Wolfgang Tilmans

Alison Turnbull

JMW Turner

Leonardo da Vinci

Mark Wallinger

Alfred Wallis

John William Waterhouse

Bill Woodrow

Tsukioa Yositoshi