About polyhedrons by Loraine Heil
Astrid Vogel

Since the summer of 1999 Loraine Heil has engaged in sculpturing polyhedrons. Polyhedrons are polyhedral, regular or irregular symmetrical forms. They are neither cube nor square, but something in between. Polyhedrons frequently appear in nature and science but are non-existent in everyday life consciousness like cubes and squares.

Throughout history dating from ancient times through the present, polyhedrons have again and again been the subject of scientific considerations. Early knowledge about polyhedrons only occurs in one single source, which is the Collectio of Pappus, who was a Greek mathematician around 320 B.C. This knowledge was not accessible until the Renaissance. The Renaissance artists – for example Piero della Francesca, Albrecht Dürer or Leonardo da Vinci – who explored geometry, mathematics, construction, and perspective while grasping the sensuously comprehensible world, newly discovered the polyhedrons. Geometry and symmetry were attempts to organize the world and its chaos, in order to grasp, define and therewith obtain insight and awareness.

For many artists polyhedrons were and still are a mystical motif. Their artistic depiction is presumably as old as the perception of this structure. The oldest currently known testimonials are the Schottischen Steinbälle (4000 B.C.). Fairy tales, legends, myths and religions have given visibility to polyhedrons through gemstones and crystals which are given symbolic meaning. They bring power, prestige, wealth, invincibility and fortune to its holders. The polyhedron is attributed supernatural properties and characterizations, and effectively seen as divine.

In Albrecht Dürers etching Melancholia I, 1514, a polyhedron flanks in mysterious ways the closed cube of a house, which also has in the front, an angel with broken wings who seems absorbed in thoughts. This is an etching, which up until now had not been definitively deciphered and interpreted and therein directly refers to the atrabiliousness and the endlessness of expression and interpretation of art, that marks the emerging modernity.

Without knowing this etching, in the summer of 1999, Loraine Heil created two large polyhedrons for Das Haus ist Kunst (installation/sculpture in collaboration with Horst Busse in the palace grounds in Weinheim/Bergstraße). With these two polyhedrons that flanked the »Haus« she repeated and created in a not explanatory way and without a unique identifier as a motive, something that is identical with Plato’s ideology of an archetype, a universal recollection: The ideas of Plato (427-347 B.C.) are the archetype (eidos) of the sensuously experienced things, their being – and awareness. They are unchanging and eternal. Their thinking acquisition is not experience, but remembrance, because the souls cannot acquire realization of being through sensuous conditions. Plato was the first to describe the five measured polyhydric forms. They are called platonic compounds.

Today Loraine Heil works on various polyhedrons, each repeatedly cast in bronze, then individually alloyed, treated with acid, then finished or polished making each one a unique piece. As small, heavy and compact compounds each polyhedron looks slightly different from each angle, depending on which of its normally 26 faces the polyhedron rests on. The many surfaces of each compound reflect or absorb the light. The surfaces are rough or soft, velvety or smoothly sanded like a stone smoothed by water. Its colors are steely or gold brown or green-gray-black-red. They are hard to describe and always different and unique.

The surface structure, the colors and the light form the polyhedron and give it shape in interaction with its plastic expansion. It is neither square nor cube but abutted to the arch medic compounds and at the same time an individually created plastic form – not mathematically deducible, but through watching becomes an ascertainable sculpture, which like all sculptures and every artistic work, is evaluated after the laws of art – whichever these may be.

-- Astrid Vogel, Mannheim January 2004

Meyers Großes Taschenlexikon, Band 17

Articles of further interest:

Loraine Heil's first polyhedrons:
Das Haus ist Kunst

Polyhedrons in art and nature:

Mathematics and art – polyhedrons:

The cosmos is a polyhedron: