WallPaper Magazine Cut and Fold 2020

‘Imagine a vast sheet of paper on which straight Lines, Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, and other figures, instead of remaining fixed in their places, move freely about, on or in the surface,’ posits A Square, the narrator of Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. Published in 1884, the Victorian satirical novella proposed a segregated society of geometric figures, spanning multiple dimensions. It is this perspective-bending approach that Brighton-based artist Clare Strand has brought to these very pages.

For Wallpaper*, Strand devised a special series of graphic interventions based on Abbott’s novella for our main fashion story – photographed by George Harvey and styled by fashion director Jason Hughes – as well as designing the newsstand cover for this issue. The artist was drawn to the idea of the viewer (or in this case, our readers) interacting with and even creating their own artworks. ‘The project is an effort to go beyond the traditional fashion page and take it to a new third dimension – and perhaps even further,’ she says.

Much like the protagonist of Flatland, we’re being challenged by Strand to seek a new perspective, creating 3D objects from the 2D templates presented to us. ‘I find the geometry nets awkward yet extremely aesthetic, almost like a hieroglyphic writing system,’ Strand explains. ‘The colour of the lines are a key: the black lines are for cutting, the red are for folding.’ (The red lines are also a sly but deliberate nod to Strand’s current show at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, where she is exhibiting images inscribed with a red number code, alongside work by her fellow nominees for the 2020 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.)

Harvey’s black-and-white images provided the ideal foil for Strand’s artistic investigation – the artist herself often works in monochrome, stating that ‘it helps boil the world down to its essentials’. ‘Though I work with photography and have made photographs, I am not a conventional photographer,’ notes Strand of her practice, describing herself as ‘an ideas-driven artist with photography at the core’. Here, the viewer becomes both spectator and participant: ‘Abbott talks of contributing to the “enlargement of the imagination”, which I try and constantly challenge myself to do within my work.’

While Strand has made a fine art of the complex themes of geometry and dimensional travel (citing Dalí and Duchamp along the way), inspiration sometimes hits a little closer to home. When creating the initial Spaceland/Flatland body of work in 2012, Strand recalls her eldest daughter – then seven years old – was studying geometry in school and would bring home geometry nets from class, creating shapes with paper. ‘It often happens that what I am doing in my own world connects with what my daughters are doing in theirs – and vice versa,’ says Strand, who used the geometry nets in some of her own works. ‘Perhaps we should have supplied a Pritt glue stick with each copy [of the magazine]!’ she quips.

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020, extended until 20 September, The Photographers’ Gallery.

Jess Klingelfuss