David Kenworthy

Can puzzles be art?

One day I held a toy plastic letter up to a light to see what effect the light would have on it. I was astonished at the letter's transformation. It was now radiating an intensely beautiful, luminous day-glow. I couldn't believe that something so ordinary could be made to look so beautiful, so easily. I set out to investigate the aesthetic possibilities of my discovery.

As you can see each letter has been casually set into the centre of a square plywood grid. The negative space between the letter and the grid has been filled in with white grout. Each square has been repeated over and over and made into large, flat geometric grids that cover all sides of a rectilinear form. I chose this particular layout because I wanted each plane to resemble a word finder puzzle.

It continues to amaze me the popularity and longevity of not just word finder puzzles, but puzzles and games in general. They show how much we enjoy the excitement of a new discovery, the relish of a challenge and the satisfaction of personal development. There are racks and racks of them in newsagents and discount stores, books full of hundreds of puzzles for only a dollar!

The freestanding cube is made up of 5 sides laid out in the traditional 'word finder' format. This allows me to display or list subjects with out preference for significance, importance or emotional favouritism. The act of transforming the two dimensional format of the 'word finder' game into a three dimensional form changes the way we view this simple puzzle. It has now been released from its old meaning and has been transformed into a monument and elevated into the realm of art.

Each square in the grid is like a synapse in the human brain and each letter represents a piece of raw data or information stored with in it. The illuminating of the letters from with in the sculpture, represents the electrical activity of the neurotransmitters in our brain. When all the individual pieces of code are viewed together as a complete illuminated structure, the key processes that give power and light to our memories are complete.

The subjects I like to use on the free standing cubes include bands, artists, films, TV shows, foods, nightclubs, cars, people and commodities from popular culture and consumer culture that were never quite popular enough to be uploaded into the general population's collective memory or cultural history. So the cube is a monument to the little things in life that usually get forgotten in the passing of time and /or the constant progression and evolution of popular culture and consumer culture. It's not that I want to particularly relive these things or experiences over and over again, I just want to be able to remember them with out being sentimental, mawkish or nostalgic.

The wall-mounted pieces you see here are a development on the traditional 'word finder' layout I used in the freestanding cube. Each letter still appears independent from its neighbour and I have left out all punctuation, as I want the viewer to see the whole plane as a puzzle first. And then only after closer inspection will text reveal that it has been written in the usual style from left to right and top to bottom. I want the viewer to gradually discover a word and then leads to another word that leads to a sentence and that sentence leads to a verse that slowly leads to the discovery of sentences and then the sentences build into verses. The wall-mounted pieces aren't so much word finders but sentence and verse finders and are more about the discovery than any meaning the text might have.

Notice the way the physicality of the sculpture appears to change when it is illuminated in a darkened environment. The once white body of the sculpture now appears to be black and the plastic letters have been completely transformed from their original state into glowing pools of luminous day-glow

4 - 18 June 2009