Studio Blog September 2018

Studio Blog September 2018

Labyrinth with Threads of Ariadne I  (1979)

September 14th 2018 - Mazes. If towers are one of the major 'themes' in John's work (see ?????? blog), then mazes provide a further 'theme'. Indeed, John's intention was to bring together all of his large screens to construct a maze. As he has said: "I had in mind eventually to create an enormous word-maze incorporating all the screens in which one could get lost in the words. Unfortunately, the screens are scattered across the globe so this will never happen." Furthermore, the Wittgenstein series of drawings will, using scaffolding to display them, end up as part of a maze (as well as the contents of a book). John cannot remember what was the first maze he drew; certainly a case can be made for including the Devil Trap as a sort of maze!

The Devil Trap (1966)

According to Chamber's English Dictionary (John's preferred dictionary), a maze is defined as a labyrinth, a set of intricate windings, any confusingly elaborate and complicated system. The word is derived from dialect meaning bewilderment, thus giving rise to the verb implying to bewilder or confuse. However, the word probably originated from Old English; the compound āmasod... amazed. John's labyrinths both amaze the viewer and are technically amazing.

Mazes Amazes (1954)

In particular, the inspiration John has received from the myths of the Minotaur and Ariadne's thread cannot be ignored and these myths appear several times in John's work (Below: John Furnival as the Minotaur - 1980).

Using the same maze configurations as in the images above, but with the mazes appearing as embossed structures, perhaps the Minotaur myths are best displayed in the book he produced in 1979 with the poet Thomas Meyer entitled Blind Date.


A further example of a labyrinth is found in the large drawing on a wooden panel that features a maze commenting upon the obscurity of scientific discoveries (Following in Nature's Footsteps - 1980). The 'Nature' in the title refers not just to the natural world but to the scientific journal from whose articles the maze is constructed. Arising above the maze are trees whose fol(verb)iage reflects popular science journalism. The figure representing the scientist, this commentator in his 30s, chases the figure of Nature á la Botticelli, the commentator's wife, and mimics an image taken from an early Renaissance drawing on alchemy.

The layers of meaning in John's labyrinths relate to his maximalist approach to art and ideas and, to this commentator at least, the ambiguities that arise, often unintentional and by chance, comment upon the complexities of both real and intellectual life and the bewilderment that arises from such considerations. Shown below are 4 mazes, featuring Painswick cemetery, presently locked away in a warehouse in New York and hence presently unavailable for exhibition. 






Labyrinth with Threads of Ariadne II  (1979)

Wort (1980)
Mot (1980)






Labyrinth (1980)






Come into the Garden, Claude (1975)















Shakespeare, His Maze (1978)