Petrus Spronk

The recent departure of a friend for one of the far off corners of the earth, somewhere in Russia, brought back for me, once again, the very question of corners. Watching the jet plane take off in its graceful curve from one corner of the Tullamarine airport into the sky, a place without corners, was an experience of great liberation. Imagine, a place without corners…

There are many kind of corners, but the one created by two straight lines and a right angle is probably the most familiar. The arrogance in the naming of this angle as ‘right’ acts as a warning. This is the kind of angle which, in its very being, threatens. Threatens the organic structure of our existence. I have a thing with these right angles and, in terms of our architecture, the corners they create. What do we use these corners for anyway? Have you really ever seen a good use for a corner? Any corner?

I remember, and who doesn’t, as a child having to stand in the corner, whether in school or at home. This act, in itself, shows the waste of space the adult world thinks a corner is. The corners they so diligently designed. “The corner is a waste of space, go stand in it, and be punished”. An interesting thing happened though, especially in the corners of the various class rooms where I’ve spent time. It was there that I started to dream. It was there that my creative journey started. Stuck in a corner. A place of solitude and silence. The solitude of the imagination, born in the silence of a still space. A space not used. A wasted space.

My creative journey started with the question, “How do I get out of here?” This questioning carried on into my teenage years when I felt cornered in a job I hated, but had to take as the result of one of those discriminating IQ.tests. “How do I get out of here?” I did and it was the most creative act I have ever executed. (Besides the one of taking my first breath.)

I do wonder what they are actually designed to do, these corners. Even now when I look around other people’s homes, or the various shops and spaces I visit, I wonder what the corners are used for. In the home, one corner became useful in the fifties when we shoved the telly into it. Wonder what that says about the telly, and for that matter speaker boxes? Or, maybe that is why we developed quadraphonic sound.

During more recent times, the corners which once were the domain of the telly and speakers, now have a more sinister role. Many of these useless “public” corner spaces are being taken up by video cameras. Spy eyes. Cornered while in the middle of a space. While in the home, more and more, we view the world from the same corner we were once sent into for punishment. Sitting in that same corner hour after hour staring into electronic space through a computer screen. Maybe this is the corner’s most positive use yet. Maybe. Or maybe it’s the loo, a place too small for a space, just four empty corners.

There are, of course other types of corners. The type we drive people into, by which we show once again that the corner is an awkward space, a difficult position. A place from which there is no escape. As an example, in a more terrible place which consists of only four empty corners with a little space captured in it, the ultimate punishment – the prison cell.

Some particular corners which I have been looking for all of my life, especially during my travels, are those mentioned above, the four corners of the earth. I haven’t yet found them, or even a hint of them. Where do they exist? And if they do, what are they used for. (Please dear reader if you find any one of those corners, or if you hear of the whereabouts of such a corner, please let me know where it is. I would love to see it and understand what its purpose is).

Closer to home, in the garden, corners seem more interesting. There the corner is a place furthest away, the secluded place in the garden where poetry tends to be written. While, in the other extreme, corners are used for resting, especially when you are into a bout of boxing. Two people caught within another four empty corners. So much negativity, no wonder they start belting each other. Another sport, which uses corners, in this case to turn a disadvantage into an advantage, are the corners of a soccer field. Once these corners are taken most players seem to use, at least for once, their heads to score a goal.

One Sunday at the Daylesford railway station I observed someone trying to corner the market, an activity more and more local people seem to be involved in.

Once we turn the corner inside out we seem to change the negative into the positive. The corner becomes useful. The “corner store” comes to mind, as does “turning the corner” and “just around the corner”. Then there is the “poets corner”, “the speakers corner” and the “corner stone”.

As in most cases though, the artists seem to have a creative answer to the problem of the negative corner. The artist withdraws into it and comes up with a solution.

Understanding the total negativity of the corner, and also understanding that two negatives make a positive, the artist puts two corners together and creates four. He stretches a canvas and further hides these four corners by disguising them as a landscape, a portrait or anything abstract which takes his, or her, fancy. Next time you view a painting, think of it as just another attempt to hide four totally empty, negative corners.

Remembering my art history lessons I recall something Leonardo Da Vinci once said. When painters were faced with nature and lacked inspiration he advised them to ”Contemplate with a reflective eye the cracks in an old wall.” There is a map of the universe in the lines that time draws on an old wall. The poet also knows this. Like finding something in an empty corner. Not confinement, but the endlessness of space. Creative space. And inspiration.

Petrus Spronk ( is a local author and artist who contributes a monthly column to The Wombat Post.