Nanette Carter: Forms Follow Function

April 25, 2022

There is a late 19th, early 20th century architectural concept that “Form Follows Function”. In other words a building’s shape and interior should relate to its intended purpose. Over the past 47 years of my creative life I’ve implemented this concept into my own studio practice. The shapes I employ in a work of art inform the viewer of my intention. They are placed or choreographed in such a way that they tell my story. Since I have been working with conceptual abstractions for decades I have seen the correlation between this architectural idea and semiotics in the work. Semiotics is the study of signs, symbols, colours and shapes to communicate something.

Once I have decided on a theme I begin to think about how my shapes, colours, line and textures can best portray these concerns. How can I compose this imagery into a universal language?


I’m using an architectural term as a metaphor for living in the 21st century. A Cantilever is when a strong horizontal structure is supported only at one end. It is a balancing feat. With social media, divisive politics, a pandemic, climate change and trying to keep up with jobs and family I feel we are all trying to maintain our balance and sanity. In some of the works it appears that the shapes are teetering. There is a since of tension. While with other works in the series it seems that somehow the structure is withstanding the weight.

The Weight

In the series The Weight you will see a long table-like structure with two short legs weighted down by shapes that appear to be moving and adjusting themselves. While the series Cantilevered speaks to balancing and trying to maintain an equilibrium The Weight is a metaphor for carrying, figuratively, a great weight on your body – the weight of history, the weight of time, the weight of responsibilities. In the video The Weight I am first seen preparing myself to take on a heavy structure. The structure is one of my works in the exhibition titled Cantilevered #19. As the sections of the work are added on, one on top of another, we also hear a crescendo of more and more voices. So the sound is mimicking what we are seeing.

Nanette Carter

Learn more about Nanette Carter…

Virtual Artist Talk with Nanette Carter

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