Archive for July 17th, 2011

It’s a collage, right? Look at how flat blue the top portion is. All the shapes are rectilinear, easy to cut. Looks like a study in textures with a little nod to “urban decay art.”

But it’s a photo, a snap shot, completely unedited. I took it with my little pocket Sony from the Belmont El platform. Then I took two other frames changing the sky portion in each and thereby making the composition weaker and weaker.

Why is that? Because only in the first frame do we get a sense of tension at the top, caused by the thin sliver of blue. The next two are more balanced, more bland. What’s so great about tension, who needs it? In real life the experience of tension is something we want to get over with, but in art it’s essential. It makes us pay attention and that’s half the battle.

The first frame has three elements that hold our attention: movement, texture and a memory.

The movement is not produced by any narrative since the buildings aren’t going anywhere, but in the fact that your attention is always moving up: 1) because the vertical lines keep directing you upward and 2) because that’s where the tension is, due to the narrow blue sky portion.

Texture is time consuming to look at. The brick wall has faded images and writing on it and a hint of color. A wall at the left is rust stained. A white wall has horizontal lines, very flat and graphic. Because the composition is flat, we look at these patches of texture AS TEXTURE and this is absorbing and emotional. It’s emotional in a very primitive sense since texture appeals to the sense of touch.

In all this flatness, there’s one hint of a past human presence. That’s the red cup on the white railing at right. The red cup takes up a tiny fraction of the whole picture, but notice how your eye keeps going to it. That’s because 1) red comes forward; 2) it’s at the edge of the picture, causing tension; 3) it’s the only detail and gives us a hint of a human presence and curiosity about humans is always with us.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.




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