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Archive for September 17th, 2011

At first glance, this painting by Charlene W. may seem self- indulgent.  And it is, it is self-indulgent in the sense that it goes wild with color and transgresses against our sense of realism. Well—we’ve been here before—who cares about realism.  We’re not hired to document the Hapsburgs’s holdings in lumber.  We’re painting because we might stumble upon some way to document our sheer excitement at the sight of shapes and the way light plays on them—and the way colors play on canvas.  You can see that Charlene got into color.  She was standing on the Evanston Art Center’s grounds and looking at a cluster of trees.  Very ordinary trees, by the way, and none of them were blue or purple.  Nor were there nearly as many as she put into the painting.  She invented. She invented for the sake of color, rhythm and—let’s call it—exuberance.

The exuberance is, however, reined in by compositional restraint.  Notice the faint suggestion of a horizon at the top.  The tree trunks are all vertical; no tree is sinewy or leaning.  And then there’s the X formed by the yellow light going from upper left to lower right; and the repetition of the dark trunks on the lower left and then on the upper right which cause the eye to move up, from left to right.

And what does the dotted green line indicate?  It goes through the most prominent tree trunk and indicates the Golden Section.

Without these compositional elements,  the painting might very well look too riotous and non-communicative.  If you enjoy looking at it, it’s probably because it comes at you from both sides, the rational (structure) and the emotional (color and texture).

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