Archive for August 25th, 2016

MunchAnalysis1This is the first stage of a painting.  Notice that it repeats the same V-shape over and over.

In the next stage, a black shape was added (1). For now, ignore  (2) and (3), which were put in  at the very end of the work process.

Munch copy

Notice that (1) repeats that V-shape.  When I saw the painting at this stage,  I said to the artist, “looks a little like a tree.”  A strange little tree, to be sure, with its sinuous trunk and just two short branches, but still, the shape says “treeness.”  Maybe a tree with its branches “reaching” up.  The word “reach” suggests a personification of the tree.

Personification is very tempting. The artist dipped his brush into the black paint again and deftly placed a dot between the “branches.”


That small dot radically changed the game.  Try seeing that black shape as a tree now.  Impossible.  Try seeing it as something other than a woman with her arms raised.  Try harder.  Can’t be done.

Not only are you seeing a woman with her arms raised, but this shape and association now dominate the painting to such a degree that you feel compelled to interpret everything else in the painting in relation to it.  The tree dominated over all the other shapes and the puzzle at that stage  was how to fit it into the rest of the painting. But thanks to this little dot the black shape’s humanoid association will not allow your mind to wander away.  It’s absolute and absolutely uncanny.

This is what we do in art.  We look at how our mind and imagination work.

After this jaw-dropping black dot appeared, the artist tried to subvert the tyranny of that black humanoid shape by painting in a large yellow disk and a little white rectangle.  What does that do?  Well, now we have to acknowledge these also and fit them into some interpretation.  (1), (2) and (3) are now competing for our attention.   The humanoid can now more easily be seen as a shape among other shapes.  It’s a relief, isn’t it.  But the humanoid still dominates.  No way around it.  Were wired to zoom in on hints of our human shape, however sketchy, distorted or bizarre.

Painting by Bruce Boyer. Oil on Canvas, 30”x40”

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





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