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Archive for the ‘Color’ Category

17feb1redyelbl

Blue is theoretically a color that recedes.  Red, of course, comes forward and announces itself as the boss.

In this painting, how does that little sliver of blue on the left manage to hold its own against that huge red in this painting? One, it’s striped and stripes are aggressive. (Look at sports and military uniform: stripes rule.)  Two, it’s at the edge of the painting and edges convey tension. (Tension demands attention because, well, because tension is uncomfortable.)

Painting in acrylic by Susan Bennett, 36” x 36”.

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notblackwhite

Working with a center line, whether vertical or horizontal, challenges the painter. How do you prevent this thing from becoming static?  How do you overcome the invitation to symmetry? How to you create movement?

In this painting the challenge is heightened by the choice of black vs. white. Now look what happens at the dividing line between the two fields. At (2) a large round shape that straddles both fields attracts your attention by virtue of its size, circularity and texture—it’s glued on burlap.  At (1) and (3) lines cross the divide.  These are powerful because the eye finds lines irresistible and traces them wherever they lead.notblackwhiteanalysis

The blue line at (3) gracefully sweeps upward towards the right.  At the light red dot (4) it traces an orbital path.  Because the red rectangles at (6) suggest a stable architectural element (perhaps a window), they add a rational anchor to a universe in which amorphous planes float randomly.  At the same time the red dot perches precariously on one corner (4).  This becomes the focal point of the painting, deeply satisfying and at the same time restless.

But wait, there’s a twist in the plot.  When the artist submitted the painting to the Studio Exhibit she reversed it.  Notice that the focal point in this new orientation is one of those amorphous shapes (5). The effect is edgy.

notblackwhiteshow We are deprived of the satisfaction we found previously in the red dot perched on the corner of the red rectangles. In this orientation, the red dot and the red rectangles are resting on the bottom edge, not going anywhere. They’ve settled, they lack drama.

It’s a brilliant painting.  Buy it.  Hang it, not over your couch, but in front of it. Sit.  Look at it in one orientation, then next week turn it over and look again.  Allow yourself to be unsettled. Get to know your perceptual quirkiness.

The Studio Exhibit at the Evanston Art Center will be up til January 29.

Terry Fohrman, Not Black and White.  Acrylic on canvas, 24” x 48”

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16novscintillatevertical

I love not knowing what to say about a painting.  It’s a sign that I’m really looking.

The top layer of this painting consists of the horizontal dashes.  The effect is two-fold.  Because they’re on top you feel you need to look at them.  But when you focus on them you realize there’s nothing to look at.  This makes you focus on the layers under the dashes.  But the dashes obscure that layer.  You soon realize that there’s no clarity in the lower layers either.

The reason you don’t give up is that the effect of this layering is scintillating.  The painting shimmers, not like metallic kitsch, not at all.  It shimmers epistemologically.  As soon as you think you’ve grasped it, it slips away.  There are certain brains that love this effect.  Count me in.

Keven Wilder.  Oil on canvas, ~40” x 30”

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updrip2

This painting actually preceded the one you saw in the last post.  This composition consists primarily of vertical lines with horizontals making only a tentative entrance. Compared to the later painting, Up-drip, Side-drip, this one looks like an investigation. An exciting investigation, to be sure.  All art is an investigation.

Because the drips in this version are fewer and don’t rush to the opposite edge, they appear to meander like branches. As up-drips they appear to sprout skyward, suggesting organic forms.  We don’t get that illusion in the later Up-drip, Side-drip  where the drips read like straight lines drawn with a nicked ruler.

These two paintings appear to promise a series—further investigations.  Who knows where the grid will lead us, how the drips will rush or meander and…we haven’t even talked about those circles yet.

Notice, when the drips actually drip like drips, your mind wanders to more literalness, as in “what’s this red stuff dripping here, where am I and what do these other colors represent?” Literalness is not so interesting, is it.

updrip2-copy

Veronica Sax, painting in acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 30,” early November 2016

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updrip1

Dripping paint on a canvas conveys the feeling of immediacy and urgency, doesn’t it.  It’s as if you were standing next to the artist while she was painting and you were witnessing the physicality of this gooey substance in its tug with gravity.

Now, paint drips down, not up.  I say that, because we often turn a canvas upside-down to see if that view will work better or, at least, what the new view will teach us.  When a drip is seen upside-down, it may work and it may not.  If the dripping paint is thick, it most often will look disturbing when seen upside down. If the dripping paint is highly diluted and therefore thin, it will run down fast and in a fairly straight line all the way to the bottom edge of the canvas.  It will read primarily as a straight line and only on closer inspection will you see that it’s actually a drip. It will read as a straight line even when the canvas is turned upside-down.

This kind of double take tickles the mind.

The brushstrokes and color blotches look random.  And, certainly, the drips by their very nature are random. But notice, the composition is severely rectilinear.  Notice also, that in the painting process the canvas was rotated more than once: sideways drips.   It’s the coexistence of this grid effect with the drippy-splashy-rubbing paint that makes for deep drama.  We like drama.

The drips obeying gravity—as they were created in the first place—look less exiting.  Or do they?

updrip1-copy

Veronica Sax, painting in acrylic on canvas, 30” x 30,” November 2016

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16novwindow

Your mind naturally associates to “window.”  But look, there’s no view to the outside, which is why we walk over and stand in front of a window.  This is pure window.  Like a Gothic stained glass window, except here there’s no story to be instructed by.  Pure light, which, come to think of it, is Gothic Architecture’s metaphor for the divine.  Well, I’ll stop just short of calling this painting divine, but allow me to say, it’s glorious.  You allow and you agree, of course.

You can’t stop looking at it.   As you celebrate windowness and you’re grateful for the invention of glass with its capacity to transmit and reflect light, you’re mind does wander.  You start looking at the quality of the brush stroke, the transitions from one luminous color to another and then there’s a little quirkiness that holds your attention.

First, notice that your eye does not dwell on any of the four corners.  That’s because there’s no detail in the corners, they’re filled with blocks of color and some blurry lines.  It’s true those lines do guide your eye there but only briefly and then they move back inward. Our eyes evolved to find details and movement interesting.

Where do we find details and movement?

16novwindowfingerwalk

What are those funny little red dots?  Looks like footprints.  If you have the privilege of looking at this painting up close, you’ll notice that they are fingerprints.  The artist must have dipped her fingertips into the red paint on her palette and then walked them across the canvas. As the paint was transferred she went back to the palette to dip in again.  Her fingers walked diagonally upward on the canvas from right to left.  Pure invention.  What a delight!

It’s nice to be reminded that we’re a species that invents.

You can see this painting by Veronica Sax at the Evanston Art Center’s Studio Show til January 29.

https://www.evanstonartcenter.org/exhibitions/eac-student-exhibition

Veronica Sax, Not, Just… Acrylic on canvas, 40”x 30”

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16octconfetti

What’s going on here?  Why is this image intriguing?

There are three elements in this image. The most basic one, if you isolate it, is the round form in yellow, which is near-centered, near-symmetrical, vaguely suggesting something with a head. The second element, the black, by weaving in and out of the first, negates its organic illusion.  The black lines branch off and suggest tree-like growth.

The third element is the specks of color that appear to be floating through the pictorial space.  Your mind wants to simplify them and therefore assumes they are all the same size in that space. Since they are actually of three different sizes (on the canvas) you make sense of them by seeing them as floating in three different planes. The smallest specs, for example, are interpreted as being farthest from the viewer and the large specs are on the plane closest to you as you look at the painting.

If the specks were of fifteen different sizes, or sixty two different sizes, your brain would not be able to organize them and you would, therefore, not perceive spacial depth in the painting.

The painting presents a puzzle, but not a puzzle that you solve.  Once you see how you project your expectations into the painting, you haven’t solved anything.  You’ll still be floating in that space.

Karen Gerrard, acrylic on canvas, 40” x 30”

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