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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

16novcodeyellow

In my peripatetic reading, some years ago, I came across this suggestion about how to look at art:  Instead of thinking you’re going to judge the painting, stand there and imagine that the painting is judging you.

That may sound ridiculous.  Try it anyway.

You can start with this painting. How is this painting judging you?

When the tables are turned this way, you’ll notice that you’ve been judging art by rather arbitrary, inherited standards; that you like it that way; that these standards make you feel smart; and that this realization is embarrassing.

Currently, I’m reading From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present  by Jacques Barzun.  In this section (p. 167) he’s mainly talking about writing in the 17th century, but what he says applies to the visual arts, too.

The first modern critics did not spend all their time discussing tragedy.  Other forms of poetry enjoyed their minute attention, most often in the light of Horace’s precepts.  Applying such pre-existing standards was the very definition of criticism until the 19th century.  The process was analytical and judicial.  A sort of stencil was laid over the work and the places noted where the right features showed through the holes.  The more points scored, the better the work.

Now, ANALYSIS, the breaking of wholes into parts, is fundamental to science, but for judging works of art, the procedure is more uncertain: what are the natural parts of a story, a sonnet, a painting:  The maker’s aim is to project his vision by creating not a machine made up of parts but the impression of seamless unity that belongs to a living thing. 

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

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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”

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

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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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16octhead

We say “the whites of their eyes.”  But the highlight on the upper eyelid 16octheadeye(1) is whiter than the white of the eye (2). It’s not easy to give in to this fact.  After all, no one ever said, “don’t shoot until you see the highlight on their upper eyelids.”

This drawing from a photo does not resemble the 16octheadphotomodel, but that doesn’t matter.  Resemblance comes much later.  And in any case, resemblance may not be the goal.  The model/photo serves as inspiration and what happens in the drawing process is more important than likeness.

As you look at this drawing notice how important the shadow cast over the eye ball is for the expression and your conviction that this is a real person.

Drawing by Maggy Shell, charcoal, ~ 16” x 14”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/eyes-no-eyes/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/2778/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/andre-carrilho-and-the-mythic-window-to-the-soul/

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

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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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Sometimes a painting reads well right from the start.

16sept1early 16sept1early2nd

At left is a painting in its very first conception.  At right, the second stage.

You can’t count on this, but it happens. Here is the finished work.

16sept1

Jan Fleckman, acrylic on canvas, 40” x 30”

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moodnext

Didn’t paint drip in the 15th century?  It must have. Even egg tempera must have gotten runny sometimes.  But dripping paint was a no-no til the end of the 19th century.  Unthinkable; what a disgrace; quick, clean it up and let no one see how paint behaves.  In the 20th century paint was finally allowed to behave like paint.

If you’re not a painter you may think this is easy.  How hard can it be to splash paint on a piece of cloth, you say!

If you’re a contemporary painter and you have never let paint drip, hmm, that may be because you haven’t been able to. Maybe allowing paint to drip is like yoga: you stretch and it’s uncomfortable at first.

As the instructor in the “Mondrian Class” I get ecstatic—ooh, ahh—when someone first ventures into drip mode. It just happens. As with yoga, I think it’s accompanied by an exhalation of all sorts of thou-shalts and thou-shalt-nots.

The above painting was produced in two class periods.  The student, Pamela Habel, has only been with us for one semester.

drips-allowedIn her previous painting, left, we can see her warming up to the idea of allowing the paint to drip.

Pamela Habel, acrylic on canvas, each painting 40” x 30”

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

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