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Posts Tagged ‘background.’

15StripesRibbon
What the artist saw was a ball and a ribbon. A ball and a ribbon can make an interesting drawing, but the challenge with a still life like that is inevitably the “background.” There’s no such thing as “background.” That’s a modernist credo and I uphold it. In the modernist sensibility, every square inch of the painting or drawing has to hold the viewer’s interest. What to do? You invent. Maggy Shell invented the stripes.
She could have invented a wall paper of polka dots or hibiscus with hummingbirds. Why are stripes a good, possibly the best, choice? Because the stripes present a variation on the ribbon motif which is the largest part of the still life. What we get, therefore, is a theme-and-variation–always engaging, in whatever art form we find it: music, poetry, storytelling, painting, drawing, sculpture. This invention takes the drawing out of the category  “illustration” and makes it art.
Drawing by Maggy Shell, charcoal, ~14 x 18.
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14BoyerMitosis2
The works produced in my class, from one student to the next, all look different. I’m actually very involved in each student’s work process, but at the same time (I’m proud to say) the overall feeling in the class is one of intuitive play and experimentation.
In the next three or four post, l’ll show the recent paintings of one artist/student, Bruce Boyer.
Above is a finished painting, 30 x 40. Below, the first layer, which took one class period of three hours, is 14BoyerMitosisalready puzzling. For example, by virtue of their color the two orange areas relate to one another, but the one on the left, triangular in shape, appears to be in the background, the deepest background in fact; the one on the right, the round one, occupies the top plane. When we look at this painting our perception becomes purely visual. That’s a good thing.
The second layer is somewhat anticipated while he’s painting the first, but the triangles, rectangles and strings of the second layer position themselves of their own accord.
Even though I was a witness to the painting process and I have an image of the first layer to refer to, the final painting draws me in with its multiple associations and illusions of depth. I just want to look at this thing. It frees the mind to all sorts of possibilities. A good thing.
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If you go back to post August 3, 2012 you’ll see the still life that Gaby was working from for this drawing.  There was a second wooden mannequin, this one reclining with all fours  reaching up, and also some plastic fruits, a pear and an apple.

This marvelous drawing emerged only after much struggle and daring invention.  The pear and apple, being in the foreground, were originally quite worked out with shadows and highlights. As the artist/student got more into the work, these objects lost their importance even though they were in the foreground.  Their literalness had to give way to the workings of the composition as a whole. They still read as foreground, the pear especially by virtue of its continuous, uninterrupted contour.  But the pear is now both foreground and a vacant space and that’s a wonderful paradox.

The background—the white and  the black—is pure invention. Notice that both non-referential surfaces have textures, to give them visual interest and make them, paradoxically, come forward.

The composition with its dramatically worked out values establishes layers: foreground, middleground, background and then far background. We’ve looked at foreground and background.  Now, what is that in the middle?  It seems to radiate from some point behind the pear-vacancy.  These three rays are  what the drawing seems to be about, for the simple reason that they invite identification more than any other element in the drawing.

Everyone in the class loved this drawing.  Everyone knew, of course, what Gaby had been looking at.  But the drawing is clearly not about identifiable objects.  It uses the pear and the wooden figure as a point of departure.  The drawing becomes a work of the imagination, a DRAWING.

Somebody said, it looks like an insect’s legs.  Well, yes, that will come up in your mind, but try clinging to that interpretation.  The drawing takes you far beyond that.

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