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Posts Tagged ‘modern’

Here we have it in black. What do you think now?  What do you feel?

Do you think this is more cerebral, more subdued? Neutral?  And does that go with “less emotional or not emotional at all?”  Even “cold?”

Would you consider this friendlier, more accessible, more tuned to emotion than the previous red version?

Would this be just right for a child’s room? A dining room?  For a corporate office?

Would you like it huge, say 10’ x 10’?  Then, would you like to have the huge version in your home or should it be in a museum?

Would you say it’s more “modern” than the original red?

None of these adjectives have anything to do with ultimate judgments of “like” or “dislike.” Actually doesn’t like-or-dislike come first, as the immediate gut reaction?  Gut reactions are emotional.  All other descriptions like “neutral” or “cerebral” come later, as rationalizations of that gut reaction, don’t they?.

This is a valuable exercise. Thanks to Photoshop we’re able to isolate one factor, in this case, color, in a painting. We can now test out how we react to color.  How do we associate to color?

Review the original at https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/

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

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BowlStemware

In a still life drapery suggests all sorts of turbulence—if you’re in the mood to see it.  There’s nothing still about a still life even though you’re looking at a pile of pottery, stemware, plastic fruit and, of course, bulging cloth.  We’ve talked about that before:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/still-life-a-misnomer/

In this post’s drawing, the artist/student selected a portion of the still life on the table that led to an exploding composition on the page.  In my analysis you can interpret the green lines as either emanating from a central point (explosive) or you can see them as converging implosively.  You can shift your view back and forth between the two ways of seeing.  Either way, it’s a trip!

BowlStemwareLines

Whether you see those lines as centripetal or centrifugal, the focal point is nothing.  It’s a little triangular black part of the background, a vacancy.  If the lines had been made to converge on a  thing, the drawing would feel like an illustration or a picture with a message.  It would belong to the 18th century or before, at least in Western Art.  But the fact that the convergence is on emptiness makes this a modern drawing. The lines converge on that little nothing, but because it’s nothing, it lets you go again.  And so your eye–your attention–moves all through the image.  That’s the modern sensibility: you have to pay attention to everything. It’s a real trip, man.

For a reference to Diebenkorn and the Parthenon, go back to https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/let-it-be/

Drawing in china marker on gloss paper, ~ 11 x 17,  by Lizzy Mendoza.

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

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Steenwijck2

I would like to have met Harmen Steenwijck. I wonder if anybody in Delft, where he was born, or Leiden, where he died, knew how witty he was.

In 17th century Holland artists had to invent themselves and their art.  A hundred years earlier the members of art guilds were kept busy with commissions from the Catholic Church: murals, tapestries, candelabra, gold smithing, marble carving and all that.  Then in 1517 a monk named Martin Luther said, let’s not do that anymore, well, not directly but in a round-about way.  The religious debate got very political, of course, with the Protestants storming Catholic Churches and smashing everything from stained glass windows to statuary to paintings.  In Holland, newly stripped down and whitewashed Catholic Churches were converted to Protestant Churches that tolerated no imagery or decoration.  But, hey, what about us artists!  What do we do now?

Dutch art became secular and humanist.  It became modern!

The Vanitas genre can be seen as a link between the old life-is-a-vale-of-tears theology and the new humanism that stressed living deeply with the reality of death.  But notice, that while theology preached hellfire-and-damnation, this new thing, humanism, gave you images to contemplate and it let your mind roam.

We still had to work with symbols.  Symbols furnished and cluttered our minds way into the end of the 19th century. But you could play with them.  These symbolic objects in your collection didn’t talk back like lace-collared Burgers who sat for a portrait.  You could arrange these things any way you wanted.  You played.

HarmenSteenwijckVanitasBlog

Harmen Steenwijck played. Some of the objects he shows in his still lifes were very expensive, like the Japanese sword, the sea shell, and the antique vase. In his Vanitas paintings they symbolized the futility of wealth.  The sea shell, expired life.  Then there are more common objects to represent the pleasures of life, like pipes and books.  The just extinguished candle is an obvious symbol of death and the skull takes the cake in this department.  Now, since he was painting an image with a message and everybody knew what symbolized what, why didn’t he just paint a shelf or a cupboard, with these things arranged one next to the other?  Wouldn’t that get the message across?

The message, yes.  But nobody would be attracted to the painting.  To pull viewers in and hold them emotionally, he needed to arrange the objects in a compelling composition.  Unlike portraits, still lifes were not commissioned.  A Vanitas, like other genre paintings, had to appeal a collector’s eye and tickle his mind.

In the painting shown at the top of this post, Steenwijck clusters all his symbols into a wedge at the bottom, balanced by the silence in the top triangle where a ray of light dramatically aims for the skull.

Steenwijck2lines

It’s a daring composition.  Spend some time with this painting and you’ll find that the empty gray wall in the background turns out not to be silent at all. It becomes eerie and ominous.

What we get with Steenwijck is a modern feeling for pictorial space.  There is no such thing as negative space or unimportant space in a painting.  That wall is not “empty,” it’s not “nothing.”  It’s an essential part of the drama.

This is an intriguing painting. But still, if he had painted the mirror image, that shell perched so precariously on the tip of the table would have gained so much more tension and character.

Steenwijck2flip

Harmen Steenwijck, 1612 – 1656

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

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To set up the exercise I gave a simple instruction to the class: Plan on doing two drawings. In the first, study the shapes and produce a representational drawing.  In the second, take off and play with form, with a deliberate departure from representation.

Of the seven students in the class, only two students followed this suggested program.

Vera C. first produced a drawing in which the pots and drapery are recognizable as such (above).  The style of drawing, with the soft contour and the arbitrary shadows, is already an emphatic departure from realism.   In the second drawing (below), she interpreted the still life as–what looks to me like—round objects caught in a tornado.   It’s an apt image and it made me see this pile of familiar, oh so familiar, objects in a new light:  the relentless roundness of the pots does have this hypnotizing effect and we know that on the potter’s wheel they are “thrown” in a process that is messy, relies on centrifugal force (notice the tangential lines in the drawing that suggests this centrifugal force) and  also the centripetal, containing power of the potter’s hands.  The other stuff on the still life table, the drapery can also be seen as evoking this swirling, vertiginous feeling.

This is an inspired, stimulating drawing. It comes out of a modern sensibility in the sense that it draws us into the artist’s state of mind and her fresh perception of these objects.  (A pre-modern sensibility, say from the 16th century or even the 18th century, would direct our attention to the objects themselves.)

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

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The word texture has the same root as the word tactile, which means touching. The sense of touch is the most intimate of our senses, above seeing or hearing.  If you can produce a work that reaches the viewer’s sense of touch, you’re literally hooking him/her.   If you can make my fingertips tingle because I feel I’m touching your drawing or painting or sculpture, you’re onto something.  The sensation of texture goes right to the heart.

Let’s take this drawing by Maggy S. and imagine it with a nice clean outline (traced by me from a copy of the original).  This outline, also called the contour, gives us all the information we need to figure out what we’re looking at. The contour gives us information.  It separates the figure from everything else, namely the space around it.  This information is basic because we want to know what’s what.  This is how small children draw and no wonder, since the child’s brain works full time at labeling, i.e. figuring out what’s what.  While such drawings are endearing when produced by children, when they are the work of adults we tend to associate their hard edges with the urgency of advertising or the punch of comic books.  Hard edges and clean contours make the image easy to read; we take in all the information at a glance and move on.  Hard edges do not encourage us to take time for feeling; they do not extend an invitation to the viewer to linger, contemplate and introspect.

For the beginning drawing student, texture is a luxury.  When you’re looking at a still life or a model, you do want to get the information down first.  That’s hard enough.  Just seeing what’s there, the what’s what, can take up all your time and energy.  But Maggy S. seems to have set herself the assignment of drawing the figure—a very complex subject—without contour lines, or very few.  They’re there, of course, but faintly.  We don’t read the figure by its contour.  Instead, the presence of this figure comes about through the shimmer of the rough texture, created by repetitive zigzags of the pencil.

The choice of the angle at which she sees the model is telling.  Students can move around and situate themselves in the class room according to a view of the model that appeals to them.  It’s possible that this angle, with the concealed face, inspired the artist to go for texture.  When the face is visible in a drawing, the viewer is often directed to psychological, personal associations.  Here, however, with the hair concealing the already averted profile, we get a sense of privacy and introversion.  We easily slip into a state of contemplation and the textural surface of the drawing encourages that state all the more.  Except for the slightest suggestion of a forehead and nose, the entire head is hair—and the hair is all about texture.

The impact of the drawing is not diminished by the fact that it ignores the anatomical niceties of the deltoideus and bachioradialis or that it makes a ghost of the hand.  Maggy’s drawing doesn’t come out of the dictates of the Renaissance or the École des Beaux Arts where texture is a no-no since it evokes the personal and subjective.  This drawing comes out of a modern sensibility.  We are individuals.  We are subjective critters. We’ve been modern now for a hundred and fifty years and it still takes courage to let go of academic dogma and mess around with texture.  In the context of my teaching experience, I appreciate this drawing for its competence, courage and  subjectivity.

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