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Posts Tagged ‘movement’

RedSquares

In this painting the red squares are in the foreground.  They appear to float on top of a background of various colors, where the blue mass reads as an integral shape and therefore dominates the other areas of this background.

At its right border (1), the blue is convex, meaning it curves outward, creating the feeling that it is pushing outward to the right. This dynamic is emphasized by the sliver of white (2) which is being worn thin by blue’s intrusion.  The white is concave. It’s a dart or arrow pointing to the right.

RedSquaresAnalysis

Stop, you may say at this point. This a colorful painting, I like it, that’s enough. You’re over-thinking this thing. These blotches of color are not going, pushing or invading anything.  They’re just sitting there.

True.  The PAINT is sitting there.  But the PAINTING is not a physical object; it’s an event in the mind.  The power of abstraction is that even though there is no identifiable object depicted in an activity, the viewer of the painting will EXPERIENCE an activity.  A drama, really, full of tension, aggression, pushing and pulling…and resolution.

We perceive the red squares as floating on top of everything because they have clear edges that do not bleed into the background anywhere; plus, there’s a suggestion of a horizon line at (3).  The painting creates the illusion of spatial depth. It teases you into thinking “landscape.”

Since the red squares are not distributed evenly, we get the sensation that they are drifting from one side of the “landscape” to the other.  From left to right? Or from right to left? My sense is that they are blowing to the right.  Try it.

The drifting reds are not round. Imagine them as red dots and the painting becomes a circus.  Imagine them petal shaped and it becomes sentimental. No-no.  The reds have to be angular to add frisson.  Your mind likes edginess.  Keeps you alert and on your toes.

Why would anybody go to the trouble of analyzing a painting at this length, you may say.  Maybe somebody needs to get out more, has too much time on her hands.  Ha,ha. I’m merely taking the time to articulate what is going on in your mind when you’re standing in front of a painting that grabs you.  At museums I often hear one person say to her companion, I like that.  Well, I’m curious why.  Someone will look at a painting for a long time.  Why?  Well, I’m suggestion they’re swept up by the drama.  The drama is in the mind.

Painting by Jane Donaldson, ~30″ x 40″

Oh, and by the way, if you flip  the painting, the drama changes…errrm, dramatically.

RedSquaresFlip

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KeepItMoving

Let’s have a closer look at one of the paintings in that show at the Ethical Humanist Society: acrylic on canvas, 40” x 30,”  by Robert Frankel.  We might call it Keep It Moving.

Isn’t that what happens when you look at this?  Your eye and mind are restless, moving all the time.

How can that be?  There’s no narration, no hint of horses on the beach or racecars taking a curve or birds in flight.  The whole composition is nothing but rectangles, all placed solidly and stodgily on one of their sides.  Nothing tips, everything says STABILITY.  But does it?  If the composition were stable, you’d doze off.  Instead, your mind is jumpin’ as it does when you listen to jazz.

These rectangles are flat, you say, isn’t that what rectangles are, flat?  Yes, they are flat.  But, if they’re flat, how is it that this image draws you in to puzzle out your sense of depth?

And what is that white rectangle with the thin horizontal black one doing there in the midst of all this popping color?  Imagine this white/black thing in any other color combination.  See? Gotcha!

http://ethicalhuman.org/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/exhibit-at-ethical-humanist-society/

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14MariaRedBlueSquaresThis is quite an accomplishment, isn’t it.  You’re looking at rectilinear forms, four rectangles and two squares. From the verbal description, you’d expect a static image.  But it’s far from static.  You can’t help seeing these blue things moving. And what about the vertical divide, is that in the middle?

The suggestion of movement in the composition comes, to a great extent, from the little blue rectangle in the lower left corner.  It appears to be a fragment of the kind of square we see clearly stated on the right side of the painting.  The fact that there are two identical blue squares sets up an expectation in our minds that what we’re seeing in the lower left is one of that kind.  It’s uncanny, how powerful that little blue rectangle is. I would say, it makes the painting.  It sets everything in motion.

The other blue rectangle is that long thing in the middle.  It’s in the middle, right?  Wait, we can’t be sure, looks like the middle, but maybe not.  The large red rectangle appears to be just a smidge narrower than its light counterpart on the right, because a saturated color area will look smaller than a light area.  But, at the same time, red is a dominant color.  The illusoriness of the red half and the question of the mid-line are rubbed in our faces by this blue thin rectangle in the middle. Where’s-the-middle becomes an issue.  What’s static, what moves?

This painting by Maria Palacios appears to be simple, but is anything but.  Look at it.  It won’t let you go.

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13LindaGlobePhThe picturesque Harley Clarke Mansion, home of the Evanston Art Center, is a bit of an architectural sampler in the sense that it features turrets, balconies, gables, dormers and stone carvings. One of my plein air students has fallen in love with the entrance to the greenhouse, which combines a Palladian reference and a carved wooden door frame with overgrown vines.  In previous sessions she drew the door itself and the view towards the Clarke’s ornamented main entrance.  This week she turned to draw one of the cement globes that announce the fern-and-lily lined 13LindaGlobeDrawingStraightpassage to the greenhouse.

When Linda’s drawing was finished, we considered cropping possibilities.  The fence in the distance behind the globe forms a sturdy horizontal line.  Perhaps too sturdy.  When the drawing is cropped conventionally with the fence horizontal, the image is, well, too conventional.  Notice what happens when we tilt the drawing and chop off the top of the globe.  More tension, more movement.

13LindaGlobeDrawingTilt1While we were playing with these cropping choices, a photographer from the Chicago Tribune came by and, with our permission, documented the little tutorial scene. The next day, the Trib ran an article about the plight of the Clarke Mansion , not with the tutorial scene by the greenhouse, but with a wide-angle shot of the whole building, which was, after all the focus of the piece. The piece summarizes the debate over the fate of the mansion:

 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/evanston_skokie_morton_grove/ct-met-evanston-lighthouse-beach-hotel-20130714,0,849034.story

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13HaroldEnigmaWithApronHere’s a painting that Harold Bauer brought to my painting class, where the drift is towards abstraction with a landscape-y feeling.  He made this painting in another class with another instructor and from a seated figure.  It’s a real stretch to see a figure in this, isn’t it!  But if you rotate the painting you discover that you project different expectations into the different versions.  Perhaps a light bulb in one of them?  Perhaps you prefer one of the left-right flips because you prefer the movement in one of them over the other.  When you get 13HaroldEnigmaWithApron180back to the original orientation, you may sigh with relief in the recognition that this does suggest a figure after all.  It’s a disturbing figure, to be sure, but your mind drifts towards that expectation.  Doesn’t it? The mind desperately wants to recognize something and will willingly accept all sorts of weirdness to find some satisfaction.

13HaroldEnigmaWithApronCCWjpgThis painting may or not be finished.  I present this rotation game here to show how we grapple with the mysteries of composition in my painting class.

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1303MaggyFacesAquarelleThings change.  People change. Sometimes from morning to night. Your view of a person changes, perhaps even from day to day.  That’s an old idea.  In fact, pre-Socratic philosophers said so, as in Heraclitus’s “You can’t step into the same river twice.”  But then in the 4th  century BCE the Greek philosophers invented an idea called “essence.”

IngresPortraitWe’ve been wrestling with this concept ever since. For centuries, Western artists thought it was their job to get at the “essence” of a person.  You can see this ambition in the portraits of Ingres (1780-1867). Do you see “essence” here?  I don’t.  I see only theatricality.  Dress-up, veneer, pretense.

Ingres was a superb draftsman.  Maggy and I would admit that he was more accomplished than she.  But what Maggy’s page of studies gives me is more exciting than a meticulous  Ingres portrait.  I find her studies (above) engrossing and true to life.  Not in the sense of portraiture, but in the sense of liveliness and, yes, truthfulness.  This is how we experience people:  they move, they reflect, they introspect, they doubt—and all within the few minutes we have their face in front of us.

1303MaggyFacesAquarelleLinesJust to point out two techniques in this page of studies that convey the liveliness that I admire in a work of art:  1) repetition of vigorous pencil strokes (green)which don’t create the illusion of roundness and shading in the face, but exist in themselves, allowing the viewer to move through the page and interpret it as a work that emanates from the artist’s perception—not from the “essence” of the model; 2) movement of the viewer’s attention from #1 through #4, with each “take” presenting a different mood of the face, allowing us a glimpse into the complexity and intelligence of this individual.

Though it may look like scribbling, this is an advanced drawing.

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1304AlejandraFacesAquarelle

These studies were made from a photo of a man who was apparently in the middle of saying something or reacting to a situation with surprise.  He wasn’t posing. He wasn’t self-conscious or trying to look good for the camera.  He wasn’t trying to get his “essence” across.

Notice how animated this page of studies is.  The fragmentary nature of each face does not at all annoy us.  On the contrary, we move from one “take” to another and in doing so we sense the vitality of this character.

The artist/student, Alejandra, used the Stabilo All Aquarellable pencil on gloss paper and created the feathered edges with a damp paper towel.  This medium itself encourages movement in the drawing process and in the perception of the subject.  Nothing is static.

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