Approaching Infinity

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Depicting Infinity across time and cultures often emerges as a circle. Before European contact Aztec depictions of the Cosmos and calendar (example 1) appear as circles within circles even as they circumscribe other geometric patterns.  6000 years ago one of our earliest depictions of infinity, the cosmos  used a copper circle ( example 2).

Example 1. Aztec Cosmic Calendar from 1479,

Example 2. Earliest depiction of Cosmos, Copper Disc with gold,

Pictured space in the Renaissance  depended upon the convergence of  proportionally shrinking shapes toward a vanishing point as an evocation of Cosmic order and infinity.  Infinity can be evoked with other systems. Our mind’s-eye sees dark areas as potentially infinite concavities, black holes.  And, as the air swallows details further in space we create atmospheric perspective, another reference to infinity.  And, as edges fuse and details amalgamate in the distance we find another way to depict infinity.

The contemporary painter, Tomory Dodge, used the associative power of a dark field with a light horizon and suspended bright shapes to suggest infinity in his painting “Space Junk” from 2008.

Example 3. Tomory Dodge, Space Junk,

My  next three architectural examples demonstrate combining linear and atmospheric perspective to allude to infinite space. Example 4 lightly confounds  linear perspective principles by using unstable vanishing points as well as atmospheric perspective. Example 5 uses atmosphere  and a soft linear perspective grid in an interior space to create a luminous infinity.  Example 6 follows a set of arches slowly receding and turning toward an invisible infinity.

Example 4. Multiple Bridges, oil on aluminum,

Example 5. Grand Central Station, oil on laminated aluminum,

Example 6. Chain of Arches, oil on laminated aluminum,

The following landscapes (examples 7 and 8) take the viewer toward an infinity which reaches past the landscape’s final edge. The horizon line dissolves with the sky along some its extent to provide a connection with infinite space. The surface of the landscapes bobs and weaves toward a limitless area.

Example 7. Irish Landscape, 36×36,

Example 8. Hudson Valley Landscape, 40×60,

Example 9 concludes this exploration of a pictured infinity by suggesting a floating and reflecting surface. We begin with an cluttered, leafy surface which presents a few pockets of soft darkness, blurry holes in space. The blue sky area can appear to be a part of the flat reflective and translucent surface or, offer itself as a sensation of infinite sky.

Example 9, Translucence and Reflections, oil on laminated aluminum,

Join me this spring at the Huntsville Museum of Art (Huntsville Alabama) for a Master Workshop there, Natural Elements: Painting with the masters, Old & New Techniques with David Dunlop”.  The workshop is part of the Museum Academy program. Thursday May 3rd – Sunday May 6; 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Register on line at or call 256 535 4350 ext 215.

Come work with me in the studio. Call the Silvermine School of Art at 203 966 6668 ext. 2 to register for my 3 day long spring workshop ( just announced) which will run from April 9th through the 11th.




2 Responses

  1. Patricia Scanlan

    Your examples give me inspiration. Infinity is a hard concept to accept, and probably harder for me to paint.
    The depth you create is amazing. Thank you for this.

  2. Frank Fanelli

    I love the receding patterns in the natural world and the timeless space you captured

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