City Cut Ups

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We hear the crash of glass breaking. We look in the direction of the sound and search for broken glass. As we look upon the world we search, we anticipate, we predict. Our predictive sense determines where we look and what we see. We made a prediction that the sound we heard was glass breaking. It may have been something else but, our original hypothesis directs our visual attention in search of broken glass.

We look for broken glass as we look upon a forest with expectation and prediction. We do the same when we look upon a city scene. We search for utility, for things to avoid or to acquire.

When constructing an illusion in paint we must resort to how we perceive within 2 dimensions. We scan and search. We comfortably gloss over redundant information and stop at areas of predicted information (along edges). We construct our 2D illusion with varieties of information.

If we follow the ancient Egyptian model then, we create pictographs or images which contain visually symbolic information. We provide enough visual symbols to reference all that is necessary for the viewer to predict and guess what or who is present. In this storyboard method we don’t have to provide cues to atmospheric conditions, textures, perspectives or light direction.  These qualities are used in schema which predict how we feel about objects in space. They represent how we visually sense space in conjunction with symbolic information.

Hard edges help us find information. They give our predictive sense a feeling of reassurance. We are convinced we are looking in the right place; that we made the right hypothesis. Blurry edges refer to unnecessary visual redundancies as projected by textures and atmospheric blurring. Blurry edges give us the illusion of space and motion.

In the 20th century we started to make more symbolic art and found that using ruled or taped edges gave us a sharpness that amplified our feeling that  information was present.  Lots of artists started taping their work or, otherwise building hard geometric edges. This culminated in the work of artists like Al Held and Joseph Albers. Others like Gerhard Richter would mix the two systems of blurry and hard. He used taped images covered with blurry rollers, smeary brushwork and squeegee marks as you see in example 1.

Example 1. Gerhard Richter, from the station series,1985,

I tried my hand at reconciling the sharply defined  edges vs. the blurry areas as a way to boost visual hypothesizing, as a way to strongly contextualize the blurry textures. Here was a way to test our affinity for bright edges against natural chaos. I chose the city as my subject because architecture offers so many edge opportunities.

I taped my image surfaces and razored away areas that would later be filled in with darker textured paint, the chaotic impressionable areas. The shapes which remained covered with tape would be preserved as white. Next, the entire surface as painted as if there were no tape-preserved shapes. Next, I removed the tape revealing hard white shapes. This reinforced  the feeling of strong information against the blurry ambiguous areas.

Example 2 presents the image surface as it was taped and razored. Example 3 presents the same image after it was covered with paint. Example 4 presents the image after the tape has been removed and the taped images were lightly blended to unify them with the rest of the image.

Example 2. Step one, Image area with razored tape,

Example 3. Step two, Image with area covered with suggestive brushwork,

Example 4. Step three, Image in present state after tape removal and blending of sharp, formerly taped edges,

Example 5 presents another cityscape but, after the taped and razored areas have been covered with paint (as seen in example 3 above).  Next, Example 6 demonstrates what the image looks like after the tape removal but, before any blending or filling of those white areas.

Example 5. Image area covered with paint over the tape and razoring,

Example 6. Image area after the tape has been removed but, before blending edges, present state.

I invite you to join me this Sunday February 25th At the Silvermine Arts Center at 4:30 PM to 6 PM for my lecture/presentation of “Visual Thinking: Broader, Deeper and More Inventive” discussing how thinking with language hi-jacks our inventiveness and creativity.  Price: $20. Register at 203 966 6668 ext. 2. Or or, walk-ins are welcome.

2 Responses

  1. John Love

    Very thought provoking and full of helpful insight not only in the realm of art…

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