Over a thousand years ago Chinese painting scholars advised artists to follow some basic principles. They included presenting a landscape with an experience of the near, middle and far distance. Vertical arrangements should consider the earthly or worldly lower domain and the higher more distant heavenly domain. In the earthly near domain should be an experience rich in particulars, rich in description. This is where the viewer begins his poetic journey through the painting.
Five hundred years ago DaVinci expressed the same concerns for a painting with landscape. It should have a near and far differentiation. These opposites were as essential to DaVinci as dark vs. light or stillness vs. motion. By the 16th century artists painting landscapes like Albrecht Altdorfer and Pieter Bruegel the Elder gave relied on this principle, near and far. Near is where we live, the people, the activities of life; It is intimate. Far is vague, blended and a distant place from us, the viewer, to some day dream of exploring.
Both examples demonstrate a composition which features a river or water area serving to frame the design and carry the viewer from the Intimate, nearby area into a mysteriously vague distance. The mind’s eye can wander and wonder into that distance while closely observing the more richly described effects of the intimate proximate area.
With the compositional structure and principles presented in both the Chinese painting and the Bruegel’s Dutch narrative landscape I constructed my following examples.
By comparative observations you will notice how my examples subtly borrow structural ideas from the older historical examples. In my works see how the water winds itself from the bottom up into the distance. See how it wanders in and out creating a meander pattern, also known as a serpentine or dragon shaped pattern.
We begin in a secluded private intimate space and wander off toward the diffused light of the distant horizon.
I invite you to my next lecture: “Blind Spots: How to Expand Visual Perception” Sunday, October 13, 4:30 to 6:30PM, $20. At the Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, Ct. Call 203 966 6668 ext 2 or see Silvermineart.org