Isolation and Traveling Focus

posted in: Painting | 0

With painting, photography or our own biological vision we spot and track a subject for our focus. When riding a merry-go-round to prevent dizziness just keep your eye fixed on a stationary subject. Dancers call this spotting. When tracking a subject across a hall or a baseball flying toward the batter or a birder photographing a bird during take-off we focus on the subject and, the remainder of our field of vision blurs. If you are in a sufficiently low light situation the task with a camera becomes easier. My son, Max Dunlop (an artist living in NYC) took the first photo you see in New York’s Grand Central Station at night. He had his camera follow a figure crossing the floor. The territory around the figure blurred and the figure appears prominent. If the subject figure remains fixed or static while the background is in flux you can also capture this sensation however, the figure will not appear as dramatic as it does in Max’s photo with the action figure. I took my photo (second photo) in Grand Central station in the daylight to capture a greater range of colors and, I also tracked my subject figure while letting the background blur. This practice allows the artist to isolate the subject and elevate its essential thematic role (see V.S. Ramachandran’s principle of isolation and John Ruskin’s principle of primacy). In the final example I isolated part of a figure in motion and, set up a series of vignettes in the painting (following an ancient Chinese garden principle). The viewer easily notices the primary figure yet will later also discover the series of other secondary isolated figures or figure groups. We read the painting by discovering the sequence of isolated subjects.

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