We have a preference for certain aesthetic patterns. In decorations we enjoy symmetry because regular repeated patterns do not distract us with irregular interruptions in the pattern. The reverse is true for paintings or sculpture. In a painting or sculpture we search for breaks in the pattern, flawed symmetries because they both surprise us and force us to consider what’s going on. In a repeated symmetrical pattern we recognize order as a comforting reassurance. The lulling repetition falls away from our attention. If the wallpaper kept breaking its pattern then its unexpected fluctuations would call constantly call to us.
Elegant symmetry can not only soothe the eye but it can also inspire other patterns even patterns which do not rely on symmetry, like painting. My first example presents is a 17th century Persian Kirman dish. I found the arrangement of flora and fauna alluring. It prompted to me to wonder what would happen if I shook the pattern’s parts out of their symmetry. That brought me to thinking of flawed symmetries. This became motivation for my painting in the final example.
Grouping patterns into flawed or uneven symmetries has a storied history in painting. If we return to 1888 we find Vincent Van Gogh exploring patterns with uneven symmetries as you see in example 2. Here he stacks an almost but not quite even progression of horizontal bands in a garden. This helps to suggest space in perspective.
In 1948, Lee Krasner, a first generation abstract expressionist compiles collage paintings with condensed textures as you see in example 3. We feel the presence of a pattern through qualities of scale, value, proximity and shared tactile sensations.
Contemporary artist, Josephine Halvorson, imposes order in gouache in a square by referencing a patch of earth she has wandered upon. We find and make patterns out of random visual encounters.
Like Halvorson, I wander and discover patterns I can play with such as, a collection of leaves floating on a vernal pool. After finding a source of inspiration I can begin a new journey of pattern discovery. I don’t want to record the source of inspiration but rather, I want to use it for creating new patterns in color, shape, perspective and texture. In my series of step by step examples I will take you on this journey of pattern discovery with me.
Step one begins with some planning. I lay down a field of acrylic primary yellow (example 5). I intend to cover this color with a darker color (example 6) from which I will selectively remove paint to reveal shapes suggesting fallen leaves (example 7).
In the last steps I blanket the painting with a complementary blue color to create a more vivid and vibrating visual effect (example 8). The blue can be rearranged into new shapes just as I did with the brown over the yellow. Blue has the advantage of being a color we associate with sky and sky reflected in water. This helps to mentally anchor the meaning (or identity) of the subject (example 9).