Rhythm and Pattern

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The rhythm behind the blues, behind a waltz, behind a jackhammer or the repeated shifting sounds of tires crossing seams of concrete as the car speeds up or slows down; all these rhythms hold our attention as long as they can deliver a sense of expectation coupled to surprise. This means the rhythm must shift its pattern or emphasis for us to sustain our attention. A good public speaker knows this. If there is no shift in the pattern then, it becomes white noise and we no longer hear it. I remember first visiting a small French village (Seillans) with a couple of neighboring bell towers and roosters. The first two nights I found sleep difficult because I had not yet habituated myself to the hourly bells and morning roosters. Later they were no longer noticeable. A painter, like a musician, must consider rhythmic patterns as a way of sustaining attention, directing attention, and offering a train of subtle surprises. As Miles Davis said, “It’s not just the notes; it’s the spaces between the notes that count.” In my first example, I painted the pattern of the leaves to create a meandering perspectival motion which dances across a counter rhythm, the vertical light/dark pattern of the reflected sky and trees. I set up a counterpoint base rhythm (the leaves) underneath an improvising flute or trumpet melody (tree reflections). In John Singer Sargent’s Orchestra painting the clustering of light and dark shapes vs. empty territories suggests a symphonic work with various intervals of intensity and release. In my last example, I painted the figures in horizontal clusters varying in size and number from singles to larger groups. I tried to space the figure clusters in an arrangement suggesting a musical horizontal reading with timed vertical interjections. Temporal patterns and special patterns work analogously because they are conceived and received in the same way.

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