Rotation, Contours and Space

posted in: Painting | 6

“One realizes that symmetry and consistency, whatever their merits are the enemy of movement” said Kenneth Clark in his BBC series, “Civilization”.  But, just avoiding symmetry and consistency does not evoke a feeling of movement.  Using the diagram in example 1 we can demonstrate how a shape may inhibit or promote a feeling of movement. In this case I present conditions for recognizing a rolling movement.  Landscape painters have applied these principles to hills, rocks and swales. I will be applying them to shoreline sea grasses or, in colonial times what was known as salt hay, a harvestable crop.

While the example is largely self-explanatory I begin with a pan cultural and pan historic image, the iconic sunburst.  Once the radians are separated from the central disc it begins to pulse or radiate and, once the arms or radians are curved as well as detached the disc suggests rotation. If that disc is slightly turned or pivoted we see an elliptical figure.  This foreshortened effect suggests a figure with three dimensional space.  If the radians and the disc are described as with illusory thickness then the feeling of rotation in space is strengthened.

The final figure in the diagram shows bands of the rotating arms set side by side with diminishing rows stacked on top.  The feeling suggests a contoured surface rolling forward and back in space.

Example 1. Diagram.

The fun lies in applying the principle to a subject area such as shore grass which you see in example 2. The consistency of the diagram is thwarted by overlapping tangled strands rather lining them all neatly side by side.  The tangle of overlapping strands which swell in size as they advance and diminish as they retreat give a more layered and textured surface to the form.  By undermining consistency a more dynamic form is created.

Example 2.

Using  a chorus  of undulating and waving strands as demonstrated in my diagram has been a strategy of adventurous artists like Van Gogh (examples 3 and 4) and Renoir (example 5). Each knew that a unified but, not quite consistent  wave patterns would invest more motion in their work.

Example 3. Van Gogh preparatory drawing.

Example 4. Van Gogh painting of fields behind St. Paul De Mausole, 1889.

Example 5. Renoir, painting along the Seine near Champrosay, 1873.

Using the same principle but, with other interval variations and the introduction of other shapes like large triangles I developed examples 5 and 6. Example 5 separates the rolls with intermediate spaces (blue water).  Example 6 will be preceded by its first step, the initial laying in of the contour patterns (example 6a).  Example 6 presents more variety in (less consistency) in the arrangement of the sea grass strands.

Example 5. Present state of this image, “rolling sequence” 36×48.

Example 6a. Step one of “Fallen Sea Grass”.

Example 6. Step two and present state of “Fallen Sea Grass”.

Example 7. presents the current state of “relaxed sea Grass”. This image wheels sideways as it slowly turns back into distant space.  The flat blue (water)  intervals on the left diminish in thickness in the distance. The sea grass strands wheel parallel with the ground plane as they turn toward and away from the beholder.  Examples 6 and 7 are both painted on brushed silver enameled laminated aluminum. The reflectance and colors of the image depend upon the viewpoint of the beholder. This cannot be demonstrated in a single photo of the painting but occurs as you shift your weight when looking at the image.

Example 7. Present state of ‘Relaxed Sea Grass”.

I invite you to join me in a two day workshop at the West Hartford Art League on January 14 and 15, 2017.  The Workshop is:”Techniques of the Masters, Past and Present”. Visit their website or call 860 231 8019.






6 Responses

  1. Rhonda Walker

    Thanks for another very enlightening look into this beautiful world of color and movement!

  2. Dorothy Bryant

    Very useful to see Step 1 of your painting. Your beginnings are just as dynamic as the finished work. Thank you!

  3. Agnes Wnuk

    Dear David, thank you for a fabulous workshop tho weekend at the West Hartford Art League! What a great learning experience you provided for us! I feel technically more empowered!

  4. Jacie Jakubowski

    Really enjoyed your two day workshop in W. Hartford. My brain a lot to think about and my eyes a lot to see. Will be “playing” more every time I paint.
    Thank you

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