Sequential Motion

posted in: Painting | 0

                 Eadward Muybridge set out to prove that a running horse will have all his legs off the ground at one point. By setting up a series of exposures in 1878 he confirmed it.  Not long after Muybridge,in 1884 the great American painter and educator, Thomas Eakins tried to photographically capture a sequence or progression of positions in an athlete’s vault. His goal was to present in a single image  a history of time and motion (see the first example of the Mubridge and Eakins photographs). You may have made a flip animation booklet as a child; drawn an image on one page and slightly modified it on another then again on another until you filled a series of pages.  Then, flip through them rapidly to catch a sense of continuous motion.  If the sequence is slower than 16 frames per second we are aware of a choppiness to the cumulative effect but, at 35 frames per second ( that is the professional movie speed) we see only a smooth uninterrupted motion, like pouring milk.  Italian futurists like Boccioni and Severini would present a progression of movements in paint, like the Eakins photo. In my painting example (second image) the figures are blurred as you read the sequence moving from left to right or right to left; it’s a horizontal scan that gives the impression of movement in time.  In the first triptych example ( original monotype combination prints by Stephanie Joyce) by a contemporary artist who has adroitly balanced her triptych with a light center striped image on the left and a dark center striped image on the right. The balance here is still and restful.  If I re-arrange Joyce’s triptych to place the light stripe first, then the dark stripe and lastly the solid one I will have created a sequence implying movement from the left to right.  Motion or movements are  based on expectation (it’s how you manage to walk without falling down).  Joyce’s re-arranged triptych is less balanced but, it takes us through a sequence of movements. We follow the light to the dark image or vice versa and, we lose the sensation of stillness as soon as we acquire the sense of  progressive movement.

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