The Value of “S”

posted in: Painting | 1

    Artists have inherited a form that invites the viewer into their pictures. It’s the “S” shape also known as the serpentine shape, or meander shape,  or  Zig-Zag.  It shows up alphabetically and numerically as the “S,Z,2,5, and the sideways N”.  If you wish to know more about the Greco/Egyptian ancient origins of this fundamental shape and, how we can trace its birth as a meandering river,  the fertilizing serpent in the garden of Eden, or the Egyptian Cobra pictorgraph then, I refer you to Simon Schama’s excellent book “Landscape and Memory”.  Here, I offer you an example of  the  “S”  to draw our attention into a picture. As you see, I initially painted this scene without a strong  “S” reference.  I later introduced a more pronounced “S” with flat graduated blue color.  The blue color is an ancient reference to ideas of sky(air) and water as two  of the four elements.  For Renaissance painters like DaVinci the four elements were earth(yellow to yellow-brown), fire(red), water(green) and the air(blue). The reflecting water gave me the sky. The painting is an acrylic on aluminum.

  1. Carmen Bowser

    I learned all about that “S” from Mr. David Dunlop himself during his lecture at the Met. Amazing how it opened my eyes. I’ve noticed it a zillion times since then and have even educated a few on the topic. Thanks, David!

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