Posts Tagged ‘abstract’

“So, what’s it to you?”

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

It’s fun sometimes to take a good, close look at an everyday object to see beauties we don’t normally take time to appreciate. An open mind, a fresh way of looking at things – these keep me alert and keep the world interesting. How can we get bored when there’s a new discovery to make simply through closer study of what we think we already know?

110805 Eye of the Moon

One day I picked up a moon shell, at first glance round and gray, rather undistinguished and dull. But a closer look drew me into its vortex. There I discovered colors and textures and understated line that cried out to me to paint them.

In trying to categorize my finished painting, “Eye of the Moon” (#110805), no established category seemed to fit. What was it? A still-life? An animal? An abstract? But then, … does the category even matter? It is what it is, and that is open to the viewer’s interpretation. So I’m calling it an abstract, though it is actually merely a loosely rendered depiction of an actual form.

The question is less “What is it?” than “What is it to you?” And that’s part of what art is about – allowing our eyes to see the unexpected and our minds to read the unexpected into what we see.

Push-Pull

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

110302 Ceiling Fan

I recently played with a value study in shades of gray (actually a blend of brown madder and indigo) to capture the push-pull of a white fan against a white ceiling in the dusky half-light of early morning.

What is “push-pull” in art? It is the use of color, value, intensity, and shape to fool the eye into perceiving an object as being farther or nearer than the actual surface on which it is depicted. By extension, we also perceive the object as being farther or nearer than other elements surrounding it.

The artist Hans Hofmann painted in abstracts to explore the concept of push-pull. His idea was that by applying a push-pull technique in non-representational art, visual tension could still be created, providing a sense of depth, movement, and spacial relationships on a flat canvas. He accomplished this through juxtaposition of various colors and shapes, allowing their relationships to provide a satisfying challenge to our senses.

We perceive certain values and intensities of color as being nearer or farther from us in relation to other values and intensities around them. Similarly, because of our life experiences in this multi-dimensional world, we come to perceive one shape as appearing to be in front of or behind another.

Although Hofmann painted in abstracts, the same push-full concept and techniques can be applied to representational work as well, as I have done in “Ceiling Fan” (#110302). My intent in this case was not to explore the push-pull of color or intensity but solely of value.

Next time I’ll show an example of push-pull in a full-color painting.

Approaching the Abstract

Friday, April 1st, 2011

I had intended, this month, to show a painting that digresses from my usual approach. Upon reflection, however, I decided that, because of its radically different character from my usual style, it would be unwise to post it here. Most of my work is figurative; this piece was decidedly abstract. It’s generally not a good move to publicly introduce a radically divergent style to an otherwise consistent body of work.

The photograph upon which it was based was shot in Scotland by Fiona Shearer. She was gracious enough to grant me permission to use it as a painting subject. Instead of posting either the photograph or the abstract painting itself, however, I have chosen to post a figurative interpretation of the scene, entitled “Snowy Dunes” (#110202) and to write about my creative thought process as I reevaluated the scene and “restated” it into the abstract version.

Snowy Dunes

The scene seemed to me to be metaphorical. In order to present the same concept in abstract terms, I elected to simplify and alter the elements in the scene that inspired me, to suit and express my interpretation of the literal image. In other words, to show what the original scene “said” to me.

I conceived, in my mind’s eye, an image of family dynamics. The lowering sky suggested to me a brooding, stormy threat of trouble just beyond the horizon, outside the family unit represented by the land. I saw in the shrub-covered dunes a series of rounded, feminine forms, acting as a defensive barrier stretched between that trouble and the purity and innocence of childhood, as indicated by the unsullied white snow in the lower right. Meanwhile, I recognized in the road, straight and thrusting, arrow-like, into the distance, a dynamic and aggressive image of masculinity, driving into the problem head on, working in partnership with the feminine counterpart to protect the innocent while under-girding and guarding her.

The white of the snow represented to me childhood innocence. In my abstract version, I allowed the white to gradually take on color of the masculine and feminine hues, indicating a growth toward maturity as youth gradually takes on the roles and responsibilities of adulthood. The hue representing femininity reached its greatest intensity where it confronted either threat or the masculine presence. Similarly, the masculine hue, like surges of testosterone, became most intense when juxtaposed with femininity, when challenging the perceived threat, and where reinforcing the protective shield between trouble and innocence. Despite all the parental efforts, a faint reflection of the brooding and troubled sky dimmed some stretches of the unbroken snow. Yet, at the core of both the feminine and masculine forms, remained pristine pockets of child-like innocence.

Every aspect of the painting, including my use of hue, value, hard and soft lines, and juxtaposition of colors and values, has a meaning to me. Yet another viewer might read something entirely different into it. Part of the pleasure and delight of abstract art is its enigmatic character: It is left open to the viewer’s interpretation. Any other explanations, whether or not it coincides with my own, could be legitimate and correct. Abstraction allows the viewer’s imagination free rein, and, because it is based on individual interpretation, no response is wrong. In the same way, I will leave to your imagination my painted, abstract interpretation.

Why not try one of your own?