Monday, May 18, 2015

Texture Draws the Eye

Texture is a particularly interesting art element because it can manifest in so many ways.

For example, art can bring us texture as pure illusion.

Many painting and drawing mediums allow artists to render textures with astonishing clarity and realism.  For centuries still life paintings were designed expressly to demonstrate an artist's skill in representing various textures.
And it's fun to do - the closer you look, the more you see. It can be kind of addictive!

Pieter Claesz (1597-1660)   'Still Life with Musical Instrument's

In this collection of carefully observed objects, my hands-down favorite is silver platter and the loaf of bread. I think the artist favored it too, placing it dead center in the composition.
Those crusty slices of bread contrast gorgeously against the cool, mirror-like surface of the platter.

These wonderfully slippery looking fish by Jacob Gillig are so realistic that I can almost smell them!

Jacob Gillig (1636-1701)     'Freshwater Fish'

And these flowers look even more fragile situated on that hard marble surface.

Willem van Aelst (1627-1683)        'Flower Still Life'

Simualted textures can add a great deal to our appreciation and understanding of a subject.

 But in addition to illusion, there is another way in which a painter can use texture.
This is by creating actual texture.

 If we were allowed to touch the surface of this painting by Van Gogh with our eyes closed, our fingers would read the textural changes from flower to flower.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)   'Sunflowers'

Creating actual texture with paint is called impasto.
Notice the how selectively the texture has been applied against a relatively smooth background. These flowers seem to press against the restraints of the canvas as if to escape the confines of two dimensions!

This work is less realistic than the fish painting, less like a photograph, but very obviously the result of close observation of a specific vase of sunflowers.
 Van Gogh is inviting us to experience these sunflowers in a different way from the classical compositions of earlier generations.

A third way that artists employ texture is by adding materials other than paint to their canvas or board.
This type of actual texture is called collage.

Suzanne Oldham                                                                          "Bouquet' 

This is collage of recycled papers.
Inspired by my garden, I wanted to capture the exuberant energy of new growth.
 The raw, torn edges of the paper and their various unexpected surface textures feels very immediate to me. There is an untamed quality - just the thing for my untamed garden!

Examining how and why an artist uses texture is a fascinating way to approach a piece of art.

Have you ever found yourself  intrigued by an illusion or a surface before even considering the theme or subject?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mysteries of Painting: Can a Painting have Rhythm?

Sometimes what draws me to an interesting work of art isn't the color, or the subject, but the way it's been organized.
It's beat. The way it moves.

This painting by Duchamp flows across the canvas.  
How did he capture this sensation?

Marcel Duchamp - "Nude Descending a Staircase (No2)", 1912

Duchamp created a repetition of shapes and lines, and our eyes read this as movement. 
His painting reminds me of the way waves move with their own rhythm. 

Watching how water moves is one way to consider the difference between rhythm and pattern.  Like pattern, rhythm is the result of repetition.

But pattern stands still.

Rhythm is all about movement.

Paul Signac, Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890
Thinking of rhythm versus pattern, I visualize two dancers, each demonstrating a simple box step. The beginner moves his feet in the classic pattern over and over again. Unconnected to the music, he is making a pattern in place. 

The experienced dancer takes those same steps, marries them to the music, and moves around the dance floor, creating something entirely different from those box steps.

Rhythm in painting can be understood in the same way.
It's when pattern wakes up and starts going somewhere.

I really admire this painting by Jose Clemente Orozco.
 It's a masterful use of rhythm.

 Painted in 1931 it's titled Zapatistas.  
The repeating forms move strongly, unstoppably forward. 
 I think it's brilliant because Orozco has organized this work in way that supports the painting's story and its composition!

Do you have any favorites where its all about the rhythm?