Monday, April 9, 2012

Space: Three Themes

Illusion / Defining Space
"Much of what we think we understand is illusion. For all of us, it is this illusion that is reality. The physical and the perceptual worlds are both different. Yet both are real. Understanding the nature of this paradox and how to use this knowledge provide the key to more effective visual images in all the visual arts."

The act of establishing spatial relationships in a work of art is one aspect of this illusion.

Illustration from The Language Of Visual Art: Perception As a Basis For Design

"The moment so little as a single dot is placed on a piece of paper, a spatial station and a spatial plane are established. The dot is perceptually seen as a "figure" and appears to float slightly above the surface. Therefore, any mark on the surface immediately establishes spatial reference. "

"Artists are limited in every direction by the edges (the physical dimensions of the canvas, paper, or board on which they work. This limitation of the visual field is called the picture plane, but that term does not refer to spatial depth; it establishes boundaries. The boundaries of a picture plane do not limit the expanse of the pictorial field in any way. Our pictures my take in a very broad field of view if a landscape or a quite narrow angle of view if a still life, or it may be transposed into a wholly arbitrary angle of view if a nonobjective work, a layout, or a work of decorative design."

Flattened / Patterned / Decorative Space
"A nonobjective abstract design (pure patternmaking) not only may be an end in itself but also serves as the underlying skeletal structure for any artwork in any form or in any style, including the most naturalistic realism. It always has been. "

"Based on abstract visual components, works possess the elegant pattern of a mathematical formula or a manuscript for a symphony. Thus, inherent in basic abstract organization may be the very character (an unfamiliar language) that may cause a layperson to reject it. At the same time, no representational or naturalistic work possesses much aesthetical worth without excellence in its underlying nonobjective (skeletal organization)"

Turkish Rug

"These canvases, which bring back light to the walls of our modern apartments, which share the charm of Oriental rugs, mosaics and tapestries, are they not decorations too?" – Felix Feneon
"The most beautiful pictures I have ever seen are some Oriental rugs." – Delacroix

Matisse, The Black Fern

Illusionistic / Simulated / Dimensional Space
Devices such as perspective, edge, light and dark contrast and scale are utilized to create a tangible dimensional space. The depth does not have to be naturalistic but the space should follow a logic that is tethered to our visual perception of reality. Figure-Ground relationships as well as foreground, middleground & background arrangements, and the way three-dimensional structure is rendered should relate to the way our eye deciphers the world around us.

Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel Fresco Cycle

Lucian Frued, Naked Man From  Back View

Invented / Abstracted Space
This category is very similar to the one above but it creates, or seeks to create, a wholly new sense of space unlike that which we know in reality. It pursues an illusion but not one that we feel we could readily enter. The structure is extracted from reality and reinterpreted by the artist to create an image with a spatial depth unique to the artifice of it's construction.

Neo Rauch, Heilst├Ątten

Picasso, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard

All quoted sections above are from the book:
- Jack Fredrick Myers, The Language Of Visual Art: Perception As a Basis For Design
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