Cutting the Light

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Sequencing empty or negative shapes can be used to create space and rhythms such as a circling pattern around an ancient Greek bowl.  2500 years ago Greek artists appreciated defining forms with negative and positive shapes.  When the artist arranged figures in a frieze around a bowl their designs paid equal attention to the mutually defining dark and light shapes.  The interstitial dark shapes defined the light figures just as the figures defined the dark space between them. This same attention to interdependent negative-positive shapes was also given to the decorative banding. (example 1)

Example 1.  Greek volute-krater, 450 BCE,

Chinese artists in porcelain or paint similarly built their shapes from mutually defining negative/positive shapes. In example 2 you see a Qing dynasty bowl from the mid 1700s.  Observe the leaf, limb and fruit shapes appear to float above a field of white.  The white shapes define, unify and stage the natural components. Notice the twisting and turning limbs and leaves.  I use these qualities in my following examples.

An antique Japanese dragon-tree also demonstrates another model for twisting dragon-like tree forms (example 3).

Example 2. Chinese, Qing Dynasty Vase, 1700s,

Example 3. Japanese, wall screen, dragon tree,

As I walked into cold winter’s piney woods I recognized forms from historic Chinese and Japanese works.  My first painted example borrows the light background shapes from the Chinese vase as well as dragon-shapes for my tree limbs. I use these sources in both of my painted examples.

Examples 4 presents light interstitial shapes to create a luminous background. I carved these light shapes out of the paint with a squeegee, paper towels, and flat wash brushes.  The two trees use vanishing points set at the top of the picture to exaggerate a feeling of foreshortening.  I use strong complementary colors to infer strong, lateral afternoon sunlight.

Example 4.  Waving Pines, oil on brushed silver enameled aluminum,
present state,

Examples 5, 6 and 7, present the sequential development of an image of tangled pines in February’s afternoon light.  Example 5 shows the blocking-in of the initial colors on white enameled laminated aluminum.  Example 6 presents an interim stage which demonstrates how I find patterns of serpentine limbs. I used paper towels wrapped around my fingers (and finger nail) and flat water color wash brushes to excise and apply the paint in sinewy forms.

Example 5. Step one, Tangled Pines,

Example 6. Step two, Tangled Pines,

Example 7. Step three. Tangled Pines present state.

I invite you to join me on Sunday March 5th, 2017 for a lecture on Color: Its Meanings and Uses across Time and Cultures at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, Ct. 203 966 6668 ext2.

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