The Elastic Triangle Encounters a Common Fate

posted in: Painting | 1

In Thalma Lobel’s new book, Sensation, The New Science of Physical Intelligence, she considers how our sense of touch  influences our  unconscious behavior.  Hold something warm and you will be more amenable to the suggestions of others. Historically heat has taken symbolic forms as well. As fire it is represented by color red, the 2 dimensional triangle and the 3 dimensional pyramid.  Heat is counterbalanced by cold.  Red is complimented by blue-green. From Da Vinci to Turner to artists today, they appreciated the unifying effect of a triangle with a hot/cold color contrasts.  My first example offers  a watercolor by Turner of the Armory in Venice. A strong “V” or inverted triangle  characterizes his design. He also applied the hot/cool color contrast.

example 1. Turner’s watercolor. may14,19,Venice,The Arsenal, Rio Di San Daniele, watercolor, 1840

The triangle may be foreshortened, elastically stretched and distorted but, it’s form remains discernible with or without the hot/cold color contrast. In example 2 I have replaced the orange-red walls of Turner’s armory with misty blue-green river banks. A congregation of small triangles direct the movement of the painting back toward the light. These meandering triangles demonstrate a design condition described by Gestalt psychologists as having a “common fate”.   Common Fate can be described as any group of  symbols or forms sharing in the same general direction or orientation. If you re-examine Turner’s watercolor you will find evidence of common fate design features even though Turner could not have known of the Gestalt psychologists who followed him by more than half a century.  Designers today use all of the Gestalt psychology design observations like, proximity, similarity, closure, and figure-ground.  In example 3 I return to Turner’s hot-cold palette and I use a design similar to his.

example 2.  misty blue, may14,19,water, blue fog, oil on aluminum,36x36

example 3. Hot and Cold in the City,May14,19,City,Times Square Cab Fare, oil on anodized aluminum,48x48_edited-2

The vertical orientation of the shapes in example 4  demonstrates the sense of unitary motion that the principle “Common Fate” can offer. Look at the collective shape of the figures and you may discern a vague triangle ascending toward the yellow distant light. Here is an elastic triangle roughly pieced together by vague figurative shapes. Example 4a. shows a photograph of  attenuated columns and figures using both the common fate principle and a red-to-blue triangle.

example 4. columns of light,may14,19,columns of light and us, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36

example 4a. photograph,may14,19,common fate,simlarity,grouping, simplicitymet museum2

As I explored old farm fields and ponds I discovered hints of triangles ripe for photo picking. Example 5 presents a shallow pool wending it’s distorted triangular way toward a distant meadow. Example 6 is the first step toward a loose painting. Example 7 is the second step. Example 8 represents the current status of the painting. Example 9 shows a more distilled and abstracted painting of the same subject. Here the brush strokes contribute to the design principle of  “common fate.”   In this last example the triangle is severely foreshortened as the watery foreground  which points the viewer into the scene.

example 5. photograph,may14,19,randalls farm may9b_edited-3

example 6. step one of first painting.may14,19, forest, randalls pond in may II,step1

example 7. step two of first painting.may14,19, forest, randalls pond in may II, step 2,24x24_edited-1

example 8. Current status of  first painting,may14,19, forest, randalls pond in may II, 24x24_edited-1

example 9. abstracted version with more obvious triangle and common fate design elements.may14,19, forest, randalls pond in may I, 24x24_edited-1


One Response

  1. Fredric Neuwirth

    Example #9 is an amazing synthesis of the original photograph.

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