Turn Up The Noise

posted in: Painting | 7

You are in a popular and loud restaurant with an exuberant bar crowd and  Bose speakers situated on the ceiling above your table. You lean forward to pick out the gist of  a conversation. You employ all your senses, lip reading, anticipating words in the conversation, cupping your ears. The conversation becomes more valuable as you expend more effort.  Paintings can offer a similar experience.

With anticipation and focus you can glean a sense of the painting’s direction, content, and effect.  But with a painting, instead of leaning forward across the table you step back away from the subject.  To penetrate a picture’s interfering noise and discover its unified content we need to step back to see the entirety of a painting. Almost always we first encounter a painting from a distance across a room at  10 or 20 feet. We  don’t close our eyes and wait to open them until we are within a foot or two of a painting. We discover paintings at a distance and see them through interfering visual noise. Impressionists realized this.  Before Impressionists, visitors to galleries assessed a painting by examining it with a magnifying glass.  Impressionists asked the audience to step back and let the visual noise amalgamate into visual coherence.  Opposite colors in  patches created a visual hum when viewed from 10 or more 20 feet.  Small patches neutralized each other.

Here’s an example of this phenomena by Monet (example a.)june14,16,monet,spring blossoms 1878_edited-1

Impressionists were not the first to realize how a viewer amalgamates the brushwork into believable content. DaVinci understood the obscuring effects of s’fumato and Rembrandt tugged on the sleeves of studio visitors pulling them back to have a longer view of his work.  if visitors got too close he knew they would only see the brushstrokes and not the illusion.

I have added interfering noise to thicken the atmosphere and  have the viewer puzzle out the image through the rain of noise. I have not gone far enough with my application noise. But, I want you to see how I  proceeded with my experiments and demonstrate how much more engaging the texture and visual experience of the painting is when the noise is turned up. Turning up the interfering noise also obliges me to further simplify the image and  the design.  Contrary to your immediate reflex, adding confusion can enrich and clarify the effect.  An entertaining set of  guesses can more easily be made out of an ambiguous visual field than a one governed by sharp edged clarity.  More space, motion, and vitality  live beneath a veil of noise than with a set of clearly enumerated and outlined shapes. The ambiguity offered by a curtain of noise increases the range of possible interpretations. Noise increases participation just as leaning across the table in a boisterous restaurant.

In my first example observe that the image begins without the blanket of noise and in example 2 observe how adding noise creates a sensation of  a more layered and  textured space. The painting’s noise is not just created by adding more marks, it is also generated by blending and obscuring edges (by adding obscuring atmosphere or soft noise) to the territory at the back (top) of the image.

example 1. Early state without much noise(oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum)june14,16,water, randalls pond in luminance, step one,oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-3

example 2. Added noise (both articulated and blended)june14,16,water, randalls pond in luminance, oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-3

In the transition from example 3 to example 4  notice the additional noise created an illusion of greater distance by adding  light shapes to  the dark curtain at the top of the painting. The confusing blanket of marks added surface texture and dimension to the forward area (bottom) of the painting.

example 3, before adding noisejune14,16,water, randalls farm pond, step one,oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-4

example 4. after adding noisejune14,16,water, randalls farm pond, step two,oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-4

The noise can come in the form of added color or added color relationships. In example 5 the painting appears ambiguous but the color field has a monotonous and therefore quiet effect.  In example 6 not only are more marks added (while some are subtracted) to the surface but the color harmony has been complicated by the introduction of higher contrast and complementary colors.  These colors generate a more vibrant atmosphere and build a stronger sense of space because of their complementary push/pull effects.

example 5. before  adding color effectsjune14,16, water,reeds and reflections, step one

example 6. after amplified complementary color effects.june14,16, water,reeds and reflections, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36

My final examples show two different directions for useful pictorial noise.  Example 7 presents a case for varieties of texture imitating some aspects of  3d materials such as curving long and stringy shapes overlaying short flat rounded shapes. Example 8 presents another variety of textures that are more tool-constrained. The range of marks here are limited to those of a 6 inch squeegee. Orientation, pressure, and dimension determine the vocabulary of marks here.

example 7. varieties of texture from a fingernail, brushes and squeegeesjune14,16,water, Receding Sun Over Marsh, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-1

example 8. almost exclusively squeegees in oil on a surface of brushed gold anodized aluminum.june14,16, water, randalls farm pond in blue and gold, 24x24



7 Responses

  1. I would like to know where you can purchase the anodized aluminum
    in silver and gold Please???

    • please advise where I can purchase the anodized aluminum in silver and gold I would love to try this medium…thanks in advanced for your response.

      • David Dunlop

        I use Hart Supply in Hingham, Massachusetts. If you live in New England they are the wholesale distributor. Tell them you would like to order what David Dunlop uses. It comes in 8x9ft sheets but, they will cut it for you. You must pay for the cuts as well as the sheet. If you live outside of New England then you need to find the Alcan distributor for DiBond Anodized aluminum. I began by googling them.
        You can also use aluminum, copper and steel sheets available from your local hardware store. Best of Luck, David

    • Barbara,
      Depending on where you live and if you have a resale number then you can order dibond and omega bond products directly from a wholesaler. Laminators Inc. in NJ can tell you who is you nearest wholesale distributor. If you do not have a resale number then, I would check with local glass/plastic retailers.

  2. Roger Brown

    Thanks for verbalizing this concept David. I’ve been doing something in watercolor that would seem to follow your line of thinking. I take the watercolor as far as I’m able to with my tube pigments, let it dry, and then get back into it with my Caran d’Ache pencils. This allows for a unified fine tuning of color masses and desired definition. Then, as I’m about to put the work aside, I often place a series of faint white vertical lines though the subject of the painting…ala Degas…and presto, it comes alive! This may not be noise but it certainly is chatter!

    Best Regards,

  3. Paramjeet

    Example 7 is incredible and pulls me in and I feel as if I am wading thru those marshlands ,your work and essays are eye openers for me
    Thank you so much

  4. what brand of paints are you using, I have looked all over
    for some of the names that you mentioned in a later demo
    and can’t seem to find them.
    I have only just started looking and following your blog so appoliges
    if this has been answered before

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