Friday, March 13, 2009

Getting (maybe) too technical...but I am a nerd, after all

So, my friend Jackie left me a comment a post ago about composition being an important feature in a non-objective painting, that a good composition can "draw you in".

Okay, I'm tossing that around in my brain, and the same question keeps coming back—what would it be about the composition that would bring about a reaction of feeling? What exactly do you mean by composition? Simply the arrangement of elements, or are you considering the elements themselves? Do the colors play a part, and if so, how important are they? How does a set of meaningless forms, with no connotations or denotations of their own, "work"? Or "draw you in"? If the most descriptive thing we can say is "it works", then do we really know why it works, even for us as individuals? Okay, it draws you in. Then what happens?

If you, in making a painting,manage to arrange the lines and forms so that the seer's eyes keep bouncing around in the painting, is that enough to make it interesting? Or is a painting like a box of cookies, where if there aren't any cookies in the box, the box itself ceases to hold any interest. I want paintings I look at to have cookies in them, something that makes me keep wanting to look.

So that's one question I can ask—is composition a cookie? Will a black and white pattern that causes your eyes to focus on some particular point within the confines of the canvas make you feel good?

What about the shapes and lines in the painting? Is there anything there that makes you feel good to look at it? I think the answer to this might be yes. I have fond associations with colored blocks. I don't know if it's because I still like looking at any jumble of primary and secondary colors, or if it's because I really loved playing with colored blocks when I was a baby. I feel like I've always been attracted to color, but I was also really attracted to Lincoln Logs, partly because my parents didn't ever let us get any. We had to get by with cold, colorless erector sets. Well, we had tinker toys too. Boring beige.

Color is definitely a cookie to me. Interesting lines are cookies. To some extent, repetition is a cookie, especially repetition combined with variarion. Three red rectangles is interesting. Three red rectangles and one red circle is a subtle morphological statement.

I'm not like Kandinsky, I don't have synesthesia—I don't see music, or hear colors. But I do feel like patterns in visual objects affect me the same way patterns in music affect me. Maybe those stimuli are just moving chemicals around in my brain in a way that creates a physiological response.

Or does a non-objective painting stimulate your emotions because it fools your brain into thinking you're looking at something else? Does it see a puzzle that it can't solve, and that's what interests it?

I think what I'm trying to do here—besides just arguing—is look for the underlying reasons that exist within us, not within the paintings, why some nonobjective paintings appeal to us and some don't. When you see something that "works", why does it work? Does it remind you of something else that you like? Does it make your mind feel like it's getting a massage? Does it trick your eye somehow? Or am I just responding to the colors, because I looooove that color, or those colors together?

For The Sun-Drenched Afternoon (2 posts ago) I think part of its appeal to me is the sheer randomness of the elements. It seems to de-focus my mind when I look at it, perhaps inducing a more meditative state. Each little element can be taken individually, or I can look at the painting as a whole and feel as if it's much more than two by four feet. It creates an illusion of space in my mind, and that feels comfortable to me.


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