Posts Tagged ‘aesthetics


the modern century (art* & plant)

vlaminck, dufy, derain, braque, van gogh, cezanne, lautrec, gauguin, caillebotte, matisse, picasso, leger,

greizes, duchamp, gris, lohse (manet, courbet, david, ingres), turner, delacroix, millet, chirico, savinio (apollinaire, breton and romantics, fauves, post-impressionists, cubism, dada, surrealism, expressionism, futurism, abstract-expressionism, pattern & decoration, conceptual, realists, symbolism, revolution, salon des refusés, african tribal masks, and ukiyo-e)

de stijl, bauhaus, the armory show, moreau, redon, ensor, seurat, rousseau, goya, degas, pissarro, sisley, bonnard, vuillard, vallotton, maillol, rodin, mucha, klimt, beardsley, schiele, kokoschka, munch, nolde, kandinsky, marc, delaunay (robert & sonia), chagall, malevich, goncharova, brancusi, arp, picabia, ernst, schwitters, modigiliani, soutine, beckman, dix, grosz, davis, dove, hartley, o’keefe, moholy-nagy, rodchenko, masson, miro, klee, albers, calder, giacometti, lachaise, moore, and gonzalez.

and on and on and on, etc. and so forth; you get the idea. in the meantime, the century plant marks time one leaf at a time.

*western, caucasian, male (for the most part), and dead.


clouds over the ocean (a challenge)


how often can you write about the clouds, the sunrise, the canyon, the bluffs, the palms, the pacific ocean?  when do you think  you’ve said, you’ve written, you’ve photographed these same things enough?

you’re not expecting me to answer those questions, are you?

aren’t these photographs enough proof for you that there is no limit to the variations, the subtleties, the grand gestures nature provides us each and every day?  do you not see beauty everyday?

i challenge you to prove me wrong.  tell me of the day you did not encounter one beautiful thing, moment, animal, word, thought, deed, action, heartbeat, kiss, look.


thoughts on composition (& other structures)

when you study the meaning of composition in a course on art & how it is made, you are instructed to look for lines, shapes, colors, the rule of three (and the rule of odds), the golden mean, horizon lines & how they are arranged; the organization but not the subject.  it seems to me to be so calculated as if there were some secret handshake amongst artists  (an evil cabal) that only they know about.  & perhaps that is true in a way; artists do inhabit a world separate from other people (when i use the word ‘artist’ i mean those with something to say–although as you may know from reading this blog, i do support beauty for its own sake, but beauty for its own sake is a calculated risk as opposed to art that actually confronts your own preconceived notions of whatever emotion or intellectual topic may be displayed before you, making you dig deeper, explore further, contemplate the differences between what you are looking at & what you are feeling.)

in a discussion about composition you must also consider chance.  the photo that i took yesterday at the flea market with the camera in my cell phone surprised me with its perfect design; together in shapes (parasol, hips, heads, tents,) lines, colors (that orange sherbet!), & contrast (cold blues, whites & hot orange.)

the shadow lines in the lower left force the perspective along with the movement of the three figures in the fore-to-mid-ground, but the photo’s composition was done on the fly with a tiny screen & while i was in motion walking behind them.   i have not enhanced or manipulated the photo in any way it just came together surprising me with its perfection (to my eye, of course, you may be looking at it & saying “robert, it’s out of focus, & you can’t see the subject’s faces & what does it mean?”)

but i look at it & think about the random quality of life, how sometimes it comes together in unexpected ways that are beautiful & unusual & breath-taking & how those moments completely surprise you later when you’ve a moment to reflect on the chances that life presents you, but only if you’re looking (how aware of you are of your environment.)  it’s something each of us has inside of us if we’ll only pay attention to its siren call.

& isn’t that the key to composition?  taking a chance & being aware of what it is you’re doing?    seeing & being–open your heart & open your mind.   (too ‘new-age’ for you?  trust me, it’s all true.)  let your emotions & your intellect have a conversation & composition (the actual structure of life) will come to you when you least expect it.    artists know this & you do too, if you’ll let it be.


driven to abstraction

if i could pinpoint a date when i fell in love with abstract art, i would hazard a guess that it was the spring of 1973 when i was in chicago auditioning for the goodman school of drama.  i’ve written before about that trip & my love for the painter, Clyfford Still, elsewhere in this blog, but to limit my emotional attachment to only one abstract expressionist/color field painter would be unfair when there are so many powerful painters from that period, so i won’t, nor will i mention any other names such as motherwell, rothko, frankenthaler, hoffman, louis, kline, & smith (david, the sculptor whose work brings the concepts, the arguments for abstraction to 3-dimensions.)

what set me on this discussion was the discovery of these photos i took of san clemente island off the coast of southern california in january & which i had forgotten about until a photo contest recently encouraged me to look into my archives for appropriate material to submit.

i think what struck me then about these images & which i may have commented on in other social networks at the time, was how they referenced color field painting, frankenthaler comes to mind immediately, followed by pousette-dart perhaps.  the clear fields of delineated color washed & saturating the substrate, perhaps with a bit more shine than the painters who eschewed gloss & preferred unprimed canvas on which to paint, but with much the same intent.

(please note: i do not consider myself on a par or as an equal of any of the aforementioned artists, i am only using my imagery as a jumping off point for discussion.)

why do we respond to abstract art?  what about it triggers that appreciative button?  it is guttural, gestural, emotive, evocative, & punishingly direct.  it can push you, shove you, force you to face your subconscious, & at the same time be sublimely beautiful, peaceful, playful & brilliantly simple.

it’s said that we humans like landscape paintings more than any other style of painting, particularly landscapes that place the viewer in a vantage point where they may survey their domain (the fight or flee position, as basic to human nature as walking upright.  that defensible vantage point, elevated above the landscape below.)

i believe that may be true too of the work of the abstract expressionists.  they are presenting our primal being from a vantage point of placing the viewer directly in the picture plane, compelling us to explore ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions, our motives as humans much as we would the land before us were we viewing a landscape.

of course, we may not exclude beauty from this discussion.   just pretty may be as compelling as emotive expression, drawing the viewer closer; that personal reflection, a mirror turned toward our own hearts/souls/consciousness as subtle & intriguing & captivating as one can hope to find.

but where landscape may comfort & ease our fears, instilling a sense of calm/peace/joy, i believe that abstract expressionism just may lead us that much deeper into our inner lives (the one we keep from view out of diplomacy & ease of social interaction, because if people really knew…besides our therapists, it would be a fright, wouldn’t it?)

of course, you shake your head “no, not me. i have no inner life that i would not share with you,” but when you allow yourself the freedom to truly look inside the work of many of the artists i mentioned earlier, you may find yourself delving deeper into your psyche than you may have thought possible (or were willing to allow yourself the luxury of that close of an inspection.)  to me that’s the beautiful part of this genre.  the brilliant, subtle way they get inside you & make you feel alive.


the line of beauty (via hogarth)

The Line of Beauty is a term and theory in Art or Aesthetics used to describe a serpentine line (that S-shape) that appears within an object or as the boundary line in a work of art or even the boundary line of several compositional forms within a single work of art.  This theory originated with the 18th century  English artist & satirist, William Hogarth.  His treatise, Analysis of Beauty (1753) discusses the particular effects this form has on the viewer; it excites the attention of the viewer through its liveliness & vitality.   Of course, the Line of Beauty is not a dominant line in the work of art, but part of a series of lines all forming the composition.

Hogarth explains his theory through six principles:

1.  Fitness:  It is not the source of beauty, but could be considered the cause of beauty.

2. Variety:  the source of beauty.  Our eyes grow weary from a lack of variety and we are offended by sameness.  However, it is this sameness that we seek out in variety for respite and relief, a resting place before continuing our journey of discovery of beauty.

3.  Regularity:  variety must have compostional factors that are an inherent part of fitness.

4.  Simplicity: the helpmate of regularity.  Simplicity enhances the pleasure of variety by being pleasing to the eye.

5.  Intricacy:  the pursuit of beauty is its own reward.   The eye’s journey is closely followed by that of the “Mind’s Eye”, a singular glowing line that softly illuminates what our physical eye is perceiving.  It is this intricate relationship that adds its substance to the notion of the line of beauty.

6.  Quantity:  the sublimity of greatness, although excessive quantity can lead to the absurd, the measure of beauty is in its sublime nature.


the golden mean & the physics of aesthetics

this is a subject of which i know nothing.  but it is a subject of which i feel inherently able to comment upon as its very basic essence seems one of which i am genetically predisposed.

the golden ratio/golden rectangle informed the art, architecture of ancient greece & was, allegedly, discovered by our favorite math wizard, pythagoras.   although some claim that the golden mean (phi) confirms a basic aesthetic proportion, others feel that there are too many of these ratios to accurately state that one is more ‘golden’ than the next.

although one can find the golden ratio/mean/rectangle/triangle/pentagram/isoceles triangle in much art of pre-history and again in renaissance art, it’s not until the 20th century that it (for itself) becomes a prominent dialectic in artistic circles.

we may also speculate on the neurophysiological basis behind the sense that the golden mean is a pleasant proportion.  of course, it’s a pleasant proportion & we know that these certain proportions create feelings (little synapses of pleasure coursing through your nervous system & sparking in your brain pan, all *POW* *WOW* *ZAP* *KERPOW*!)

A golden rectangle is one whose side lengths are in the golden ratio, 1: \varphi \, (one-to-phi), that is, 1 : \tfrac{1 + \sqrt{5}}{2} or approximately 1:1.618.  (via wikipedia) & may be easily constructed by following these guidelines.

A golden rectangle can be constructed with only straightedge and combass by this technique:

  1. Construct a simple square
  2. Draw a line from the midpoint of one side of the square to an opposite corner
  3. Use that line as the radius to draw an arc that defines the height of the rectangle
  4. Complete the golden rectangle

for me, though, the golden mean & the physics of aesthetics should be a given.  they say the golden mean does not occur in nature, which seems likely considering the chaotic nonchalance of the natural world (all that striving for dominance, evolution et al.)  but artists (& here i mean ALL artists; musicians, writers, painters, sculptors, CREATORS of art,) the great ones at least, utilize the golden mean, ratio, rectangle, triangle in much of what they do (it might be argued that the abstract expressionists did not and that photographers impose the golden mean upon their compositions.)

the next time you’re at a museum, or an art gallery, take a moment to consider the composition & the artist’s way with the structure of his subject matter, let it be the way, the path to discovering its pleasures, its theme, its beauty.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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