I am pausing from work and worrying that it is not as hot and sunny as the last few days. I could get used to hot sun and lunch in the garden! It is the time of new starts and reorganisation for the coming academic year. I have been trying to set up a good work life balance this year, well I can always try. I am finishing work at five and then taking the dog for a walk. It is still warm and there is a great smell of autumn in the wood where I walk. I walk and I think and I talk to my mother. This is the time I know I can talk and not be interrupted. Creatively I am doing very little. I seem to be sorting stuff out and getting systems in place. This is my theory. If I start with a structure it will help the year go well and it will all be easier. Now my structure is telling me I have had my break and I need to move on and get back to work. No messing around if I am going to finish by 5!!
I the last two months I have been an external examiner, standards verifier and visitor to art shows. Some for work some for pleasure and some as a parent. There have been great things everywhere, in a classroom in Newton Aycliffe to the degree show at Brighton University. I have been inspired and challenged and also just enjoyed the looking at creativity. A lot of the work tells a story. The story of creativity. How each person searches for an idea and how they are going to express that idea. At the end of my tour I think there are are many journeys taken but very few are creatively different, new, stepping beyond current ideas. And it is developing the artists and thinkers who can create new ideas that we need for the future. However we are so prescribed about the journey that must be taken and the fact that we make all young artists take this journey. What is missing is the being creative. And we need those people who are creative, not just as artists but as engineers and scientists. We need people who can take a step into the wide blue yonder with no visible means of support. Who take risks, who do things differently and perhaps whose project plan, research and evaluation is not as great as the final project. So at the end my conclusion is? That qualifications are a test, with rules and structure, that you have to obey to win. However, creativity is an annoying, challenging, illogical thing and testing does not create creativity only doing it, playing, experimenting, messing about and being different might create the new, the different and the future!
I had an interesting discussion recently about the composition of a page of images on Instagram. This artist is using Instagram as a display for his work photographing images of his work and putting them onto his page. But then as his highly original works are added to his page he was troubled by the layout of images which changed with each upload. On the left hand page, is the area around ‘Paint” too white and therefore distracting and therefore drawing the eye away from other work? It did however work better as an image in the central column rather than being caught on the edges. The image below ‘Paint’ is again cropped, leaving an area of white blank around the image. This works as there is the white area above and the central column now has a white focus. The colours all have a similar dark cool aura, even the orange, red, yellow and green image in the bottom right had uses dark shading matching other hues. There is a unity about this page that can be seen as a whole, a snapshot of snapshots that talks about this artist.
Scroll down and on another page, or stopping point, the image on the right was taken. Here the flow or unity of the page is not as cohesive. The top line is somehow unsatisfactory with the two central spheres giving way to a strange coloured image on the right. This whole page of images works less well than the one on the right and points out this whole new dynamic of the page within the page. We understand that this mobile app will display 12 full images on a page but is this a page? These are only ‘pages’ because I have taken an image of this collection at this moment. Scroll down and the ‘page is different the composition changes and the ‘Unity’ as Fry describes, might exist or might not.
Now the artist adds another problem, he takes a new image! It is like that simple child’s game of a number of small sliding squares set within a larger square, with one square removed so that you can slide the small squares around to create the image or the number pattern. Suddenly the whole pattern changes, the ‘Paint’ in the left hand image moves, the white border is no longer central and the equilibrium is lost.
Does this matter? To the artist displaying his work it did. This is a display board of work, open to everyone and there the place someone might look to check out the work of a new young artist. The compositional unity of each flow of images needed to create an ‘interior unity’. The viewer could not be relied on to stop at the ‘pages’ I have recorded. They would scroll through stopping as the scroll flowed. The artist now works to upload in sets of three. Creating a unity between each line upload has created a control feature over the pattern. The image on the right was given unity by adding another sphere image to the top line, and thus the artist still had some sort of control over the way the images were viewed.
As I search for where or what the new knowledge that my research will discover, will be or is intended to be, I am again looking at my reading about composition. In his book, ‘Art and Visual Perception’, Arnheim describes cutting out a disc of dark card and placing it on a square of white card. Without measuring our eye will see when the dark disc is off centre. Arnheim describes every object as being seen in its own location, the object is not seen in isolation. As he says: in other words, every act of seeing is a visual judgement’. My research is about this ‘visual judgement’, and at what point our visual judgement becomes compositionally ‘correct’, in the eye of the creator. Therefore, I take from this that Arnheim believe we all have this visual judgement.
If we all have visual judgement do some of us have better visual judgement than others? Are those with better judgement the artists?
My research has made me look at Roger Fry, who influenced compositional analysis in Fine art in the 1920’s. This analysis of a static composition has been significant however is this still relevant to composition in a digital arena. Fry wrote ‘Vision and Design’ in 1920 and it also includes his ‘Essay in Aesthetics’ which sets out his theory on composition. Fry uses the term ‘unity’ in painting, this ‘unity’ allows the viewer ‘restful contemplation’. This is a view of art before the artist sought to challenge the viewer. However I believe Fry is seeking something deeper by this term. He is not talking of the images or story of the work but the underlying composition.
In describing unity Fry seeks to set out what are often called ‘Formal Elements’ but what we sometimes define as the, ‘Emotional elements of design’.
- Rhythm of line – as Fry says ‘The drawn line is the record of a gesture, and that gesture is modified by the artists feeling which is thus communicated to us directly’.
- Mass is the second element. ‘The drawing of an object that we can feel as having weight, force or strength’, our imaginative reaction to such an image is governed by our experience of mass in actual life.
- The third element is space, or how objects can be seen within space, such as large buildings or small buttons whilst actually being an image on paper.
- The fourth element is light and shade, and how the dark against the light, can create a different response in the viewer to, light against dark.
- Finally the fifth of Fry’s elements is colour and the emotional response that this creates in the viewer.
What can I take from the Roger Fry reflection, was composition a set of rules or an innate ability. Fry was suggesting ways to read paintings, that artists had skills to do these things; e.g. ‘Look how he placed that object’.
He starts the essay with a quote from someone he calls, ‘an eminent authority’, who says ‘The art of painting, is the art of imitating solid objects upon a flat surface by means of pigment’. Although there can be some debate as to whether there are solid objects in abstract painting, I can see the idea as pigment and flat surface used to imitate an idea. So if I take from Fry, we can read the composition with a set of rules, but the artist has the skill to place the object, how has the artist developed this skill? Here there seems to be an understanding that it is both skills learnt and innate ability that can develop these skills.