art, fiction, film, animation and thinking…..a bit

New Knowledge

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’.

  1. 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’.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


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