My awareness of edges as spatial element was triggered by a recent encounter with Irina Nakhova and her ‘Real Freedom in Your Apartment’, on display at Tate. The space of her apartment painting across the edges of floor and wall in black and white, and using grey for some edges that strongly convey a sense of a concrete open wall.
After the previous exercise with observational sketches and paintings of my unfolded object-box, I was excited to see what this collage cut-out practice would give me. I had the impression it could be fun to do.
My object-box – a cut out collage
Prepared with gouache paint on single paper (colors mixed from observation, local colors of main objects), I cut out and teared off shapes of the various objects unfolded on my object-box. I was pondering the scale, the edges, and the perspective of the shape. It could end up into endless possibilities. I decided to make it simple and just look straight with a slight oblique angle on my object-box and take those shapes that appear visually (one point perspective, nothing in between or around or from top or below – Fig.1). I took the mental note that those aspects might certainly be important in my way forward and future works.
Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – Ex2.2 – cutout – collage
From this ‘new’ work-table and inspired my some intriguing ‘scenes’ explored in the previous exercise, I decided to go for three different close up sceneries (#1 yellow, #2 green, #3 blue). Mapping the process of three exercises in my sketchbook (A3 – Fig. 2)
Fig. 2: Stefan513593 – Part 2 – developing still-life – from Ex. 2.0 collect – Ex. 2.1 observe – to Ex 2.2 collage / perspective
I came across the following quote of Frank Stella (Wetterling Gallery) and was careful considering my reponse and approach to edges (objects, ground)
“If you were to be able to follow an edge and follow it through quickly, you’d get that sense of rhythm and movement that you get in music” – Frank Stella
Using a rather squarish brown painted paper as my ‘work-table’ (color from the box, format as results of cutting of some stripes from a A2 paper for further use). I started with trying to capture scene #1 through my cutout shapes aka objects, and felt a but overwhelmed in making all in once sense out of it (Fig. 3 – four variations of a still-life). I was not satisfied with how I response, nor how I arrange things. I felt quite dependent on my unfolded object-box aside of me. I wanted to be more free and more responsive to what appears in front of me – on the paper with the shapes. Overall, it was for an action of mapping, as to map items, to lay out, to arrange.
Fig. 3: Stefan513593 – Ex2.2 – cutout – scene#1 – step1
Therefore, I decided to start with a pretty formal approach to add one shape after another and see how I response to the arrangement, to change it and after I was satisfied to add the next shape. This was quite a enduring process, especially as I took for each step one photo.
Eventually, it came to my mind that my doing was in itself a process approach of composition, arrangement and organisation based on visual information in front of me as well as my emotional and cognitive process. I became aware of multiple steps, layers during the proces until I found the arrangement somewhat ‘finished’ . It reminded me once again of my structural constellation work, that Matthias Varga von Kibéd described as a ‘transverbal language’, with a syntax similar to written language. He referred to Ludwig Wittgenstein (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) and his analysis of form and structure in relationship to the ‘Form der Abbildung’ (depiction) and ‘Form der Darstellung’ (representation). For me, my process of mapping and arranging as a gesture resembles that conception, as if I would speak to the world through objects (color, and shapes). And this becomes very personal to me, as I started to speak late, at the age of primary school. Before that my communication was non-verbal.
Therefor an fascinating aspect to make this place (the squarish brown paper) a place of happening and speaking through pictures. In the reflection afterwards I could discern the following aspects of exploring, arranging and speaking:
- Formal analysis of how one shape relates to the ground and the frame
- Formal analysis of how several shapes relate to each other
- Reflection on what it could mean
- Play and joy as a game
- Narrative through cognitive response to the visual information arranged
- Conscious arrangement of shapes to organise the way I wanted it
- Reflection on my doing and how I felt at times frustrated, excited, purposeful, curious, planned or uncertain
With respect to composition and relationships, I became more aware of the following elements as important in the overall conception and visual reception of my arrangements:
- Edges: cut or teared edges did show very different impressions. Teared edges were more plastic and with more depth.
- Shadows: the shapes and the ground were not completely flat, some light from the top and the side casted shadows that added to the visual reception of the work and the perception of space
- Color: Certain color, e.g. complementary colors do activate the other shape, object more than others
- Overlapping: Overlapping support visual depth and can further help to activate stronger some objects.
- Frame: The edges of the ground, the ‘frame’, can act as a container, a table for the objects. It can also constrain them, keep them framed inside. Exceeding the frame edges supports an opening up and an activation of the surrounding space (in my case the white support plate)
- Perspective: Some objects with different sizes, e.g, the black rectangular shapes, acted as a device for perspective and distance. Smaller objects tend to be seen more distant. Depending on the placement, this could be enforce or contradicted.
- Narrative: Shapes can trigger imagination, e.g. face. If such thing occurs, other objects will be placed into this narrative in order to make further sense
- Meaning: Besides potential narratives depending on recognition, meaning can be created through balanced compositions. Tension between objects, or ‘disharmony’ related to color or shapes or relationship, can confuse or disturb aesthetic appeal.
The entire process took quite some time, especially considering the time it took in taking photographs, manually. Although I could have used a tripod with a remote, I felt an importance and relevance in my physical interaction of arranging, stopping, taken the camera, making a photograph, laying aside the camera, re-arranging and again, again, again. Possibly that this led me towards the idea of moving images, or rather stop-motion, an animation of those single steps in same place, a way of communicating (process, narrative) and documenting as well.
The first scene from the middle part of my object-box table, two bright colors, red an blue alongside black simple shapes, one repetitive in three different sizes.
91 steps of still life arrangement
= a process of arranging and organising, response and feedback (animation). A process driven by curiosity, exploring the unknown, though parts are known from the part (my object-box).
Looking at all images (91 steps arrangement) from a distance and more critical stance re composition and aesthetic appeal, I choose eventually the following three as the for me more successful ones (slider, Fig. 4 – 6 – steps #46, 79, 86).
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#1 - selection 1
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#1 - selection 2
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#1 - selection 3
I apply here what I learned at the fabulous London Study Day in April: to response to a work, here my selective choice, with three words:
perspective, symmetry, interaction
(leaving them as they are)
With a new sensibility to arranging, exploration of space, and non-verbal interaction, I went ahead to repeat it with a the second scene – a bit more focused and with learnings from first round. Intrigued by the quite figurative aspects of the fork and to see how this impacts possible compositions. Additionally, a ‘free’ element (a multiple colored one) – as I would call a unique and differentiating element in ‘structural constellation work’. I was wondering how this would impact visual perception and composition.
58 steps of still life arrangement
= another process of arranging and organising, response and feedback. A process of narrating, at times more guided by representational items, imagined ideas, and mundane human activities rather than by formal compositional aspects.
When looking how to place the multicolored ‘free’ shape, it gave me rather an headache, nothing felt right. the colors too strange from each other, not resonating, disturbing all over the place. Struggling and continuing, I didn’t want to let go either. The smaller oval shaped one with teared edges, seemed to fit better. Playing around till I found something pleasing enough.
I felt somehow released from the narrative’ as I ‘put my fork away’. My narrative took over once more towards the end, with the more funny ending of giving my ‘free’ element the final stage. As before, I made a discerned selection of the more successful arrangements (slider, Fig. 7 – 9 – steps #11, 15, 30).:
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#2 - selection 1
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#2 - selection 2
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#2 - selection 3
In summary of response to my selection:
simplicity, olique, constraint
Finally, I continued with more learned patterns of my exploring and narrating arrangement with a third scene. A combined scene from three different, displaced locations on my object-box (see Fig. 2). A more synthetic. constructed approach, reminding me more of Cubism, especially Synthetic Cubism.
Where would this repetition lead me to? I was intrigued by the black and white pattern and textures, adding the white thread as a connector, or another ‘free’ element? I hoped to get more into a compositional interaction led by colors, textures, patterns, shapes and edges. Less a narrative one, though the stone shape still adding a representational object from my work-table, hard to let go, i.e. to empty my mind with memorized images.
32 steps of still life arrangement
= following another repetition and process of arranging, organising, and responding. Another animated cycle in 32 steps
Here, I felt less constrained by the background frame. Possibly, to do with the number of objects placed, possibly a question of interacting more with the objects in space, than seeing them as objects on a map (as before). Towards the end, I eventually jumped out of the frame and was responding more on what is beyond. Till now, I was focused on the squarish background paper as a frame to be activated and to relate to my actions to. Object not fitting inside the frame or at the edges of the frame where put aside, like the objects in board-games, either used, unused, or to be used. And with a similar view onto it, table work, work-table. This time, I was interacting with those objects, adding some newly made colored squares to activate further, adding color spots, and placing aside, letting the color spot activate the whole table at once. A connection established, a relation made. The frame expanded and made obsolete – potentially. It felt much better, and certainly the way to continue. An opening up of spatial restrictions – still on a flattened table.
My discerned selection of more successful arrangements. (slider, Fig. 10 – 12 – steps #14, 25, 28).:
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#3 - selection 1
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#3 - selection 2
Ex2.2 - Cut-Out Collage - Still life scene#3 - selection 3
Also here my response to my selection:
complex, activation, expansion
Assembling – Mapping – Speaking – Exploring – Narrating – Activating
Compare & Contrast: Sense of Space
How would I compare my own work with the prolific work of Mary Heilmann? (see separate post, a selection of her work on my Pinterest board).
In all collage scenes, I felt as if the background was to dominant less in the third scene though. Mary Heilmann’s painting have less background, or the elements are regularly distributed across the plane. By that there is a sense of harmony and balance in her works. Those works, that are more unbalanced tend to be rather simple, i.e. with only a few but large shapes across the format. In my three collages, especially those that I selected. the shapes are smaller and laying on-top of the background. By that the overall composition seems flatter, however the single shapes in their relationshio do activate the negative space more.
I do not see much of visual depth in the sense of ‘walking into it’, neither in Heilmann’s nor my work (besides Heilmann’s work Surprise, 2012, that explicitly is applying linear perspective to an extreme) Although, I find that the last scene #3 with the more overlapping shapes and less dominant background, a denser and more spatial depth perception is achieved.
Flatness: I found Heilmann’s paintings, not her furniture, surprisingly flat (but havn’t seen any in real life yet). The least flat one are e.g. Yoshimi, 2004, with the rather drawn lines in space, but contrasting with the flatter perception of the more painterly part to the right. I find, that my collages do show more visual depth through a few overlapping shapes, that by the different colors do activate more or less not only the next layer but also the background. Especially, in scene #1 with the three different sizes black rectangles I played with the illusion of visual depth through scale, a learned pattern based in linear perspective.
Overall, I am not so satisfied with the background color, the shape and the role it played in my arrangements. Although, it matched the color of the cardboard box, the dominance in my collage arrangement contradicts my visual perception of my ‘real’ object-box and kept me emotionally more at a distance, i.e. was very much eye focused and less ‘demanding’ other senses.e.g. touch. In that sense my works are closer to Henri Matisse ‘Red Interior’ as described by A.S. Byatt than to Mary Heilmann’s paintings. My approaches to reach beyond the edge of the frame and to establish activating relationship between what is inside and what outside felt more successful. From Heilmann’s works I feel that the work Shadow Cup 2, would go more into the direction I want to move to.
This exercise reminded me strongly of two main aspects:
- structural constellation work (some know theses family constellation boards perhaps
- ‘Le Viseur‘, a visual tools in child care, pedagogy and art therapy programs to train visual understanding, creativity and use of senses. Founded by Gottfried Honegger 2008.
Both aspects of high personal relevance to me, being an art therapist and coach working with constellation work and partly mixing both together.
This placement and arranging of shapes in various colours with attention to scale, color and edges is a quite educational, partly didactic, and possibly to use for workshops or other occasions of social interaction with people.
It very much reminded me of my peer and friend Diana Curley‘s SYP project ‘Movement and Interaction’ in painting (with OCA), cut out irregular shapes, painted either in color or black and white, examples of her work are Biomorphica, ‘Surfing the Waves and especially her left-over box ‘Imagination‘
Afterwards, I made a rather gestural abstract composition as a reflection on Mary Heilmann (see other post) and here.
Having made your own studies, which of the approaches discussed in this exercise can you most relate to? Why? What is their impact on you as the viewer? Do you have a particular intellectual or emotional response?
- Overall, I do feel more and more less inclined to eye focused linear perspective paintings – at least in my own work and practice. They look nice, they appear ‘realistic’, but for me they are missing something. Though, I am not certain what this missing really is or would mean to me. The extension into the viewer’s field and space, e.g. Frank Stella’ artistic development since the 1960s till now show this quite dramatically, sounds more reasonable to me. At the end, i am a very tactile person, I need to touch in orde to make sense. I have to glue and stick images, cut outs on a wall, laying out on the floor etc. to get engaged with the visual information. I need to have the work around me, the, paint, the support. That’s why I had severall floor or walking onto works done in part 1.
- Sense of space: walking into it with an embodied sensations. arranging as constellation work, making sense of relations. Reducing or eliminating background dominance and playing more with interaction of shapes, colors and edges.
- Optical illusion is less fascinating to me, feels more like a facade, an appearance without inner sense and spirit. For me, this addresses more the cognitive function and less the phenomenological experience of space and place.
- The question to me: How figurative or abstract need to space to be in order to overcome optical illusion of representation?
- Scale, edges, and perspective: my cut outs for the play of arrangement of organisation were done with a slight oblique angle on my object-box and how objects appear visually from this one point perspective. At the beginning of this part with my interaction with the folding and packing and transporting the objects in the box, I felt a more intimate relationship beyond a visual voyeuristic view. I couldn’t feel this kind embodied experience in this exercise, possibly due to this way I cut-out the shapes (one point view, flat, visually constrained). Something I will need to reflect on further on my way forward.
- And again – scale: small or large? In my professional practice I act in a room, walking around, moving. Although, I also work with some clients at a table, with a board or piece of paper between or in front of us. But this is more secondary. Would this be relevant to how I work in my art practice?
- Visual language: With reference to my structural constellation work, that is based conceptionally on constructivistic ideas of L. Wittgenstein and others (as described by my mentor Varga von Kibéd), I felt at some time a rather personal connection with non-verbal language (re my non-verbal childhood). Sequences of movement in the same place (background paper) conveys a narrative besides the search for balanced or unbalanced composition and aesthetically ‘pleasing’ results. In that sense, one could see the escape from the constraints of the frame as an expansion in syntax.
- Repetition: once more repetition was a main aspect in my work. Not only three scenes with a similar approach but also through the sequential and cycling approach of arrganging and responding plus the intervention of the camera. Interestingly, the steps diminished significantly from scene to scene: 91 -> 58 -> 32 steps)
- Animation: Animation is stop motion format to present a time based process. I made my moving-images with my camera hold in my hand, post-edited slightly with cropping, but leaving this slightly shifting movement of the ground present. It adds to the ‘hand-made’, my manual interaction, my artists presence. Overall, it felt right. I explored this in earlier parts of this course, with still images as well as with video sequences. Here, I used animation without sound, still, reference to my ‘still’ non-verbal childhood. Certainly, an aspect that I could elaborate much deeper and further. Leading to the question how ‘still’ (double meaning) a painting can be – or should be.
Improvement steps: (and if time would allow me to do so):
- Revisiting my collage items with all shapes and more flexibility on background respectively to revisit background at all. In the sense of the flow of my process through this exercise:
assembling – mapping – speaking – exploring – narrating – activating
- Working with activating relationship between elements across and beyond spatial constraints
- Painting from the collage ‘maquette’ in a more sculptural manner
- Trying to be more in the painting, object and less with a distance to it, like an observer