This is dangerous territory because I know only enough to get me into trouble and show my overall ignorance. But I’m goin’ there anyway to further explore this idea of “visual language”.
If sensitive to it we create with our own innate visual vocabulary. Art that resonates stems from this unique expression. Awareness and respect of our sensibilities reveals what that might be for each of us. But much like trying to get all the little balls to fall into the holes in those crackerjack games, trying too hard can be frustrating and the resulting artwork is liable to become forced and contrived. That’s why some understanding of composition in varying ways cans facilitate the painting process.
Stay with me—it may get overly complicated as I try to share this idea in a simplified format, but I think there is method here.
The theory of the German concept of Gestalt in visual perception is concerned with the principles of organization. (The word roughly translates to “whole”) The theory states that, as humans, we have interpreting mechanisms in order to understand our visual world. The structure of the whole communicates apart from of the actual imagery. We “read” an image of mother and child as the grouping of two circles of different sizes, close together, a triangle base, surrounded by additional rectangles and lines, etc. It is the relationship between the parts of a composition that determines how well it hangs together for the viewer.
The “laws” of Gestalt are: closure, continuance, similarity, proximity, alignment. (Google if you are interested in more info. An edu site by a guy named Jim Saw is particularly helpful: http://daphne.palomar.edu/design/gestalt.html )
Wassily Kandinsky in his book “Finding the Spiritual in Art” then theorized that line, shape, proportion and color convey meaning without the use of words or pictorial representation.
With our composition exercises last week we were practicing finding our voice in the context of the whole conversation with another. The lines, shapes, forms and colors we used convey meaning and their organization helps the viewer understand what we’re trying to say.
Like I said, it can be overly complex so just re-read and let the ideas roll over you. Stay open even if it seems confusing, it will seep in if you need it.
Just pay attention to your repeated choices as you respond to what has gone before. Notice what you notice. Respect those choices as you experiment with the most effective way to organize the visual elements. As Martha Graham said there is only one of you for all time. So your most important job is to be open and aware to the urge that motivates you—“keep the channel open”.
We had so much fun last week, we are going to repeat the process with new partners and new themes. Feel free to bring your own theme to start your piece.