The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Content and Form

Thanks to those of you who've joined in my discussion about Ben Shahn's concepts as they are expressed in his book "The Shape of Content." I hope more of you will join in.
I'd like to focus on Shahn's statement that "Form is the visible shape of content." He sees the two as inseparable in a work of art, because form is the "turning of content into a material entity, rendering a content accessible to others, giving it permanence." He sites a number of examples such as the influence of the concept of the Holy Trinity in art by creating triptychs, or figures in threes and the use of other religious symbols, or forms, that reveal a specific content. And, Shahn sees the influence of Freud's ideas on contemporary art, which is directed toward a public conversant with Freud, and so on.
Finally, Shahn sees form as a discipline according to the needs of content, because form follows a logical order:
1) it's based on a theme
2) it requires the marshaling of materials to cast the theme
3) it sets the boundaries of the outer limits of the idea
4) It relates inner shapes to those outer limits creating harmony, and
5) it abolishes excessive content (content outside the limits).
This all ties in to my earlier discussions about decision-making as an artist; about concept development; about creating a work of art that is unique by virtue of the fact that it embodies the artist's unique point of view; about being deliberate. As an artist, what legacy will you leave for the art world?

2 comments:

Terry Rafferty said...

Ben Shahn's book is such a classic. I haven't read it in several years; you've inspired me to get my copy out and re-read it.
Thanks for leaving a comment at my blog - its a joy to discover yours. LOVE the eggshell series - aren't they such fun to paint?

Kathy said...

Terry, I'm so happy this inspired you to re-read Shahn's book. And, thanks for looking at my work - yes it is fun to paint!