It's Monday morning, and I'll return to Rudolf Arnheim's book, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Before I do, however, I must place this in perspective. The reason I've dedicated this blog to a more scholarly analysis of art is because I need to improve my ability to plan, execute, and critique my own work. By explaining what I learn to you, and receiving your ideas in return, I gain greater understanding. However, this academic approach must be balanced by the artist's intuition in order for the work to become meaningful and unique. There must be an infusion of the heart and soul of the artist in the painting as well. In a much earlier blog I mentioned that Ben Shahn encourages the artist to draw from the totality of experiences, culture, and nature of who he/she is when creating a work of art. That being said, I'll venture back over to the academic side.
Chapter 1 was all about balance. In it, Arnheim identified the perceptual forces, why an artist should strive for balance in a painting, the effects of weight and direction, and many other things that I discussed in earlier blogs. Chapter 2 is all about shape. I'll share only a couple of thoughts about this chapter (you'll be pleased to know that I won't include his lengthy discussion on physiology and psychology!).
What is shape? According to Arnehim, the physical shape of an object is determined by its boundaries. That's a fine definition if you're just looking at an isolated object. But, he adds, there's also perceptual shape, where one perceives an object within the context of a given space, or in relation to other objects, or in a specific orientation. When the shape isn't isolated, we perceive it differently as it relates to its surroundings. As artists, we consider perceptual shape all the time as we compose. We arrange objects or forms to create an effect that we want the viewer to perceive. We are illusionists. For instance, I realize that I can paint an eggshell by itself, but if I break it and place those fragments within a large number of other fragments, the individual fragment is lost and becomes part of a larger whole. The perceived shape of that individual fragment is completely changed. The two images I attached to this blog illustrate that. The fragments on the right appear in the larger painting on the left. Our perception of the shape of those fragments is altered when they're placed in a larger arrangement of fragments.
This seems like a simple point to make, but it can become very complex. I'll write about that next time :)