Thursday, November 12, 2009
Why should artists strive for balance?
This is an important question that Arnheim poses in the first chapter of his book Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. I'll paraphrase his answer. One reason is that by stabilizing the relations between the various aspects of a painting, the artist creates a work of art that is unambiguous. Ambiguity confuses the artistic statement because it leaves the observer hovering between two or more assertions that do not add up to a whole. But, Arnheim provides an additional answer, which involves our psychological make-up. He states that man strives for equilibrium in all phases of his physical and mental existence, and that this same tendency can be observed not only in all organic life, but also in physical systems. From there he ventures into a wonderful discussion on the principle of entropy and the universe. However, this is not the final point. On page 410 of his book, Arnheim introduces "dynamics," the counter-principle to balance. Although I haven't yet fully digested that principle, I can tell you that there must exist a tension between the elements on the painting that the artist must balance. I prefer to see it as a dynamic equilibrium. Take a look at my wine painting at the upper left. There's a lot of tension and interplay between the shapes, hues, etc. That's tension. I had to balance those tensions by considering the weight of each element (discussed on the blog two days ago). I think it's balanced pretty well, but I suppose I could do better. It's all about experimenting and having fun with it. Like a "mad scientist" in her lab at midnight howling at the moon! Now, there's and idea for a painting :)