Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tackling Transfers

Recently I traveled to the Boston area to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and make new paintings in Rockport, a picturesque coastal town on Cape Ann.

To travel to the museum from Rockport, I rode the T from Rockport to North Station.  At North Station, I had to exit the terminal and walk to an adjacent terminal to take an in-bound train.  There, I needed to purchase a Charlie Card, a credit card with a chip in it that can be “read” by the turnstile card reader.  A cheerful Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Transit worker showed me how to work the machine, figure out what I owed for a senior ticket, and how to use the card.  He guided me, and the other baffled tourists, where and how to hold the card so the light on the turnstile could read the chip, and he cautioned us NEVER to put the card in the slot. 

Then I had to find the Green Line train platform, not the Orange Line, and wait specifically for the E train on the Green Line. 

The transfers necessitated complicated ticket purchases and confusing passages from one system to another.  They took time, but they worked, and the trains got me where I needed to go and deposited me across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts.

In these posts, I have been showing you how to make aesthetic transfers.  Again, not easy, sometimes complicated and confusing, but the tools you learned get you where you need to go.

In the last post, I asked you to look at Table and Flowers, a 2009 painting by Edward L. Loper, Sr.  I showed you how to appreciate the art in it, and I showed you the visual ideas Loper adapted from the traditions to say what he had to say.

When we looked at this picture, we made the first transfer: from what the subject was to what the color says.  Here is the picture again.

Edward L. Loper, Sr., Table and Flowers, Oil on canvas, 2009, Private Collection

We said the subject of this picture was a dining room.  We recognized a central, oval table with objects on its left edge.  We recognized two corners of the room.  The left corner showed a picture window revealing a patio and garden, and the other corner showed a wall with pictures hanging on it. We noticed that the floor on the left tilted up, and we noticed that the tabletop did as well.

First, therefore, we recognized what we knew, the ordinary things in our world.

However, we also knew that all we really saw were colors on a flat surface.  Turning the picture upside down helped us downplay the subject’s seduction and allowed us to concentrate on the color shapes in their flat space.

Areas of color on a flat surface: nothing else is there.

We perceived the relationships that occurred within these color areas and things happened. I made a list of what I discovered, and you did too.
We recognized three dimensionality and the volume-ness of color units that are actually two dimensional.   

We transferred this knowing into the color areas.  We said: oval, tipped, striped color volume, not tabletop.  We said: geometric thrusts of glowing color units, not window, wall, or cabinet.

We first transferred from the category of everyday things (table, chair, window, wall) what all of us easily recognized.  We then ascribed qualities to the color units like structural, glowing volumes, or geometric thrusts in space.  None of these perceptions gave you much trouble, and I easily verified your responses.

Then I showed you what Ed Loper transferred from the traditions.  Again, I did this, you verified it, and we, together, could see what he gave back based on his interest.

In other words, we made transfers.

When I said, “The stripes and bands not only build the table, creating a large, elongated, oval-shaped mass that pushes across the picture like a surfboard,” I transferred my own, personal perception and connection of table to surfboard.  When I said, “The candlestick, bowl of fruit, books, etc., balanced precariously, ‘ride’ the “surfboard,” I did the same thing.

You might have provided different images to communicate what those color shapes did in the picture.  As long as we could verify each-others perceptions, we communicated.

My point: everything we see in a picture results from a transfer of information.  The transfer comes from the world we inhabit or from the traditions of art or from the plastic means an artist uses to make a picture.  We transfer in order to appreciate aesthetically.

At the end of the last post, I said I would describe, in this post, Loper’s visual inventions by focusing on his color-in-light atmosphere, his late-work adaptation of Venetian glow.

First, look at these pictures:

Titian, Concert in the Open Air, 1510-11, Louvre

Giorgione, Adoration of the Shepherds, c. 1510, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Giorgione, Three Philosophers, 1508-09, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Giorgione, Sleeping Venus, c. 1510, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
Examine both the color volumes and the spatial atmosphere in the four paintings.

Warmth, golden suffusion, and glowing, structural color volumes define them.

Dr. Barnes said the “chief characteristic of the Venetian form is the use of color, first structurally, and then in combination with light, in the form of a pervasive, circumambient atmosphere or glow.” (Art in Painting, 155).

Now look back at Loper’s Table and Flowers.

The chief characteristic of Loper’s late form, as represented by Table and Flowers, is his use of color, structurally, and in combination with light, in the form of a pervasive, circumambient fiery luminosity.

The luminosity, as we saw in the previous post, achieves a sensuous richness that holds the design together.  In addition, because of Loper’s adaptation of the broken color of the impressionists via both CĂ©zanne and Renoir, his color strokes echo and repeat each other, creating intricate rhythms that move the eye from one color unit to another.  A continuous succession of color-chords fill the entire canvas and create, what I have called, a color-in-light suffusion.  This, in itself, is an important unifying agent.

Consider this detail of the background wall:

Notice how each orb of luminous color overlaps and pulses with those surrounding it to create a shimmering, floating, color volume.

Then look at this detail of the plant in the left corner:

Each orb of color here also overlaps and pulses with those surrounding it to create a shimmering, floating, color volume.  The color harmonies are different, but the effect is the same.

As you examine the picture, you will see more of these rhythms working together to the same end.

The transfers I described here summarize all the tools you now possess.  Use them and, like the Charlie Card, they will get you where you want to go, the appreciation of the art in art. 

I am not yet out of Loper calendars.  If you wish to do the exercise I outlined in the previous post, “Making Connections,” click here and go to work.   

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