Monday, July 16, 2012

Creatively Seeing: Part IV

I received several responses to my request in the previous post “Creatively Seeing: Part III.”  Just as I selected one, I started to look at the New York Times.  In the Sunday Review section, I spotted an essay dealing with a compatible idea: “What is Real is Imagined.” 

Synchronistic?  Yes. I love it when it happens.

In the essay, Colm Roibin described how writers invent stories.  His points, however, hold true for visual artists as well.  Or, as Violette de Mazia repeatedly said, “all art is always the same and always different.” 

This post will show how this works.

Roibin said, to write a story, “it is the shape of the story rather than the shape of life that dictates what is added and excised.”

He said writers use what they need and they change what they use. 

He said, “the story has a shape, and that comes first, and then the story and its shape need substance and nourishment from the haunting past, clear memories or incidents suddenly remembered or invented, erased or enriched.  Then the phrases and sentences begin…what comes into shape will, despite all the fragility and all the unease, seem more real and more true, be more affecting and enduring than the news today, or the facts of the case….”

So, too, with making pictures. 

And so, too, with seeing creatively.

Here is the photograph I received:

Here is what our reader said about her photograph: “This is a grouping of trees near the lake behind my place of work. The individual shapes of the trees, the shapes of the clusters of the trees, shape of the trees against the sky, and shapes of the clouds in the sky, reminded me of the paintings in your blog. Although the colors in the photo are vivid and the blues and greens varied, I imagined the scene with a greater variety of colors, particularly warmer colors, and it was quite striking.”

Our astute reader noticed the rhythms of the “foliage” and the “clouds.”  She noticed how those rhythms repeated with variety throughout the “picture.”  She noticed the spatial overlapping of the foliage’s color masses.  Then she added what she wanted based on what she knows is possible given her experience with Salvatore Pinto’s and Matisse’s work. 

That is creatively seeing.

We learn to enjoy our visual experiences more if we appreciate works of art.

Artists create pictures informed by relevant visual ideas they discover in works of art.

Their resulting works of art, Violette de Mazia argued, have an “itness,” a sense of actuality.  She meant the same thing Roibin meant when he said the story seems “more real and more true…than the news today, or the facts of the case….”

John Dewey, in Art as Experience, repeats an explanation from Max Eastman’s “Enjoyment of Poetry.”  Eastman uses an illustration of a man crossing the East River on a ferry coming into New York City.  He describes several ways the man can “see” the approaching city.  When he looks at it as “colored and lighted volumes in relation to one another, to the sky and to the river,” he sees as an artist sees.

Dewey argues this “seeing” is concerned with a perceptual whole, constituted by related parts. “The Empire State Building may be recognized by itself.  But when it is seen pictorially it is seen as a related part of a perceptually organized whole.  Its values, its qualities, as seen, are modified by the other parts of the whole scene, and in turn these modify the value, as perceived, of every other part of the whole.  There is now form in the artistic sense.” (p. 136)

See if this makes sense to you. 

Look at our reader’s photograph with my black lines marking the key rhythms:

 Now look at the delineated “foliage” clusters.

The image shows rounded, color volumes slipping one behind the other in compressed space.  This is the spatial quality our reader looked for and found in her landscape because Salvatore Pinto’s picture expressed similar qualities.   

See if you can appreciate how differently Matisse and Van Gogh “used” subject facts of trees in a landscape by comparing these two pictures: 


Matisse, Landscape at Collioure, 1905, MoMA                                 

Van Gogh, Pine Trees in the Garden of the Asylum, 1889, Kroller-Mueller

Both artists used what they needed and changed what they used.

The point made by Colm Roibin and me is this: the subject does not determine what the picture will be.  It plays a role, but imagination fueled by “memory and desire” are the key players.  The resulting work of art, this new object, is no less “real” because it is color made.  It simply speaks the language of color.  

Both pictures, colors on a flat surface, provide enticing, exciting, and enriching visual experiences.  In turn, when we understand the pictures, we gain aesthetic pleasure and real-life, in-time lessons in perception.


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