Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dichotomous Analysis: A Formal Necessity in Painting

I think there's an interesting play between abstraction and form/space that makes these dynamic. In my view, there is a correlation between abstraction and iconicism (graphic images imprint more strongly on the mind), whereas space seems to imply time.

Yet, the format of painting is inherently iconic because it lacks the element of time and change. Perhaps this is why some of the most powerful painted images are iconic as they reinforce the nature of the medium. However, I can see how a narrative can be especially dynamic in contrast with the iconic nature of the medium if it holds a strong enough implication of time. But I think that the most intriguing images have a dynamic tension between the icon and the narrative - in painting, film, and photography.

Three visual elements lead me to define an image as iconographic or narrative in painting:

The graphic or tonal composition (contrast)

Time - as implied by singularity (iconic/layered meaning), or repetition and variation of form (temporal/chronologically revealed meaning)

Language of the paint (abstraction <-> form/space)

Perhaps this last correlation is a bit unclear. So, my thought process is as such:
The flatness of the abstract image defines the painting as a static object within the viewer's space.
The illusion of form and space implies that the viewer is within the space of the image, or the image is an extension of space. Since the viewer experiences time, the image implies a stillness (which is a reference to time). The abstract image in itself does not relate to stillness or change/time.

What is interesting to me is when an artist mixes these different elements to imply a seeming contradiction between both iconicism and temporality, which all the artists above do. It is the tension between this and other formal dichotomies that interests my eye:

Light/Shadow, Chromatic color/Neutral color, Warm/Cool, Iconic/Narrative, Texture/Smoothness, Open form/Closed form, Organic form/Geometric form....

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