Saturday, 25 October 2008

Without a horizon...

I got a couple of new books - some on loan, some to keep, and all of them are about landscape/water/seascapes. Perhaps the best to start with is the most recent sketchbook from our Moley Exchange.

The latest addition in Lindsay's 'Maps and Destination' book are two seascapes in oil/coloured pencil by Vivien. I am so pleased to have them for the time being... By now the oils are pretty dry but when I first got a couple of weeks back, they weren't. There's a lot of detail in these sketches: water colour, changes, movement, spray, some rocks.

Vivien Blackburn, Splashdown,
Oil/Coloured pencil in Moleskine
See here for Vivien's own discussion on this entry in her blog
And here for the Moley exchange blog entry

Neither of them has a horizon line. But, structured by lines they are nonetheless. This one has a strong foreground with rock and plenty of spray. Yet, what intrigued me most was the water in the middleground: there's a wave on it's way, not quite built up yet, nowhere near breaking but it's rolling. It seems to me that Vivien's achieved this effect by line work and colour change.

Detail, Vivien Blackburn, Splashdown

Have a look at this detail: Clear linear marks in oil mark the advancing wave; in front of it, thinly applied oils with most of the colour (change) achieved through coloured pencil. It seems so much more still and calm in comparison to the line behind it that keeps moving forward.

So, do other structuring lines take the place of a clear horizon line to help make sense of a painting? Perhaps the horizon is just the most obvious, clear, understood way of demarcating heaven/earth, up/down, inside/outside and also indicate a piece as in fact a landscape?

A piece by August Strindberg that confused me when I first saw it:

August Strindberg, The Wave vii, 1901 Musee D'Orsay

It confused me for its abstract qualities. If it wasn't for the title, I wouldn't have made out 'what' it was. So, it's a landscape, but doesn't allow for easy (presumptious?) reading of such. Writing this, it becomes clear that this is of course nothing new: abstraction is the name of the game, I suppose. By taking it out of easily understood contexts, by verfremden - making it strange/foreign/alien.

As with the Strindberg piece, there is obviously also something about perspective and view point, and I've done some work on changing perspective and viewpoint on the shoreline sketches. Something is fairly straightforward, technical: as in vanishing points, angles and so on.

And, while I was stumped for a bit of what do with my entry in Lindsay's moley, I have a plan: I'll take it travelling with me... maps and destinations need a bit of journey, I think...


vivien said...

that Strindberg paintings is interesting

I like the way you've analysed what I've done and picked up on what I was trying to achieve with that water :>)

I think it's essential to really really LOOK at the water, see how it moves, how movements repeat, the swells move in, then start to break ... the colour of the underneath of a breaking wave can be a beautiful glassy green that cries out for some viridian but always moving. I don't want to freeze a perfect moment, I want to paint the movement I see.

Yellow said...

Yes, Gesa, they're both interesting examples of what you're working on. I was telling my sister yesterday about Monet's abstract imagaes of the reflections in the 'waterlilies' series, in examples where he cropped the view so there's no horizon, no trees framing the scene, no architectue or figures to create a sense of scale. All he depicts are the waterlillies and the reflections around the of the trees and sky which are outside of the picture frame. My sister has previously defined, jokingly, an abstract as any picture which arrives at a gallery with instructions of which way up it should be hung.

Gesa said...

Thanks, you two:
Nice thoughts on the perfect moment in comparison to movement: it's the kind of patterning that goes on, again and again with regularity and variations. I really liked the sense of that in your sketches - in particular how the cp's pushed the oil paint towards that in a subtle kind of way, Vivien.

Steph - yes: he's done some great pieces with the water lillies (though I'm usually rather hesitant towards Monet) - you know the room in the Tate Modern where there's one pastel water lilly piece juxtaposed with a Rothko and a Pollock? That is just sublime because they 'talk to each other' - quite possibly precisely through the different ways in which they communicate by abstraction.

jafabrit said...

I love vivien's work, and find the August Strindberg intriguing. It looks like an aerial view of the coastline, beach, and sea. Kind of interesting how it breaks right in the center.