Things to think about

Hi blog readers, there’s been no blog recently because I’m taking a bit of time off to recharge my batteries. Catherine is taking the two day-time classes at the moment and she will be doing a Monday evening class starting in January. Check the Swarthmore website for details.

I’m hoping to do some occasional pieces during the year for this site starting with the one below on multiple angles of view. I sent the piece below to Garry Barker of Leeds Arts University and I’ve included his response at the bottom and given some links to his pedagogic art blogs which are well worth browsing (including the intriguing use of heraldic shield nomenclature in the art class.

Following on from various class discussions, here’s some ideas on how we might come to terms with depicting space and time together in a drawing, how the act of shifting your gaze somehow makes a new type of space.

Ok so here’s the thing. Imagine (or actually try doing it!) that you are standing 1.5 metres away from a wall. On the wall at eye level is written, in big letters, ‘HELLO’. On the floor just in front of your feet is a piece of card also with the word ‘HELLO’ in big letters. If you were asked to draw the floor and the wall (that is the see-able world in front you) it might end up something like this.




The line in the middle is where the wall and floor meet. Notice how the texts – on floor and wall – look the same, somehow the floor and the wall are both now seen as vertical. How can this be? We have incorporated into our picture an element of time by joining together at least three refocused angles-of-gaze: across to the wall text, down a bit to the wall/floor join, vertically down to the floor text. 

Is this way of rendering the world common in art, how can we make it work so it doesn’t look weird, how does it differ from looking at the world ‘at-a-glance’ (as in a photo)?

David Bomberg, David Hockney

In class we’ve been trying to come to terms with the difference between seeing the world ‘at-a-glance’ (as in a photo)  and ‘bit-by-bit’ (where we focus on different bits of the world*, one after another). [*the ‘world’ here is just taken to mean – all the things and spaces which are seeable in front of you]

The first picture to look at is David Bomberg’s ‘The Gorge: Ronda’. It’s quite a large canvas (over 75cm tall) rendered in a loose expressionist painterly style, probably by direct live observation. (This picture appeared in the first room of Tate Britain’s ‘All too Human’ exhibition on how British art followed different routes of which Bomberg, who influenced Kossoff and Auerbach, was the start of one route.)

From the other side of the room, ‘at-a-glance’, it looks like a picture of a gorge with a bridge on top, rendered from some vague hovering view point half way up the gorge. When I went up close to look at the brush work, things changed. Starting at the bottom of the canvas you can visually climb up the sides of the gorge, – and then here’s the thing -, you come to the bridge and it’s as though you’re looking up to the under side of the bridge, (no longer across at it) it’s like you’ve strained your neck and the bridge is up there right above you. 

David Bomberg seems to have been able to incorporate time into his picture, since, as with the HELLO experiment, he’s moving his angle-of-gaze* (but from the same basic position, just moving his eyes to a new place of interest). We seem to be experiencing the scene temporally as he did.

[*I suppose this contrasts with a cubist investigation of an object, which might take different view points eg from one side, from above, from another side]

David Hockney seemed to be doing this with his ‘joiners’ photograph pieces. He noticed that in order to get a more complete picture you need to focus, record, move your gaze, refocus, record etc.. His work shows two important things relevant to our experiment.

David Hockney

First when he assembles these multiple gazes they don’t quite fit, this way of seeing things will inevitably be partial (again this element seems to link with the cubist experiments of Cezanne and Braque, who use a series of  brush strokes called ‘passage’ which seem to be there to smooth over the transition from one view to another, much like Hockey’s overlapping not-quite-joining photos).

Second, the section at the bottom of the picture does something strange. In Hockney’s joiners he often includes the toes of his shoes. We see them from above just like our HELLO text. What is seen as approximately horizontal ground in the distance becomes vertical, the bottom of the picture therefore feels as though it is cascading over some kind of edge, as though it was a water fall (ie. what was flat becomes vertical). I’ve started looking at pictures to see if this effect is noticeable.

Smart phones now include a panoramic picture facility which stitches video stills into a single shot (using a kind of ‘passage’ technique). Here is a vertical version, from feet to sky, of the rusty building in Leeds. Does it feel like the bottom of the picture is falling off?

Leeds Beckett University

I’m not sure how we might use this insight. It feels like it gives the opportunity to understand how the space around shapes might be working (and therefore rendered). I like the idea that the conscious indicating of angles of gaze inevitably captures time elements into the image. It also challenges to an extent the powerful allure of the camera image which might misuse the omnipotent appeal of the snap-shot (all cameras are set up to solve the challenges we’ve seen above, to create a serviceable, reasonable view of the world, but every setting will always be a compromise). 

Here’s a drawing by Issy which seems to be working with two elements, first trying to rationalise different gazes, second making connections across space from important focus to important focus. 

Issy Terry 


Things to do. 

Does any this have any merit? Have you come across the issues in your work?

Have you seen any pictures which highlight the effects?

Below are two links to Garry’s blogs, have a look. 

Very like looking for fess points. The struggle to achieve a simultaneity from scattered percepts is a good honest endeavour that all drawers at some point ought to try. Frozen time will be essential as a means to unpick the conundrum. Garry x

The ‘Fess’ Pointartandpedagogy.blogspot.comOne of the hardest things to grasp when undertaking the drawing of a complex situation was the use of ‘fess’ points. These were used as me..

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