Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

      I finished my semester with awesome grades, went to Florida with Geoff to see my brother and mother, and now I'm back in Texas.  I didn't take any pictures of our Christmas in Florida because I am on the hunt for a camera. 
      Here is some of the pottery (what hasn't been given away yet) I made under the guidance of Stan Irving from the Fall semester. I wish I had produced more, but I made enough for Christmas presents at least. I am getting better, but I still feel I have a long way to go.  I can't decide if I like pottery or painting more, so I have decided to pursue both with equal vigor.

      Here are two paintings I've been working on.  I am kind of exhausted after the semester and the trip, but have managed to jump right back into the swing of things. I am coming to a finish with The Matriarch, which I started in April.  I am not sure when a real feeling of done-ness will come with this piece. I have had such a love hate relationship with this one. At one point her face had lioness features; she has endured much transformation.  I need to plan more efficiently, because I feel like I waste a lot of time.

 The Matriarch

        This one has been in the works for a couple months.  I am in the 'hate stage' with her right now. She is just not done enough to be beautiful yet. I am hoping that in the next couple weeks we can make amends with each other.   Her shoulder and neck are still warped somehow. I have been noticing lately how much I skew reality. My perception is what needs to be overcome, or is what I battle to overcome, when I draw.
Angel of revenge

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

       I left off last in Aesthetics and Painting by Jason Gaiger on the third chapter called Surface and Subject. Chapter three is an introduction to how painting can be seen and analyzed.   The first couple chapters focused on what makes a painting 'good' and the traditional ideal of perfection, to duplicate reality as opposed to the more archaic Byzantine style's strict use of art for story telling. Chapter three focuses on how we actually perceive two dimensional images
         So, why bother, you ask? I know this stuff sounds crazy, but this debate has been going on since Plato so there has to be something to it, unless the philosophy of aesthetics is just a cruel joke, or a long pointless conversation with no 'conclusion' in sight, which totally could be too. The fact remains the people have such an intense desire to understand how painting works because of it's mysterious and even magical power to create illusion.
        My last mention of this book discussed the two different ways a painting can be viewed. To recap: the first way to see or describe a painting, Gaiger says, is to observe it as “a series of marks on a flat surface.” The second, he says, is to analyze it in terms of what we see, such as the emotional response it evokes, it's form,  the position of the viewer, it's depth and background, and the over-all scene being represented.
        Gaiger brings the book Art and Illusion written in 1960 by Ernst Gombrich, into the conversation. Gombrich believes that it is impossible to perceive these two forms of awareness simultaneously and that in fact our awareness shifts from seeing the painting as marks on a canvas to seeing it as the scene it is meant to represent.  Gombrich uses the well know drawing Duck-rabbit to support his theory, using it to claim that no matter how hard we try, we cannot perceive the duck and the rabbit at the same time, and that our view shifts back and forth, from duck to rabbit and back again.
         We see it the way we interpret it. He believed that this dynamic, this moment where the shift of perception changes,  offered the key to unlock some sort of mystery about reading images.On page 46 Gaiger Quotes Gombrich, "As soon as we direct our attention to the painting as a physical object that possesses its own material  reality the illusion that the artist has so carefully crafted will disappear".

          Gombrich also uses  writings from a man named Kenneth Clark about viewing art.  Clark talks about his experience with the painting Las Maniñas (The Maids of Honor) from 1656 by Diego Velázquez, leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age. Gombrich uses Clark's experience to validate his theory further, claiming that we cannot perceive the painting as an object and a scene at the same time and that we cannot even perceive the actual moment of the shift. Gombrich saw this as proof of the "inherent ambiguity of all images". Kenneth Clark talks about Velázquez's Las Maniñas:
One cannot look for long at Las Maniñas without wanting to find out how it was done...I would start from as far away as I could, when the illusion was complete, and come gradually nearer, until suddenly what had been a hand and a ribbon, and a peice of velvet, dissolved into a salad of brush strokes...I thought that I might learn something if I could just catch the moment at which this transformation took place, but it proved to be as elusive as the moment between waking and sleeping.

           Gaiger disputes Gombrich's view,  saying that perceiving both forms of awareness, simultaneously, are necessary to view a painting. Gaiger argues that Gombrich misidentifies Duck-Rabbit's source of visual ambiguity in that the shift that happens when observing Duck-Rabbit is not the same kind of shift that happens when we observe a painting as a series of marks verses the actual intended representation.  He goes further to say if we could perceive only one awareness at a time "we would not be able to perceive the way in which we follow the direction of a line as it is drawn across a paper, while at the same time becoming aware of the way in which that line circumscribes the outline of a shoulder or the curved back of a chair" (p52). In my opinion they are both right.