Colour, Shape, Space, Light – Crafting the Components of Art Work
We start with a paradox. There are art works without the colourful colors, we call those arts black and white, but these are nothing but also colors. It is just that bright colors dominate more in their vibrancy and the vitality makes a big difference. Black and white gets inadvertently pushed into the back-burner. Nevertheless, this pigments continues to be the most vital part in the composition of an art work.
Colours are nothing but pigments and artists invented the first pigments using the natural materials like soil to plants and different combinations thereof. Then these colors have gone through a fascinating journey of exploration, experimentation and self-discovery.
Colour is a type of impression that is stimulated in our cerebral hemisphere by different wavelength of lights. The viewer looks at the color, his outlook undergoes a change and the vivid combination of color creates a captivation in the eyes of the beholder. The personality of an art gets profusely expressed through the prism of colourful palettes. Take our own personality when we are dressed up colorfully we get peeped up, we are tenuously playing with the emotions of the onlookers, the brightness and the focus on certain set of colours makes a statement. The fabric of the art gets the makeover with the beautiful threads of myriad colors spread on the canvas. Artists have their preferences and they tend to play with certain colors more than the others, and it is also a reflection of their personality and the profound connection them have with the preferred color.
Colour has so many combinations to create colourful hues and there is a method in that madness, and we need to know the proportion to make the combination capture our imagery in its varied manifestations. It is the method of the making the mix and breaking the match. By mixing equal parts of the primary colors – blue, red and yellow; we can get secondary colours like green, orange and purple. There is also a step further we can go when we match the primary with the secondary; we get the tertiary set of colors. It all depends on the artists and the imagery floating in his imaginative space and the intuitive play to find which color combination can creatively capture that nuanced characteristics.
Colors are not just colors; these colors have different shades in terms of the hue, the intensity and the value.
These are three fundamental properties to a color…
First is the hue, just the name we give to the color.
Second is the intensity, it is the vividness of the color taking it a step forward.
Third is the value, it is the term to determine the lightness or darkness of a colour being used.
Colour deals directly with light and is one of most important facet to fathom the colourful dimension of an object. Henri Matisse, the popular French Artist was well known for his extensive use of colors, he crafted a strong attitude towards driving the dominating role of colour in painting. Raphael to Rembrandt loved the colour red. Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Ring” focused on the blue colour. Vincent Van Gogh played with the colour yellow. Claude Monet to Paul Cézanne dwell on the colour green.
The moment we look at an art composition we will see a whole world of shapes shaping our floating thoughts. The shapes could be anything that we can see in the nature or the different geometrical shapes we have studied in our school days. The way shapes are placed and where it is placed conveys a meaning and the art work communicates with its viewer with the permutations and placement of different shapes on a canvas.
Shapes are nothing more than meeting of lines and the way these lines get connected forms different shapes. Anything following a rule gets associated with geometry and those not adhering to any prescribed rules are purely works of imagination of the artists, and we need to learn the art of reading between the lines. Though we speak a lot about the standard shapes like square, circle and triangle but the world of geometry is beyond these basic shapes and has a whole world of its own.
It is a language for the mathematicians and they have given a representational meaning to it but the artists interpret this language of form in their own ways without confining to the confinement of the grammar of this geometrical language.
Shapes are used in art as instrument to play with our glowing emotions and control our floating feelings, and then create the mystical mood to depict a wonderful art of composition.
Squares and rectangles represent strength and stability.
Circles and ellipses portray continuous movement.
The visual element of shapes varies from natural to man-made, from two dimensional to three dimensional, from representational to abstract, from geometric to organic, from transparent to opaque, from decorative to symbolic and positive to negative. Further expanding few of these terms for instance organic shapes convey formation and development whereas geometric shape conveys structure and patterns.
Cubism is a movement in art that is characterized by the use of geometry of planes and shapes.
Great artists like Pablo Picasso and George Braque played critical role in creating and fostering this new visual art style. “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, was the ground breaking work of art using cubism by Pablo Picasso.
It is the volume in the art. The question how do we depict volume in a two-dimensional canvas, volume needs three-dimensional parameters to calculate its worth. Every art piece has a subject sketched out where the main focus is resides, the camera is on it and there is also the left out space all around the object, the surrounding to set the context. Without the work of art occupying that canvas, the space is nothing but the empty one and the mental image of the artists checks the landing space and when he gets the clearance he literally lands his flight of imagination on this piece of barren land ready to house that beautiful art out of his heart.
Space gets classified, the space occupied by the subject becomes the positive space and the space outside the subject becomes the negative space.
It is skill of the artists to play with spaces and giving the positive space the airlift and the negative space to stay grounded. The navigation skill gets mastered over a time and the ability to see from a vantage point of a viewer significantly shifts with every such spatial launch of a new craft of art by the artists.
Space is subtly all-encompassing.
Space is surreal in its omnipresence.
The role of perspective in art has been one of the most defining moment in the journey of art where art took a quantum leap in the space of visualization of objects on a two-dimensional canvas. It is the play of space that determines the perspective in the art. For instance sometime we see a house in the landscape of the valley bigger than the valley, it is merely a perspective to show to the viewer that house is close by and the valley in the background is far off.
Space can also be open or closed.
Space can also be shallow or deep.
How do the artists create the illusion of space?
It is about skillfully using the techniques of simple sketches in drawing and to complex combination of layering in painting.
Linear perspective is a drawing method that employs lines to draw objects in space; it is a structured approach to drawing.
Overlapping is a technique where one object is placed in front of another object and the object behind is blocked from viewing.
Nothing can beat the power of space that is so much universal and almost infinite in its ethereal manifestation. Salvador Dali has magically played with the given rooms of space and placing objects in two dimensional spaces as if they are three dimensional in its expression. Piet Mondrian has also extensively worked on space in making his art work much stand out in the wider space of artist’s great works.
Art becomes heartless in the absence of light. The energy that that gives live to the body of art comes straight from the heart of light. It is outside the body of work and it works its way to show the viewer what is there inside the colorful and creative composition. It throws light on shades that seem grey and there darker sides to the art and when we dive deep and delve deeper inside we start to unravel so many new facets that comes out of the closet. When an art is in display, the intensity of light and the focus on the subject enhances and extends the boundary of the subject otherwise it seems bounded. It is not always the light from outside but the light inside the painting and the way the artists’ plays with color, shape and space to throw out profound perspectives that makes us truly enlightened.
The source of such enlightenment is deeply seated in the hidden walls of inspiration that we derive out of these art pieces which then walks into the famed halls of history to become the titled masterpieces.
Light has always been a massive source of awe and wonder. We cannot imagine life without light and then where is the question of thinking about any art work without the torch-bearer of light leading the components of composition.
As artists started to deeply understand the properties of light, they developed a better perspective of how to use light to further enlighten their enigmatic focus on the subject. It was Claude Monet in his painting of “Water Lilies”, he truly made light as the central character of his masterpiece.
Chiaroscuro is use of strong contrasts between light and dark. It is an Italian term means light-dark; where ‘chiaro” meaning light, and ‘scuro’ meaning dark. Leonardo to Rembrandt developed on this distinct technique and expansively deployed in their wonderful body of art work. Caravaggio used deep and dark backgrounds in his work putting the spotlight on the subject of his canvas.
The “Empire of Light”, by Rene Magritte is a magical convergence of opposites, light meets dark, day meets night and reality meets with perception.
We can well end the dialogue on this subject with a new perspective, light as an art; “Light Art” has come a long way from being a background player in paintings to be the focused subject of painting itself.
Nihar R Pradhan
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