SPATIAL NON-COMPATIBILITIES IN PAINTING
Rodney Chang, July 11, 1972
Northern Illinois University
My involvement in painting is based on the following premises-
1. The painting, although visually two-dimensional in approach is, in reality, a three dimensional entity and, as such, the illusion of depth should be avoided.
2. That man, technology and environment are intimately interrelated and that this complex relationship can be recognized in abstract visual relationships.
3. That the knowledge of the principles of visual perception, color psychology, and design must be a part of today's artists' armamentarium.
The above premises are operant in my work although one or two of the above points may not be visually evident in a particular piece. However, a particular painting deals specifically with one or more of the following "relationships"-
1. The relative sizes of canvas, shape, building, and viewer.
2. The relationship of canvas to the wall that it is superimposed on.
3. The relationship between shapes and the canvas it exists on.
4. The relation-shapes created from my personal psycho-sociological constitution.
Concern for each of these relationships are now explained-
1. The Canvas-Shape-Building and Viewer-Size relationships
These are all inter-related and must be evaluated prior to the construction of the canvas stretcher. For instance, one would not construct a twelve-foot high painting if that length would make it a phsyical impossibility for the display room. The relative size of a shape to the overall canvas area can make it seem confined (if relatively large) or insignificant (if relatively small) in relation to the pictorial field. Certain shapes can begin to seem vital or even anthropomorphic when its size (and therefore also the canvas size) reaches a certain dimension. For example, the menacing confrontation of a shape can be increased if its physical size is greater than the viewer's height, i.e., the introduction of "monumental" proportions.
2. The Canvas-Wall Relationsip
It disturbs me how the conventional border or frame of the canvas so arbitrarily physically separates wall and painting. The wall is never considered in the painting process yet all paintings are destined to be hung from a wall. It almost seems as if a "demilitarized zone" lies between antagonistic or at least unrelated visual fields. However, at the expense of lost integrity, some choose works commercially done to "match" specific room decor. I pursue this dilemma by using the conventional square/rectangular stretcher and by not resorting to asymmetrical or symmetrical-quadratic canvases. In my opinion these approaches by students sometimes emphasize rather than minimize the arbitrarily selected distinction between wall and painting due to the painting's attention-getting and unusal perimeter.
3. Shape-Canvas Relationsip
I think of shape as being confined or "captured" by the physical limitations of a canvas margin. In my paintings, the shapes reach out to the periphery of the space I have chosen to visually manipulate; there is a sense of maximum usage of space. A sense of "snug fit' is perceived. Since there is no attempt to produce visual illusory depth, my shapes remain shapes at the canvas surface and thus do not become visual 3D forms.
4. Shapes-Artist-Psycho-Sociological Constitution Relationship
An artists probably does not have a choice on the "style" in which he would like to paint. He may flirt with different "styles" during his formulative years but upon attaining a degree of maturity, certain technical skills and seasoning in painting, he will inevitably settle upon his chosen preference of "style". This expression, I believe, is inseparable from the artist's total being, his overal social and psychological makeup, etc. Thus future expression will undergo transformation as the individual explores the visible possibilities of expansion to the peripheries of his central style. On a longer term basis, he may however somewhat change his set expression upon arriving at a new, if not traumatic, threshold in his life.
An artist's work also funnels from his subconscious storage of experienceswhether he recognizes them or not. It startled me to discover that my sense of spatial non-compatibility surfaced from a subconscious analogy in my mind between prepared (drilled) dentinal wall and remaining tooth structure (the painting being a "filling")! I also draw from my associations of Japanese Haiku expressionism; from oriental scroll paintings; from gestalt psychology principles. I also realize that "no man is an island", that my art's attachment to the above relationships are influenced and integrated with learned design principles and the ever-growing familiarity with new techniques and other artists' works and ideas.
It is my goal to search for a harmonious visual representation of my unique self, my composite life experiences, my collectic nature and my interaction with my ever-changing social and physical environment.