I’ve started this thread in order to continue a discussion that myself and Kev Ferrara were having over on the ALCHEMY still life thread in the ‘It’s finally finished’ section.
It concerns the idea of what takes place in our imagination when we describe space into the flat surface of the picture plane. The activity can be thought of as a ‘modelling’ of forms whereby things are built up out of a formless matter that is ‘put there’ into the empty space of the picture plane, gradually filling it up. This I refer to as ‘Modelling conception’.
However there is another imaginative fantasy involving the way the business of making an image is practiced in the mind of the artist. This is where the forms are felt to be ‘uncovered’ or ‘carved’ as if they were forms waiting to be released from the cube of white in a way analogous to the carver wresting the forms hidden in the block of stone. This I refer to as a ‘Carving conception’.
Below is the discussion so far between myself and Kev. I hope others will join in as it is a little understood principle since most analysis of pictures is thought of from a ‘modelling’ viewpoint which is inadequate to explain what is happening in works that have been produced with a ‘carving’ proclivity.
I think what everyone has been saying here is essentially right. But something else occurred to me:
When looking at composition we can think of it as falling into what can be imagined as 'modelling conception' on one hand and 'carving conception' in the other. Modelling conception is an additive, building up of forms. Carving conception is an 'uncovering', a taking away to reveal the forms.
Problems arrive when a modelling conception is used to try and produce a composition that would be the natural outcome of carving.
Below are some extremely 'static' compositions but are alive and 'hum' with presence because they are conceived by a carving state of mind.
Kev Farrara replies:
Chris... I'm not quite sure what you mean be carving versus adding...
but rather than looking at anything too specifically, I think the graphics and vectors in two of these compositions do all the required explaining about what is causing their compositional dynamism.
Chris Bennett replies:
Kev, there are carving and modeling elements in all paintings but it is a question of degree. For instance Piero Della Francesca, Bruegel, Morandi, Cezanne and Picasso were mainly 'carvers'. Van Eyck, Rubens, Rembrandt, Constable, Matisse were more 'modelers'. Of the 'illustrators' Frazetta and Rockwell are modelers, John Jude Palencar and Mark English are carvers with Jeff Jones being somewhere in the middle of the two.
The vector analysis you made of the Morandi and the Cardin explains what is happening with the modeling component in these works, but in my view this is not their main method of realisation. They are essentially 'carving' paintings. To take a musical analogy; what you are pointing out is the melody (which is there, but not the thing that is taking the real strain of what these paintings are about) whereas these are 'harmonic' paintings - they are read 'all at once' more than experienced as a series of movements around the surface. The forms are rather to be explained as a series of pressures both of colour, tone and volume that steady each other, scratch each other's back if you will. The eye is invited to take in everything together and enjoy a stable solution of balance, involving a measured scanning movement, whereas in the modeling conception the eye is encouraged to move about and derive satisfaction from an eventful journey.
Colour can be though of in the same way: Modeling colour is a tug of war whereas carving colour stresses their ultimate union in white.
Kev Ferrara replies:
Chris... we may be hijacking the thread but this is a very interesting topic to me so...
I guess I have trouble grasping what you mean by "carving". I think I would say the distinction you are drawing is between "shapes and area" (eastern) versus "form and vector" (western).
But, from my perspective shapes often have a vector components, and have edges that are vectors, or arms that are vectors... and shapes also comprise forms, so to me, an artist such as Jones or N.C. Wyeth is simply falling in the very middle of the circle with its compass points at vector, area, shape, and form.
There are many Frazetta and Rockwell pieces that also fall in the middle (usually the best ones), though almost no Ruebens, who was a true "modeller". Meanwhile Diebekorn is all shape and area.
The still life with water glass and kettle can also be analyzed in terms of shape and area.... as all good compositions should be able to. That is, a good composition should work as shapes and areas, but also as vectors and forms, simultaneously. In this case, though, the simplicity of the shape/area analysis seemed so calm, whereas the vector analysis was so obviously dynamic, that I thought I could better judge the cause of its dynamism by way of vectors.
Does my understanding dovetail with what you mean?