Monday, June 26

Andrew Wyeth: Visual Analysis

A painting is the embodiment of the artist and all that surrounds him.
Everyday influences, emotions, environs, and contacts are expressed
through the smooth pigments. Only when the viewer is familiar with these
aspects can the painting be seen in its entirety. Art is profoundly
effected by history, economy, and social issues.

Andrew Wyeth, one of the great painters of the twentieth century, was
born in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he was instructed in art by his
father, noted painter and illustrator, Newell Convers Wyeth.
Consequently, many of his father‚s techniques and tendencies can be found
in Wyeth‚s work. His childhood home served as a source for subject
matter, as well as instilling in him a deep appreciation for the innate
beauty found in everyday elements. In response, Wyeth developed an
immense talent for photorealistic detail. However, this was not an
attempt to dazzle, but merely a tool for communicating the subtle moods
and restrained drama of his themes. His work is often symbolic in
feeling, while essentially pictorial and seldom explicit. Wyeth‚s
manipulation of light, perspective, texture, and subdued color harmonies
reflect the sharp focus and unconventional angles of modern photography.
By skillfully rendering minute details, he is able to describe the simple
intensity found in common subjects.

Wyeth‚s 1966 Cranberries depicts a humble table set with two barrels of
cranberries illuminated by rich, warm light filtering in from a large
window. The brilliant window serves as a main focal area and entry point
for the piece. The viewers‚ eye is then carried further into the
composition by the rays of light and the diagonal shadows cast by the
window frame. From the fruit on the window sill and the barrels the eye
travels to the table then into the negative space. The juxtaposition of
the L-shaped subject and the inverted, analogous negative space creates
balance and adds an interesting dimension to the composition. By varying
the value of the large negative space, Wyeth prevents it from overpowering
the positive space. The piece relies heavily on geometric elements:
series of rectangles, cylindrical forms of the cranberry containers,
ellipses of the fruit, and the implied triangles created by the movement
from the window to the edge of the table. There is a beautiful rhythmic
quality created by the repetition of form in the window, ellipses, and cast shadows unifying
the work. Wyeth masterfully translates the delicate features: the slight
fluctuations in value in the shadows and negative space, the wood grain in
the table and window, and the skin of the fruit. He further describes the
forms and surfaces with sensitive, expressive mark making; slight
variations in line quality and brush strokes creates subtle, yet
definitive forms. There are several admirable color relationships
apparent throughout the composition, including the complementary blue
basket and orange fruit, contrast between value and temperature, and well
defined light source. Despite using a limited palette, Wyeth is able to
get a respectable value range and produce elegant tonal harmonies. There
is a subtle tension created by unifying contrasting hues with similar
accents, as well as the differing temperatures. Also, the pairing of
objects, such as the cranberry containers and the fruit, hints at the
presence of an underlying metaphor. Through a combination of innate talent, acquired skill, and a
trained eye Andrew Wyeth is able to render nearly flawless photorealistic
images. However, he maintains the vitality and honesty of the subject.
His acutely realistic technique was impacted significantly by his family
and childhood. Wyeth strives to express the essence and beauty in
everything he paints, whether it be a brilliant, ripe fruit resting on an
aging window sill or a dark shadow striking a corner.

The sixties were a time of conflict and foreign tensions. America was
on the brink of the Vietnamese War, facing an uncertain future. A nation
once united was now divided by controversy. It was also the height of the
civil rights movement; long-standing prejudices were finally being
challenged. Despite the nation‚s turmoil, advancements in mechanics and
space exploration persisted. The strain of the time is greatly reflected
in Cranberries. The barrels of cranberries create a metaphor for the
Vietnamese conflict: two related forms filled with the same fruit, handles
on opposing sides(as if standing with arms crossed in defiance,) the
larger partially blocking the smaller from the light. Similar meaning can
be seen in the fruit on the window sill. The stress created between the
negative and positive, value changes, and dramatic color relationships
also suggests an uneasy atmosphere. However, the brilliant light
streaming down from the window reflects the scientific, technical, and
artistic growth of the sixties.

True art is born when the human spirit and external stimuli converge.
The best metaphors are formed in the artist‚s subconscious; spilled onto
the canvas without thought. It is not the metaphor itself, but the truth
it expresses that is powerful and profound. It is impossible to find a
piece of art that does not mirror the time in which it was composed. Art
is an expression, an extension of the artist; therefore, art can not be
separated from the world in which it was created.

© Copyright 2006 Jennie R Poston

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Morandi and Chardin: White Paper

Although, Morandi‚s and Chardin‚s work have similar subject matter, their
approaches are significantly different. Each has a distinct style;
however, their work shares many analogous characteristics. Both Chardin
and Morandi place importance on fundamental formal elements such as
composition, balance, rhythm, contrast, unity, and object relationships.
They also share a willingness to assay with the boundaries presented by
these elements. Each have a tendency to take everyday objects, place them
in apparently basic compositions, and add subtle layers of significance.
While both are unique, they share common ties.

Chardin‚s textured and descriptive brush strokes create a nearly
photo-realistic painting. The crisp, distinct forms are depicted with a
beautiful subtlety. He is able to combine masterful technique, strong
composition, and an understanding of formal elements into a single,
breathtaking panel.

Morandi uses a limited palette and simplified objects in order to focus
on composition, tonal harmony, and structural order. By experimenting
with placement, value, and hue he tests the boundaries of negative space
and object relationships, while maintaining unity and rhythm.

The soft, muted palette used in Still Life (The Blue Vase) brings an
alluring simplicity to a complicated painting. Instead of overwhelming
the viewer with a more vivid palette, Morandi allows the strength of the
composition to show through. However; his value range is not limited by
this decision. His deliberate placement of each object creates an elegant
implied diagonal line that leads the viewers eye to the focal area of the
blue vase. This focal area is also aided by contrast in value and
temperature: the warmer, higher value of the other objects and the
background verses the cooler, lower value of the blue vase. Morandi
balances the strong concentration of forms using a well informed knowledge
of negative space. He also offsets the strong vertical elements of the
objects with the horizontal table, and implied rectangles in the negative
space. Also, their is a gorgeous balance between the largest bottle and
the shadow that falls off the table. A less significant focal area is
created in the organic form in the lower left corner of the table by setting it against
strong geometric elements. There is an attractive unity in the repeated
spheres and ellipses, and a beautiful rhythm throughout the work.
However; one could argue one possible drawback of Morandi‚s work is that
the images appear slightly flattened in places.

Unlike Morandi, Chardin‚s work is remarkably realistic, dexterously
manipulating the paint to describe form and surface. For Still Life with
Tea Pot, Grapes, and a Pear he uses a vivid palette that includes
complements. The vibrancy of the hues adds even more vitality to the
objects. Each item is carefully and skillfully chosen and placed in order
to create the most dynamic, but balanced composition. Chardin creates and
intriguing contrast by using organic forms to create implied geometric
shapes: the fruit and walnuts can be simplified into triangles and the
teapot into a square. This can also be seen in the negative space, and
serves as a place of tension in the implied triangle formed by the two
stems and the spout. Another intriguing tensions is created by the
overhanging grapes. Despite this tension, there is also a strong sense of
balance, which is aided by the choice of color, placement, and lighting.
One of the key elements in the piece is the variety of contrasts: the
vertical tea pot and pear verses the horizontal walnuts, grapes, and table, the complimentary
reds and greens, the white tea pot on the low value background, organic
verses geometric, and manmade verses natural. Chardin also seems to hint
at a subtle, ironic comparison by having the manmade tea pot mimic the
form of the grapes and pear. He is able to intertwine all these elements
and unify them with the rhythmic repetition of spheres and ellipses. The
piece comes together magnificently, with each piece resonating off another
to produce a single product.

While I am personally drawn to the more realistic work of Chardin in some
cases, I have deep respect and admiration for both artists. I am in awe
of each artists' talents and attention to minute detail. I especially
enjoy the multiple levels in each painting; the beautiful layers
underneath such seemingly simple compositions. Also, the adventurous
experimentation that is a vital characteristic of all artists strongly
appeals to me. They seem to be driven to test the boundaries of art in
every way possible. I revere their skill, imagination, curiosity, and
bravery.

© 2002 Jennie R Poston

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Sunday, June 25

Artist Statement: Jennie R Poston

My work is about a search for tangible beauty through a direct, physical process. I enjoy the innate beauty found in natural materials, which I strive to isolate and refine. I connect to a subtractive view of life, where the distractions and superficiality of today‚s society are removed. Once all excessive details are striped away pure, undiluted form remains. Mass relationships, gesture, and line merge, expressing and defining the subject more eloquently than any written or spoken language.

A large part of my art is influenced by my passion for art history. It
provides a foundation and point of departure. Delving into thought
already established and incorporating the art historical into my work
enables me to synthesize my creation and view of art. Artists today are
dealing with many of the same concepts and questions as those of the past. There is a similar search for balance between embracing and challenging the accepted; a desire to acknowledge and contribute to what has been established. In this search an artist finds a unique voice; it is this response that distinguishes them.

The subtractive process is a reflection of my personality and perception of life. I attempt to push past peoples‚ personal facades and observe their deeper individuality. It is this removal of the excessive or false to reveal an essence of truth and purity that is conveyed by the subtractive method; it is an effort to expose the honesty of a subject. The importance of process also speaks to my interaction with both the world and subject. The analytical and physical aspects of the subtractive approach mimic my tendency to step back and observe my surroundings before actively investigating them. There is a tension between this method becoming a formal shorthand or a purification of form.

I am drawn to the boldness and humanity of both subject and artist in
German Expressionism. The movement, emotion, and honesty of expressionistic art are traits I hope to incorporate in my own work. German expressionists such as Ernst Barlach, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Max Beckmann, Kathe Kollwitz, and Erich Heckel shared my interest in medium as an integral element and the dynamic between artist and viewer. Their work became more than just an object; it was a response to the world and events around them. They were prolific in their experimentation, intense passion, and desire to break from artistic conventions. I feel that expressionistic art as well as my own three-dimensional work relies heavily on the conversation between the piece and the surrounding space. There is also the link of figurative subject matter, which they used to convey inner experience. Unlike the expressionists, I struggle with translating my emotions into my work. I have been unable to get beyond the creation of art for pure aestheti
c value to a point of deeper substance. I want desperately to stretch
myself beyond my current limits, and discover whom I am as both a person and an artist; to reach a point where I will have an inner confidence and self-awareness that will be reflected in my art.

I see a similar honesty and purity in the Modernist sculpture of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, and Jacques Lipchitz to that of the expressionists. There is a clear search for the essence of a subject through abstraction and simplification evident in their work. I enjoy the dynamics found in the human form such as the juxtaposition and tension of body masses, gestural movement, and balance, as well as the simplification of the complex figurative relationships. So much of my work can be read as figurative, something I feel branches from a human instinct to understand the world through its relation to ourselves.

I feel my work is a synthesis of the classical past and modernism.
Through my art I attempt to create a fusion of classical and modern
aesthetics. I exist within a tension between a classical reserve and
expressionistic content. I enjoy an abstract modern aesthetic and bold, expressive line coupled with a classical approach.

I am attracted to the intense physicality of sculpting, as well as the
meditation found in the purity of the process. For me sculpture is not so much about the end result as it is the artist‚s journey towards a goal. There is something beautiful about the silent reflection and
self-exploration of a sculptor intent on a project. I am drawn to the
complex union of the mental and physical that is innate to working
three-dimensionally; the translation of a conceptual thought into a
tangible piece. Sculpture allows for an intimate response from the
viewer, where their reaction to the work becomes an integral aspect of art making.

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