Vision Thing is a journal I write to share my experience and passion as an artist with my collectors,
galleries, friends and art enthusiasts everywhere. My goal is to offer a "behind the scenes" or
insider's view of what makes an artist tick...this artist at least.
I appreciate you sharing my journey.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Visual Tension = Vital Energy

What gives a piece of art its energy? What makes it engaging to you as a viewer?

Last week I watched an excellent interview with children's author/illustrator, Chris van Allsburg, a long time favorite of mine. He mentions the idea of "cognitive dissonance" as an important aspect of his work. Cognitive Dissonance is a psychological theory which basically states that feelings and thoughts in conflict cause action which resolves them and returns an individual to a state of equilibrium. This same concept is often used in visual art to set up some form of tension or dynamic interest that forges a connection between the work and viewer. This visual tension energizes the art and makes it engaging...imbuing the piece with the "vital energy" the artist intends.
Rene Magritte "Time Transfixed" 1938
Visual tension is an important underlying principle in art and can be developed in many ways; composition and arrangement, color, scale, direction, surface, subject, etc. Often it can be as simple as the juxtaposition of two very different elements, or a subject in an unusual or unfamiliar context. In other aspects it can be very subtle such as the broken color and powerful brushstrokes of John Singer Sargent painting the edge of a stream. The Surrealists, particularly Rene Magritte, made very compelling images simply by taking two ordinary things, a fireplace and a locomotive for example, and putting them together in an usual way. Contemporary painter, Michael Parkes, known for his "magical realism" employs these principles throughout his work. Parkes famous painting "The Juggler" is an excellent example as the juggler defies gravity while walking a circle of rope suspended in the sky...the stuff of dreams.

John Singer Sargent "The Chess Game" 1907

Michael Parkes "The Juggler"
"Destiny's Angel" Digital

As I thought about van Allsburg's work I realized that I am drawn to art that explores these concepts and I use the same principles in my own work; Leonardo DaVinci wings on an astronaut, soft, feminine forms set against machinery, organic, natural forms such as a fox skull set against industrial textures or technical diagrams. My aluminum work explores the idea of visual tension and energy in a different way. This work relies more on dynamic surface qualities of the metal as an industrial material juxtaposed with natural forms such as stones, clouds, dragonflies, etc. I enjoy using a "tromp lo'eil" approach with these pieces to further enhance the illusion and sense of tension. Again, the conflict between the natural and the industrial, the realism and illusion provide the work with the interest and vital energy I enjoy sharing...and I hope others find engaging.

"Aviatrix" Digital
"Ritual" Acrylic on Aluminum

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