Wednesday, 24 August 2011

What does a straight line communicate?

In the light of the plethora of taped and rulered edges in paintings that I am currently being presented I wondered what you might think of this trend. I have on a number of occasions given my opinion to this form of reductionism but the fashion seems to be growing and I now have to wonder if I am missing something. In the past Barnet Newman's work has moved me deeply and so I am not unaware of the potential impact of simplified forms and I really admire Mondrian's courage.

The simplicity is tempting, the lack of personal exposure comforting, the boundaries certain and readable, the invention of form and colour programmable and the overal appearance decorative but the grit is missing. Your suggestions would be appreciated because my curmudgeonly response to such work is now instinctive and not positive.

11 comments:

  1. I agree - A freehand drawn straight line is very human and can show vulnerability, tentativeness or courage and confidence and says something about the creator. The need for precision with a taped or ruler line feels mechanical even obsessive. Sometimes draughtsmanship, neatness/perfection and precision is important to the exclusion of the feelings of intuitive decision making and process experienced in hand drawing a line. Sarah Morris work without tape would be a different painting altogether, there are times when this hard edged precision is the point of the work.

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  2. There is a sense in which the harder the geometry, or the straighter the line, the more the work seems to communicate control and power.(though I think Monk's main point is that it is too easy). I agree with you Eve, that the freehand drawing suggests vulnerability/humanity. I wonder if Sean Scully sensed this in moving away from his harder edged minimalism in favour of a 'soft geometry'.

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  3. Thanks for these encouraging responses. Agreeing with Eve I feel the hard line masks nature/nature of the maker. (This most biblical combination of words arrived!) I know Sean Scully does put a lot of value and significance onto the influence of the body in the making a mark and the subsequent evidence that is left behind in the mark that is there to be read by the viewer. I think the hard-edged approach frequently denies the qualities of the medium and in doing so simplifies the process and removes this evidence. Part of my appreciation of painters is their ability to work with their nature in combination with those of the universe and its materials. Undeniably this still applies to those that control the image with hard lines and is certainly part of a virtuoso's repertoire but I think the ability to live with uncertainty is harder and more creative, particularly in uncertain times. I think the last thing we need is the simple easy option that gets adopted as a fashion. Does rigorous enquiry have to be empirical or hard-edged or maybe the hard edged is a POP thang and I am seeking too much from it?

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  4. Often I think it starts as a means to an end and then becomes a kind of support, an emotional crutch almost. I think at some point you have to trust yourself. Obviously there will come a time when nothing but a sharp edge will suffice but I think it a little sad when it becomes a constant. In the end though I guess some folks like to buy their potatoes with the dirt still on and some prefer them ready washed. Me? Well I just like potatoes.

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  5. A point nicely made. Hurray for The Potato Eaters.

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  6. I don't use tape. The paintings wouldn't be the same at all; the wobble supplies the juice.

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  7. You mentioned fashion - the eternal elephant in the room of all art/ design disciplines and critical analysis. Mark making, memory, death, exploration of emotion, nature, geometry etc etc, yada yada, all pale into insignificance as motivations for producing art when compared with the over-riding urge to join the crowd.

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  8. isn't it just down to a minimalist aesthetic that has taken over? anything that suggests a deviation from a straight line, smacks of 'expressionist' ideals, thoughtless marks without a conceptual framework... Give me freedom from dogma, I'm with Pete: 'I think the last thing we need is the simple easy option that gets adopted as a fashion. Does rigorous enquiry have to be empirical or hard-edged'..

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  9. Whether we need it or not, the surge towards the fashionable has always occurred and always will. The question is, do we acknowledge and discuss its existence or do we dance around it pretending its not there?

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  10. Bonjour à Vous, c'est superbe qu'une "ligne droite" devienne une autoroute donnant autant de commentaires passionnés et de réactions intéressantes; la ligne droite est bien la seule chose qui soit imaginaire, n'existant pas dans la nature et qui donc est abstraite, n'est-elle pas deux points reliés par un regard ? elle est peut être, la métaphore condensée,cadencée, comme les pas que danse de l'humain arpentant l'Univers. à bientôt...si vous le voulez bien :-) thibault

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