Definition of composition:
The nature of something ingredients; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up.
‘And after drawing comes composition. A well composed painting is half done’ – Pierre Bonnard
Do we have to think so deeply into where we place things on a canvas?
As a child, composition and visual harmony comes naturally. Priorities change as we grow up and Crome more concerned of making an object realistic. You are naturally drawn to place objects at the centre of a piece. This is why I think Arikha will be a good starting point to influence my choices as a focus on composition. He does not place things in the centre of a piece. Below are some images of my brothers drawing (aged 6). His use of the page and colour compositions intrigue me but most of all, the thing that I questions is his imagination!
Contemporary artists: still life today
Many artists challenge the notion of composition as it plays with the idea of staying within the orders of the canvas. Traditionally triangular and pyramidal compositions were used as they created a sense of harmony and balance. In the late 1940’s Jackson Pollock challenged this and introduced an ‘allover composition’. This traditional idea of composition became known as relational composition. Although Pollock kept his paintings within the canvas there were come artists who did not, such as artist Barnett Newman. His paintings were relational in the extent that his proportions of the colours were adjusted against each other to create this ‘balance’ and ‘harmony’ but were seen as compositionally radical as the blocks of colour would run off the edge of the canvas. Newman left these paintings unframed. Frank Stella (late 1950s) achieved a composition that was both ‘all over’ and broke out from the confined of the canvas.
‘What painting wants more than anything else is working space – space to grow into and expand into’.
Frank Stella was a painter, printmaker and writer. He was considered a leading figure of post-painterly abstraction. He began to paint abstract pictures while at school. He studied history at university and attended painting classes. Stella was influenced by Abstract Expressionism but after moving to New York he was impressed with Japser Johns paintings of the flag and this changed his art direction. He started to emphasise the idea that painting is a physical object rather than a metaphor on a flat surface. He wanted to ‘eliminate illusionistic space’. These aims were first evident in his series of black pinstripe paintings. He then began to use flat bands of bright colour. He wanted to work with the picture as a whole when it came to identifying pattern and so he started to work with notched and shaped canvases. In the 1970s he started to experiment with paintings that included cut out shapes in relief and abounded his spontaneous graffiti like manner.
I wanted to look into another artists from my own knowledge in relation to still life and composition. I feel Avigdor Arikha fits into this. He was an Israeli painter, draughtsman, printmaker and writer. He created drawings in Nazi labour camps at the age of 13 which saved his life by attracting attention to his talent. In 1944 he emirgrated to Israel and started to study art. He was badly wounded in 1948 during the Israeli war and continued his studies in Paris.