Portrait of a Man with a Floppy Hat (Portrait of Erwin Dominilk Osen) 1910 by Egon Schiele
‘The world we inhabit is stuffed full of blank spaces. Moments of blankness are everywhere, though frequently invisible- a short pause in conversation, for example, or the background in a picture. Whilst these ubiquitous blanknesses tend to be read as meaningless in themselves, they also tend to have meaning structured around them. In this way blank spaces remain invisible within the discourses that hide them’.
I wish I could take the credit for the above statement but a woman named Angelina Morrison penned those words and put her observations and instincts into organised and articulate sentences. Sadly, these days, even my six year old granddaughter can outmanoeuvre me with her ability to over talk, verbally change tack and logically and articulately confound me before she goes off in a flounce. However in spite of this I will try to string some words together.
Angelina goes on to discuss totally monochrome works as a pictorial whole, as blank spaces in themselves which make no attempt to tell stories and contain nothing visually recognisable. I do not want to venture that far into discrepancy. I want to linger in the area where she began in which blank spaces have meaning structured around them. To turn this around, whether it is in abstract or pictorial art or spoken discourse, the blank spaces can emphasise, clarify and balance the meaning to either the verbal structures or the visual configurations around them.
For instance look at the watercolour and black ink work entitled ‘Man in a Felt Hat’ by Egon Schiele. He has drawn, in some detail, the head, face and hat then apart from two simple comparatively faint lines, there is a large blank space taking up more than a third of the pictorial space until your eye reaches the bottom quarter of the piece where the hands are depicted in detail. The blank space is as important as the drawn detail and gives the picture its drama and illusive meaning.
In the life drawing sessions, if only, I tell myself, I can refrain from trying to fill all the paper space, if only I can just hold back from painstakingly completing every facial and physical detail, if only I can work out where, compositionally, the blanks should be in order to strengthen the work. How long should a silence be before it loses meaning and context within a discourse? Silence can be deafening, sometimes it can be calming, or scary or refreshing or it can be uncomfortable, it all depends on context. It is a considered ratio and balance within a pictorial work and I think an interesting path to follow. On the other hand, often an unfinished work is stronger because of the unintended blank spaces which have occurred by happenstance.
Alternatively, harking back to Angelina, there is the opportunity to take the power of blankness and conceptualise it by painting the experience of just being in the life room by painting a monochrome, just pure colour with no visually recognisable symbols. No foreground, no background just the sense of being there, like a silent theatrical performance. Now there’s a thought!
No critique or complimenting by me of the pictures in the gallery from last night that’s for you as artists to have your say if you so choose, but many thanks to Stephanie for modelling so well and so still for us in a not so warm space.
Paintings and drawings by Sandra (above), Barry, Catherine, Chris, Dick, Hadyn, Ivan, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom and Tony.