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Art Appreciation, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1776

Essay

Works of visual art that are of different styles and even different mediums still maintain a commonality in basic elements and principles. The basic elements and principles of art are often referred to as aesthetics. The following examination of the way that basic aesthetics extend across individual themes and styles involves examination of three works of art, each distinct in theme and type from the other. The three works are: “Autumn Aglow” by James Scoppertone, “Freestyle” by Anton Arkhipov, and “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” by Gib Singleton. The three paintings represent three separate styles, as well as three separate themes. That said, each of the works relies on the use fundamental elements of composition and on similar fundamentals of the theory and practice of the visual arts.

To begin to compare the three works in regard to both differences of style and theme and similarity of fundamentals, a definition of elements and principles is needed. The following examination will proceed with a survey of the artistic elements elements of each work. A survey of the principles of art that underlie the three works will follow. Five elements of art will be discussed and five principles of art will be discussed after which the three works will be compared with one another and the common elements and principles. The examination of the three works in regard to the elements of art begins by defining the following five elements, as suggested by Herberholz: “line, color, shape/form, texture and value” (Herberholz). These elements are present in all three of the works under discussion no matter how varied the three works may prove to be in technique, theme, or medium.

The first work under examination is “Autumn Aglow” by James Scoppertone. This work is a  48 x 36 painting created with oil on canvas and is currently on display at the Galerie Zuger in Dallas Texas. In this painting the elements of art are brought into common function under the general guidelines of Impressionism.  Because Impressionism moves away from a strictly realistic depiction of subjects, Scoppertone’s vision of a wooded lane in autumn  uses line, color, and shape in an expressive rather than realistic way.  In Impressionism, as in Abstract art, “the sheer amount of reflection devoted to color sometimes far exceeds the attention devoted to line and composition” (Barasch 320).  However, the most important elements in the painting are value and texture. The interplay of light and color in the leaves and in the foreground road distinguish this work as Impressionistic. The shadings of color (value) combine with the texture of the brushstrokes and interplay of color to create the feeling of the outdoors.

By contrast, in  “Freestyle” by Anton Arkhipov, the use of the elements of art is directed at creating a surrealistic, rather than Impressionistic image. This work is a 65 x 45 oil on canvas currently on display at the Summit Galerie in Breckenridge, Colorado. In this painting, the use of line is more important in some ways than the use of value or texture. Color in the painting is expressive rather than realistic, but the primary agent of emotion and feeling in the work is the use of line. The two skiers are so awkwardly close and intertwined that the contrast between the idea of balance and chaos is expressed in a powerful way. The shapes that are present in and around the figures are expressive in an abstract, geometrical way, just as the overall form of the painting is to pit the idea of geometrical perfection against human clumsiness. This contrast, expressed by form, line, color, texture, and value indicates a theme of humanity’s estrangement from the harmony of nature and the longing to return to balance.

Extending a similar theme of disharmony, Gib Singelton’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” is a Biblically themed bronze sculpture exhibited at the Masters Gallery in Vail Colorado. This work depicts a scene from the Book of Revelations. As such, it is the most realistic work even though it depicts a mythological theme. The use of line in this work is used to create a sense of motion and speed, while color is muted to earth tones of muted bronze and orange. The texture of the pace is very important because it is three-dimensional, heavy, and solid as befits a prophesy of doom. The value of the colors is significant because they are lowered to the level of gloom. The shape and form of the work expresses the interconnectedness between the four symbols of destruction and the earth they are sent to destroy. The theme of this work is, obviously, much darker than the two paintings under discussion, but its tone and expression rests on the same shared set of expressive elements.

Just as each of the three works shares basic elements of expression, they also share a set of principles. The principles that are common to the works are “balance, emphasis, proportion, movement [….] and unity” (Herberholz). These principles help to define each of the three works despite their obvious differences in medium, technique, and theme. In other words, just as the elements of expression were shown to be commonly held in each of the works, the basic principles are also present.

For example, in Scoppertone’s “Autumn Aglow,” the sense of balance is harmonious. The trees are in an almost dance-like relation on either side of a smooth and easy road that flows through the painting’s center. The emphasis in the image is placed on the road which invited the viewer to “enter” the balance depicted in the nature-image of the Fall forest. The proportions of the painting are almost natural, but smoothed over to seem more dream-like. The sense of motion in the image is conveyed through the Impressionistic brushstrokes that make all that is show seem in motion with scattered leaves in the air and on the lane. These elements all coalesce in an essential  unity of all the aspects of the painting, but especially that which unites the various principles to the theme of the painting which is: nature.

Unity is also present in Arkhipov’s “Freestyle” where the sense of motion and exaggerated proportions of the work are used to convey an overall sense of imbalance. This sense is contrasted against the essential unity of nature for ironic impact. The irony of the painting is the primary way in which the work’s theme is presented. In other words, it is the imbalance and disproportion of the human figures on skis as contrasted with the balanced, natural valley below them that creates the tension and meaning of the work. The contrast between the human world and nature results in a unified expression of theme and image.

Similarly, in  Singelton’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” a sense of irony is also generated through the use of the principles of composition. In this work, balance is present and is contrasted fro dramatic effect with the sense of motion that is conveyed through the figures. At the same time, the overall  unity of the work is conveyed despite its theme of chaos and destruction. This reinforces the unchanging nature of Biblical prophecy and so, the emphasis of the work is on the simultaneous expression of heaviness and speed. It is as though the horsemen are about to trample the observer.

Although the viewer is invited to participate in each of the three works, a comparison of the works shows that the themes imparted to the viewer are vastly different in each of the three. In each case, there is a connection between technique, medium, and theme that allows the underlying elements and principles to be used for various effects.  “Autumn Aglow” by Scoppertone is an affirmative vision of nature and the potential of man’s harmonious relationship with natural world. It is suitably painted with an Impressionistic technique which lends it a depth of unity in theme and image. The way that the elements of composition are used in this painting is to emphasize the role of light and color and the influence of value and texture while letting the “constrictive” elements of form and line be diminished. This also ties to athematic statement made in the painting regarding nature: that it is based not on restrictive line and form but on feeling and freedom and on the interaction between colors and light.

The feeling for nature that is present in Arkhipov’s “Freestyle” is slightly darker and is presented in a stylized technique that emphasizes form, proportion, and imbalance to create an ironic them about man’s disharmony with nature. Color is expressive and form and line are used to create contrast in this work. Essentially the painting aims to gently criticize the modern world with a reminder that human folly is often a consequence of trying to master the natural world. Singleton’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” extends this disharmony to overwhelmingly dark and tragic proportions. The way that the disharmony is shown is to diminish the role of color and decrease the value of expressive color to only those which indicate sadness and gloom. Furthermore, motion is contrasted with the heaviness of the figures to suggest immovable fate. A sense of dramatic urgency is created by the sculptures proportions which are  realistic but stylized to an almost mythical level. The impact of the sculpture is to personify a Biblical symbolism in one of the least expected ways: cast in bronze to achieve a feeling of revelation that mirrors the theme of the work.

Taken together, the three works show a “degenration” of the harmony between human imagination and the natural world. In my opinion, Scoppertone’s work lives up to its billing of being “infused with an intensely dramatic sense of color” (Scoppertone).  Arkhipov’s “Freestyle” seemed to me to be refreshingly ironic and “free of any political or popular trends” (Arkhipov). The sculpture of “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” was my least favorite of the pieces. This was due to the fact that the realistic depiction of Biblical symbols simply seemed to be a weak combination . That said, I do agree that “Singleton lends a very human vulnerability to his otherwise divine subjects” (Singleton). This is something that any artist should attempt to do, although it is not as easily quantified as the elements and principles just examined.

Works Cited

Adelstein,Edie. Review: Gib Singleton and Earl Biss at the FAC. 8-12-2010; Colorado Springs Independant Online; accessed 3-14-12; http://www.csindy.com/IndyBlog/archives/2010/08/12/review-gib-singleton-and-earl-biss-at-the-fac

Arkhipov, Anton. “Bio” www.aarkstudio.com; access 3-13-12 ; www.aarkstudio.com/Bio.htm

Barasch, Moshe. Modern Theories of Art. New York: New York University Press, 1990. .

Herberholz, Barbara. “. When We Review the Principles of Art.” Arts & Activities Nov. 2010:    15+.

Singleton, Gib. “About.” www.gibsingleton.com; accessed 3-15-12; http://www.gibsingleton.com/aboutgib.html

Scoppertone, James. “An American Impressionist” www.scoppettone.com; accessed 3-15-12; http://www.scoppettone.com/About.html

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