Notebook, 1993-


Planar Articulation

Planar articulations are not so different from linear articulations, except of course the plane asserts itself in two dimensions instead of one.

. . . . Planes, like lines, are capable of touching, intersecting, and overlapping one another at various points and angles, or they may stand apart in "open" relationships, allowing much spatial interaction. Planes, in addition, may overlap in both opaque and transparernt conformations. This gives them some advantage over lines: They have greater tectonic possibilities, especially in thier ability to interpenetrate. [One of the fundamental, basic differences between painting and graphics: The touch and mark of brush immediately suggests plane blending into three-dimensional form - This in conjunction with color which is an effect of light interacting with substance which has texture or the quality of surfaces. And, edge is blurred--dissovled from any clear linear implication . . . . ]

Cézanne used Impressionist color in the service of a more involved pictorial order, one that engaged both eye and mind, perception and conception. He sought more structural equivalents for trees, houses, household things, fruit, boulders, bottles, faces, and mountains; these consisted of both frontal and somewhat forward-tilting planes, large and small. His application of colors in shingle-like strokes, his "constructive stroke," a refinement perhaps on his earlier use of the palette knife, was his way of building form and space alliances from the smallest unit, the plane of the brush stroke itself, to the larger forms--a method he chose to call "modulation" rather than modeling. Whether stated aburptly or subtly, broadly or minutely, his basic structural element was the color-plane (color as plane) . . . .

The color-plane, starting with the individual brush stroke, would inspire the interest of Matisse and his Fauves circle of friends, Derain, Vlaminck, Braque, Dufy, and others, and would be developed by Braque out of expressionistic Fauvism in the direction of what would be called Cubism during the years 1906-1909, joining forces with Picasso in 1908. [an aspect in the transformation of the pictorial, personal point of view to abstractions . . . . ] The influence of Cézanne became the dominant one. Braque and Picasso showed less interest, at first, in color-plane possibilities than in the plane alone as a means of dealing with form--form virtually on its own, then form in a spiraling form-space context [According to Picasso's statements - Cubism was more an interest in angles of multiple-perspective.] They reduced the plane to a near-geometric element in grays, earth colors, and diminished blues and greens, in order to reconstitute form in controlled depth from several angles of vision (Analyitic Cubism, c. 1907-1912). Again, Cézanne's way of presenting an object from two or three points of view simultaneously established an important precedent. This and related strategies, amounting to so-called distortions (far better the word adjustments)--ways of trying to grasp forms in the very act of perceiving them, painting them--would remain an important legacy, along with Cézanne's use of closed and open structure and passage. Cézanne's paintings inspired not only a new pictorial grammar, but also a new syntax, the two extending their influence through more than one stage and branch of Cubism into architecture and even applied design. The color-plane, broadly extended (as in Synthetic Cubism, c. 1912-1921), the transparent plane and the concept and use of radical juxtaposition and discontinuity, would characterize much of the visual arts "language" of the twentieth century.

[Planar articulation or "Modulation" in: Vision & Invention, An Introduction to Art Fundamentals. Harlan, Calvin. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986.]



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