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Originally posted on my blog, Saturday, September 30, 2006

 

A sense of balance

As the blog goes into its second month I begin to think that drawing and writing are in different orbits and can never quite meet. Sometimes they come close but there’s a final barrier, something to do with the laws of nature, a visual/verbal divide. They can enrich each other but cannot replace or explain each other.

I like this idea. It gives me a sense of a deep natural cause or genesis for all the arts. Most likely it’s an old idea, but to me it’s new and it arises from my own experience, what I have seen and touched and otherwise felt with my senses.

Furthermore, through drawing, I’ve been able to add a sixth sense to the usual list of five, the sixth being a sense of balance. By this I don’t mean the medically well-known “position” sense, whereby when our eyes are closed we can tell which way up we are, and where our limbs are in space. Instead I mean the ability to tell when something outside ourselves is in or out of balance. I don’t know where this “sense” resides anatomically, but I can feel it best by standing well back and wiggling the lower mid-section of my body while looking intently at the thing where I’m doubtful of the balance, e.g. an object or figure in a painting – to study whether it’s in danger of toppling over.

Law-of-gravity balance is one of the first things I notice in art. That’s just the way it is. The last three posts all have balanced figures (Sabrina Charran's nude, my "Man with camera at beach", and Anna Serrao's figure), though I didn’t pick them for that reason, it just happened. And I can’t explain in words what it is about the drawings that gives the figures their balance, only that it is so. Who knows to what extent this undocumented sense of balance feeds into our intuitive response to drawings and paintings, and into the aesthetic response in general?

2 comments:

JT said...
Does this just apply to paintings and made objects? Or can you, by judicious wiggling, tell whether another living being is out of balance or out of harmony?
 
Mary said...
The sapper in The English Patient, I think his name was Kip, had an uncanny ability to prevent accidents, and I remember him diving to catch something about to roll off a table. It could be that something similar is at work here, but I’m really thinking of drawings and paintings, and only law-of-gravity balance, which is fairly concrete, not harmony or other intangibles. I suppose I’m saying, in the real world unbalanced things will fall and be done, whereas in a picture you’re stuck forever with a toppling house or chair or person.
 
The wiggling, well, I’ve cultivated this sense of balance in drawing and painting over several years and I don’t know if it works or would work for anyone else. I’d be interested to know. I’ve suggested it to a couple of people in front of pictures, usually my own rejects, with unbalanced objects which initially they think are fine, and what happens is, after giving me a funny look, they kind of nod and move on, as if they’ve got it. Or maybe they think I'm nutty.

(Note: Comments were on Blogger.com and have been copied here.)

 

 

 



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