Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Gestalt - A physical, psychological, or symbolic arrangement or pattern of parts so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts. May also refer to a school or theory in psychology known as Gestalt psychology.

Here is an animation of four pictures, each an arrangement of coloured squares of decreasing size, increasing number, and increasing complexity. As the animation progresses there is a moment at which the viewer identifies the image from which the images were derived. This experience might be described as achieving closure or making a new gestalt. This experience is also likely to arrive earlier in the sequence the more times one sees the animation. Even the final image is actually a greatly distorted reproduction of the original picture. See derived image, metamorphosis, and pixel.

Reference:- (Accessed 29.10.08)

Visual Arts Glossary

Visual Art Glossary


Weak image of the complementary colour created by the brain as a reaction to prolonged looking at a colour. (After looking at red, the after-image is green).

Alternating rhythm

Repeating motifs but changing the position, content or spaces between them.

Analogous colour

Colours that are beside each other on the colour wheel.

Art criticism

The process and result of critical thinking about art. It usually involves the description, analysis and interpretation of art, as well as some kind of judgement.


Sculpture consisting of many objects and materials that have been put together.

Asymmetrical balance

Informal balance in which unlike objects have equal visual weight.


Part of the picture plane that seems to be farthest from the viewer.


Principle of design that deals with arranging the visual elements in a work of art for harmony of design and proportion.


Sculpture in which part of the surface projects from a flat plane.


Using contrast of light and dark to create the illusion of three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional surface.


In design, creating a focal point by grouping different objects or shapes together.

Colour wheel

A tool for organizing colour.

Complementary colour

Colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel (for example, blue and orange).


Arrangements of elements in a work of art.

Continuation (continuity)

In design, arranging shapes so that the line or edge of one shape leads into another (technique for creating unity).

Contour lines

Contour lines define edges, ridges or the outline of a shape or form.


A large difference between two things. It is a technique often used to create a focal point.


Arts works that are both decorative and functional. (Weaving, fabric design, jewellery-making and pottery).


Technique for shading using two or more crossed sets of parallel lines.


Behaviours, ideas, skills and customs of a group of people.


Changing an object's usual shape to communicate ideas and feelings.

Dominant element

Element in a work of art that is noticed first (elements noticed later are subordinate).


Principle of design that stresses one element or area to attract the viewer's attention first.


Increasing or enlarging an object or figure to communicate ideas or feelings.

Flowing rhythm

Visual rhythm that is created by repeating wavy lines.

Focal point

Area of an art work that attracts the viewer's attention first. Contrast, location, isolation, convergence and the unusual are used to create focal points.


Part of a picture which appears closest to the viewer and often is at the bottom of the picture.


A form of perspective where the nearest parts of an object or form are enlarged so that the rest of the form appears to go back in space.

Gesture drawing

A drawing done quickly to capture a movement.


Another word for colour (colour has three properties: hue, value and intensity).


Brightness or dullness of a colour. Intensity can be reduced by adding the colour's complement.

Linear perspective

Technique of creating the illusion of depth on a flat surface. The lines of buildings and other objects converge to a vanishing point on a horizon line (viewer's eye level).


A visual symbol that identifies a business, club, individual or group.


Any material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint.


Area in a picture between the foreground and the background.

Mixed media

Any art work which uses more than one medium.

Monochromatic colour

Colour scheme which uses one hue and all its tints and shades for a unifying effect.


Repeated unit to create visual rhythm.

Negative space

Space around an object or form.

Neutral colours

Black, white and grey.


Quality of a material that does not let any light pass through.

Organic form

Shapes or forms that are free-flowing and non-geometric.

Path of movement

The path along which the viewer's eye moves from one part of an art work to another.


Lines, colours or shapes repeated in a planned way.


Method used to create the illusion of space on a two-dimensional surface. Can be created by overlapping, placement, detail, colour, converging lines and size variations.

Picture plane

The surface of a drawing or painting.

Point of view

Angle from which the viewer sees the object.

Positive space

Shapes or forms on a two-dimensional surface.

Principles of design

Guidelines that artists use in composing designs and controlling how viewers are likely to react to the image. Balance, contrast, proportion, movement, emphasis, variety, unity and repetition are examples of the principles of design.


Principle of design concerned with the relationship of one object to another with respect to size, amount, number and degree.

Radial balance

Kind of balance where the elements branch out from a central point.

Random rhythm

Visual rhythm in which a motif is repeated in no apparent order.

Regular rhythm

Visual rhythm created through repeating the same motif with the same distance between placements.


Technique for creating unity and rhythm in which a single element or motif is used over and over again.


Copy of a work of art.


Principle of design that repeats elements to create the illusion of movement. There are five kinds of rhythm: random, regular, alternating, progressive and flowing.


The proportion between two sets of dimensions.


Dark value of a colour made by adding black.


Space can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.

Split complementary

A colour scheme based on one hue and the hues on either side of its complement on the colour wheel.


Style is the artist's ways of presenting things. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities, choice of subject matter, etc. reflect the style of the individual, culture or time period.


A topic or idea represented in an art work.

Subordinate element

Element in an art work noticed after the dominant element.

Subtractive method

Sculpture that is made by cutting, carving or otherwise removing material.


Visual image that represents something else.

Symmetrical balance

Formal balance where two sides of a design are identical.


Light value of a colour made by adding white.


Quality of material which allows diffused light to pass through it.


Quality of a material which allows light to pass through it.


Means "fool the eye". Style of painting where the artist creates the illusion of three-dimensional objects.


Principle of design that gives the feeling that all parts are working together.


The lightness or darkness of a colour.

Vanishing point

In perspective drawing, a point or points on the horizon where receding parallel lines seem to meet.


Principle of design concerned with difference or contrasts.

Visual weight

The interest or attraction that certain elements in an art work have upon the viewer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Potted Art Course

I came across this site today whist looking for something quite different, as one does. The link is to the course notes for a course in Art, Design and Visual Thinking at New York State College of Human Ecology. It is surprisingly comprehensive an includes numerous excellent images and references.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Affordable Art Fair

I have had a selection of my Flora Photographica series on sale at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea this weekend (22nd to 26th October) and I am delighted to say they sold out so I am just a bit chuffed. I was represented by Wills Art Warehouse. A great gallery in Putney and a must visit if you find yourself down that way.

I also had some of my art up for sale and that was not doing too bad either.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Modernism - Greenberg - Discuss

The major obstacles to tackling this essay are the impenetrable prose and unnecessarily complex vocabulary. The armoury of the educated to defend their assumed intellectual superiority.

From my lowly standpoint it would appear to me that Greenberg is suggesting or rather stating that to legitimise or justify art we must criticise it but before we can do that we must understand what it is and what it is endeavouring to achieve.

He implies that the only medium capable of representing modernism is painting as painting is the only medium that can divorce itself from representation and what has gone before by virtue of its flatness; the essence of Modernism.

References:- (Accessed 20.10.08) (Accessed 20.10.08)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rothko at Tate Modern

With great anticipation I visited the Rothko exhibition on Saturday (18th October). A painter who has held considerable fascination for me since I read his biography on holiday last year. At the time of my visit I have to confess I had forgotten the precise means of Rothko's demise. So what you may ask, you need to read on to find out!

Given the publicity that this new exhibition at Tate Modern has received there can be few people unaware of the idiosyncrasies of Rothko as an artist or the mysticism associated with his work. Or the fact that many are moved to tears by his work. Would I be?

Rothko painted in isolation and rarely explained or discussed his work, an isolation that added a mystery and an intrigue to his paintings. Something which taunted the art world long before his tragic death in 1970.

Possibly Rothko's most idiosyncratic stunt was to take on a commission to paint a series of gigantic works to decorate the imposing and expensive restaurant of New Yorks grand Seagram's building. But he never delivered, instead he donated the work to the Tate Gallery, the catalyst for this new exhibition. But why did he take on the Seagrams commission and why did he not complete it?

According to a journalist, John Fischer of Harpers Magazine, who bumped into Rothko in the bar of a transatlantic liner; Rothko's reasons for taking on the commission where subversive. He confessed that he wanted to upset, offend and torture the diners at the Four Seasons. "I hope to ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room," he gloated, "with paintings that will make those rich bastards feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up"[1].

After 30 minutes in Gallery 4 of the Tate Modern, I felt trapped and overcome by the most overwhelming feeling of depression, to the point were under my breath I told myself that If I did not get out of the place, there and then, I might end up slashing my wrists.

Rothko killed himself by deeply slashing both arms at the elbow. I now know why!

[1] Feeding Fury, Jonathan Jones, Guardian 7 Dec 2002:
Accessed 19.10.2002

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Developing the Right Language

One of my grandmothers homilies was that she did not know she was poor because no one had told her! Critical Thinking is a bit the same for me. As a practical scientist, I have spent most of my life Critical Thinking but I did not know that because we called it analysis!

As I search and develop the right side of my brain through the pursuit of art the exposure to abstruse aspects of the subject are quite enlightening. One of the pleasures and frustrations of the endeavour is the discovery of a new language and of course the words that go with it. My inadequacies in this area are evident as I struggle with the lexicon of the subject. This inadequacy was brought home to me as I listened to a commentary by Sasha Cradock on one of the works (Flowing 2 by Marta Marcé) at the current John Moores exhibition, but I shall leave Sasha to another occasion.

One of the first reoccurring words to catch my eye was "epistemology". At first glance I read it as "episiotomy", must be something to do with my daughter just having given birth. As you may imagine the sentence did not make much sense until I reread it and realised my mistake.

After a lifetime immersed in the scientific language of microbiology, biochemistry, haematology and a load more ologies getting to grips with the language of art is not far off learning Norwegian and I have been trying to do that for 14 years with little success. So you can see I may be struggling with Critical Studies!

Epistemology (from Greek - episteme, "knowledge") or theory of knowledge is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. The term was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808-1864).

Episiotomy is a surgical incision through the perineum made to enlarge the vagina and assist childbirth.

The Persiflage of Language

I have tried to avoid involvement in the Damien Hirst controversy. Mainly because I could disgrace myself with an uncontrollable outflow of profanity and derision. I was however taken with Robert Hughes's outflow of derision in his Guardian article of 13 September 08 concerning Hirst's upcoming Sothebys auction.

As I read the article my eye was caught by the word "persiflage". Initially I was taken aback by the use of a word containing more than two syllables by an Australian. But what did he mean by the use of this interesting word, as there seems to be more than one interpretation?


By now, with the enormous hype that has been spun around it, there probably isn't an earthworm between John O'Groats and Land's End that hasn't heard about the auction of Damien Hirst's work at Sotheby's on Monday and Tuesday - the special character of the event being that the artist is offering the work directly for sale, not through a dealer. This, of course, is persiflage. Christie's and Sotheby's are now scarcely distinguishable from private dealers anyway: they in effect manage and represent living artists, and the Hirst auction is merely another step in cutting gallery dealers out of the loop.

A quick Google produced a selection of definitions from reputable sources:-

1. Unabridged (v 1.1)
  • light, bantering talk or writing.
  • a frivolous or flippant style of treating a subject.

2. American Heritage Dictionary -
  • Light good-natured talk; banter.
  • Light or frivolous manner of discussing a subject.

3. Online Etymology Dictionary -
  • to banter
  • to whistle, hiss

4. WordNet -
  • light teasing

5. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary -
  • to quiz, to whistle, hiss,
  • Frivolous or bantering talk; a frivolous manner of treating any subject, whether serious or otherwise;
  • Light raillery

Ah but which definition did Hughes have in mind when chose such a mellifluous word? Was he referring to his writing as banter (good humoured, playful conversation, To speak to in a playful or teasing way) or did he mean frivolous (unworthy of serious attention; trivia).

It's OK these word mongers using words of more than one syllable but are they using the word to clarify a point or to show off? Like so much writing about art there is a tendency not to use one syllable where you can use two or more. I appreciate a long word used correctly may save the use of many more smaller words but....................what do you think?

Whatever his intention my contention would be that he intended the interpretation "frivolous", for me that would sum up Damian Hirst and his work perfectly - "persiflage"! Or as an Englishman may say; frivolous, unworthy of serious attention!


Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Power of the Mid Life Crisis

How may of us harbour an unfulfilled desire to write a novel or direct a film, quite a few I suspect. How many of us actually do anything about fulfilling that dream, very few I am sure. Well my kid brother, Johnny Parker, driven by his mid life crisis has taken the first steps down the road to fulfilling both of these dreams. The novel is still in the incubator but the film has just hit a computer screen near you. Beauty and the Butcher a humorous tale of unrequited love was written and directed by Johnny.

The tale follows the theme "Beautiful Beautician loves Hunky Butcher but can she overcome her shyness, her loathing of meat, competition from the cocky Estate Agent and a mountain of cruel obstacles to get to the man she adores?" Does she, well you will have to watch this very accomplished first effort at creating a short film.

View the video below or follow the link for a Hi-Res version.