Sharps and Flats

After living in Italy for several months, and following the picture-making routine that ultimately grew into the 2016 Cortona Skies series, I had accumulated a couple hundred digital photographs of my new environment. Since the pictures had mostly been made using Instagram, most of them were shot in a square format. When I reviewed the photos as a whole, arranged in a grid, it was easy to see common compositional themes as well as unusual variations.

When I primarily made paintings, pictorial composition had always been my first concern. I worked to make my pictures interesting, making specific arrangements of formal elements to suit the subject: asymmetrical, balanced, dynamic, static, or otherwise. These new images suggested that I applied the same concern to spontaneous digital photographs, making sure the composition of each picture was at least as interesting (if not more interesting) than its subject.

In a museum in Venezia I saw some early paintings by Jean Hélion, an artist whose work I have long admired. Those works are hard-line non-objective abstractions, made before he developed his later figurative style. I love those paintings, in part because they are very clear, with little ambiguity: this shape is here, not there, it is small, not large, it is red, not blue, etc. The artist did not waffle about his final decisions! I decided to try making some pictures in a similar mode, so I employed vector artwork as a medium, using my square photographs as the starting point, and drawing abstract shapes based on their compositional elements. The resulting pictures are square arrangements of sharp, flat shapes. They led to more experimentation with abstractions from life, and ultimately to the Stranger Shields series.

Click on each picture to see it in its entirety.