Point. Line. Plane.

A JOURNEY TO DISCOVER MY ARTISTIC ROOTS

When a would-be artist begins learning her grade, she confronts what to do with a blank surface. Art schools and workshops teach a traditional approach of dividing the surface into thirds vertically, then horizontally. Where lines intersect, is where the focal point of the painting will rest. Composition is taught as the foundation of all art.

To  teach this point, the students are shown images dating back hundreds of years on how this formula has been established. It is the gospel and continually reinforced in the soul of the artist. Various combinations of compositions are described: vertical, diagonal, S curve, one-point perspective and so forth.

Early in the 20th c, Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian artist, wasn’t satisfied with representable art and was struggling to establish a new approach to painting. Influenced by the artists around him, he sought to explain his ideas through Mathematics, much as the traditional approach he has been taught in art school.

In “Line and Point to Plane”, a small volume, Kandinsky develops he own theory of composition, as well as a color wheel. In his view a composition is made up of three elements: point, line (an extension of a point) and plane.  His lines are vertical, horizontal, diagonal, wavy,  curvical.

For color compliments, Kandinsky matches contrasts—red to green, yellow to blue, and orange to lavender, plus white and black. Warm and cool temperatures designations are assigned by hue. Light reaches towards heaven. Black downward to death. Over the century since published, these ideas now appear obvious and simplistic. When new, they were radical; today they seem ordinary. Kandinsky taught at the famed Bauhaus, where his paintings were anything, but simplistic. They are marvels of action and invention. No content subject allows. The painting must be complete unto itself.

After reading his theories, I wanted to clear my mind of landscapes and concentrate solely on point, line and plane. While in graduate design class, I had spent hours arranging lines on a surface. never realizing I owed that assignment to Kandinsky. Best art problem I ever had. Years later, here are my rediscovered ideas of his theory in practice.

— Phyllis Gillie Jaffe

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