Hubba, hubba, and other artists’ concepts

In other words, here’s another chapter from Graham Collier's Form, Space & Vision, published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1963.

FORM III: the aesthetic implications of form

Skeletal form and mass form…help our eye, mind and instinct to operate together in appraising the modus operandi of the object when it demands comprehension rather than mere identification.  An awareness of structure directs our attention and interest to search for the inner, more permanent nature of the object.  It helps us to recognize associational affinities with other objects and insures that we perceive more about an object than merely the shape of its external appearance.

Form…”a particular organization of shape capable of arousing the emotional and intellectual participation of the individual.”…The form of things comprises the total substantial element of our world and is a large part of our conscious orientation…At the lowest level comes the simple act of accepting or rejecting something when we are shopping.  At the highest level is recognition, understanding, and sympathy so intense that it approaches ecstasy—a complete self-identification with the object through a heightened total consciousness.

The distinction between the commonplace and the powerfully moving:  When form appears complete and unalterable, when we sense that any addition or subtraction would ruin this completeness, when form is charged with meaning, when it coincides with our desires, invites our physical or imaginative possession and the subsequent loss of our own identity in self-identification with the form—when we are affected in any of these ways, then for a moment we become involved with the mystery of an aesthetic response.

In nature, “pure” form and meaningful form are to be found side-by-side:  the white, smooth bone and the rough, weathered rock, the folds of the hills and the swell of abdomen and breasts in the human torso.  It may be the “pure” form that excites the artist, or it ay be the significance for him of its meaning—but more than likely both of these aspects of form are inseparably bound up in his aesthetic awareness.  For man is still part of the natural world, and forms in nature can stir in him the recognition of common affinities between all forms and their presence in his own physical shape.  Such recognition provides a glimmer of truth—the truth of common qualities of shape among things, and this is a fundamental part of aesthetic awareness…the meaning of beauty and perfection, the psychology of aesthetic sensitivity, the urge for possession, and the faculty to identify with the object—all of which are part of our innate sensitivity to form….
     We live surrounded by form:  landscape, the human figure, the dream, the legend and the myth, the fantastic minutiae of biochemistry or nuclear physics, the products of industry, commercial advertising, architecture, and townscape, the teeing complexities of nature.  We retain images of the shape of all these things.  If there is no form, then space is all that remains….Through our mysterious capacity to be affected by form, we find ourselves in love with all kinds of things.  At one and the same time we both belong to the world and yet transcend it through this aesthetic sensitivity that allows us to possess it so intimately.

FORM= shape derived from structure + aesthetic aura

Use drawing paper, minimum size about 16” x 16” (40cm2); a pen, brush or finger, with ink or a charcoal stick, or pencil.  Make a free, and yet considered, design of the form suggested by each of the following propositions.  Start by tentatively exploring the possibilities in drawing loosely, and perhaps vaguely, on a newsprint pad, filling the sheet with suggestions after the manner of doodling.  Gradually, your drawing will become more definite as you find one shape suddenly appearing more interesting than the others.  Begin to exploit and develop this shape, or a part of it newly discovered, into a fuller indication of the form it suggests.  Even when this stage is reached, it is still a good thing to let it continue to evolve through several drawings, before turning to make the finished drawing.
Use all your resources for this design.  Conjure up shapes from memory, build shapes in the mind, “feel” the form as the line explores the paper; allow your knowledge of structure—the jointed limbs of the skeleton or the contour line of the mass—to direct your line.  Sense the aesthetic aura emanating from this new thing beginning to grow before you on the paper.  Let it grow, rather than try to visualize it before drawing.  Start by “scratching about,” and fill the wastepaper basket with rejected sheets; but when the drawing is finished, attempt to analyze your aesthetic response to [the above paragraphs.]

Experiment 1:  a single and integral freestanding form.  Imagine a rock or wood form that has been weathered by all the elements over a long period of time.


Do you see this as a skeletal object or as a mass/volume object?  How does it intrude into space?  How does space enter it:  through cracks, holes or tunnels?  What is its surface quality as you run your hand over it?  Is it the kid of form to be associated with the sound of a high-pitched shriek or with the sound of a dull thud?  All these and similar imaginative questions should be running around in your head as the design develops.

Experiment 2:  a conglomerate form, not freestanding.  Consider a bird’s eye view of a section of a dried and rock-strewn riverbed.  Unlike experiment 1, which concerns itself with a single monolithic presence, this experiment suggests a more mobile, flowing situation in which many small and independent elements come together to make a compound form.
    Large pebbles, small pebbles, big rocks, all either sharp or smooth, lie on the riverbed. The force of water flowing over the many rocks and pebbles creates a composite form. Consequently, the design should show the directional flow of water currents over the stones and account for their clustering and positioning in terms of the water’s force.  A large stone will act as a barrier to water ad the smaller moving pebbles—hence a cluster is formed around a larger or more powerful unit.  This is often a characteristic of conglomerate form.  Thus two things are happening here:  water is flowing smoothly and then a barrier is created which will cause a new direction of water flow.  With a new direction of flow, new forces are exerted on the arrangement of other pebbles.  These pebbles will, in turn, set up their own opposition and barriers.  It is a constantly changing pattern.

[the next lesson here.]

[More art blogs here]

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