Thursday, October 17, 2013

RUNNN!!!: the tendency toward making harmonious compositions no matter what the subject matter.

One thing that seems to be important to makers of pictures the world around is the idea of harmony. Different cultures may choose different formulas, but every one of us seeks balance and harmony and shies away from disharmony. We find the irregular disturbing, and the regular satisfying. Even when we wish to portray disturbing things; war, murder, abuse etc. ( there is plenty of this subject matter available, after all) we have a perverse tendency to create harmonious compositions or patterns to show them. What is this all about?

Imagine our remote ancestors walking through the landscape, ( “La, la, la, such a nice day on the savannah.”). Suddenly someone catches the faint flick of a lion's tail above the grasses, the slight sound of something licking its chops, and panic ensues. RUNNN!!! The ability to notice disharmony in the patterns of the environment, be they ever so slight, causes fear and flight. A very good survival instinct to pass on to succeeding generations. In modern times, at least away from that same savannah, we are still very aware of hidden agendas, of slight changes in the social atmosphere, of the lie that is being pressed upon our senses. We have the same response, perhaps modified into anger or sadness,and we feel disharmony in the pattern of our lives. It still has survival value. We still have a tendency to run.

So when we make a picture or take a photograph, we still try to compose a harmonious pattern. There are many forms this may take, but balanced, harmonious relationships among the various elements we design with is important. Edvard Munch was the first European artist to break from this and create disturbing, expressive images ( 'The Scream', for example), using colour, line, tone etc. to create tension within the viewer's mind. And others have followed. But even with their lead, if we do not stop to think our images through in advance, we will make that nice, balanced, harmoniously coloured image, no matter what our subject, and our viewers will feel satisfied. How many would really buy and place on their walls something that tells them to RUNNN!!!?

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