Structures

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Concentration
photograph, image, idea, intellect, bench seating, contrast, geometric, rhythm, pattern, line, op art, architectural form, geometric form, concentration, self-portrait, scientist perspective, nature, natural world, world, pathways, paths, portraits of a woman, focus, knowledge, photograph, bench, lines, pattern, woman, books,
description

Taken in 1962, the photograph Concentration came before Dr. Brown’s move to eastern Canada to pursue his academic career in earnest.  However, this photograph demonstrates that he already had a serious interest in image, ideas and the intellect.

The dominant feature of this photograph is the bench, which zigzags its way up the middle of the photograph. The contrasting stripes of sunlit wood on the bench and the blocky shadows underneath are as geometric as the bench itself, which interrupts the rhythm of the asphalt squares below. This image disorients us; wanting patterns to fit neatly into other patterns, we are stuck with a swirl of jagged lines.

It is this use of geometry that makes this work resemble the “op art” of Dr. Brown’s contemporaries. But this is not a work of design, even though the image is taken up with architectural and geometric forms, hard lines, and sharp angles. Instead, this image is about something human - the concentration given away by its title.

Our eyes are rewarded for following the hard and sharp zigzag path the photographer has provided for us. For, at the end of that path, we encounter a woman in a dress. She sits on the bench, but is not resting. Instead, she is staring at a stack of books. Her right hand on the bench supports her, and her gaze is directed right at the stack. It is as though she is trying to force the books, all of the knowledge and insight they contain, directly into her mind, just by focusing.

If we recall that this photograph was taken (and possibly set up or posed) by a scientist, we might come even closer to understanding what it means. Dr. Brown may in fact be offering us a self-portrait. After all, he had dedicated himself to understanding the natural world; he might be telling us that he often feels that he is trying to force understanding into his own brain, while the world around him twists and warps. “If I could just understand what they were trying to tell me,” we might imagine the seated  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  saying, “then all of this would make sense.”

additional resources Things to Think About
  • What do you think of Brown as a non-practicing artist?  How does one balance a science career with creating artworks?
  • Do you think, as a trained scientist and chemist, that Brown might present a perspective in his work different from that of someone who is formally trained as an artist?
  • How might you present the same image as a trained mathematician or as a trained musician?
  • What do you think it means to be a scientist?  What do you think it means to be an artist?
  • Artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were also scientists.  Read a little about these two great artists, and think about how their artistic work and scientific work might have intersected.
  • Do you know of any people today (in your personal life, or people that you have heard of) who combine seemingly disparate/dissimilar careers and activities?
Online Activity
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Light source

Imagine how a shadow is cast when light hits an object.

  • Click on the Arrow at the top of the drawing window to see the Shapes options at the bottom of the window.


  • Choose shapes to place in the drawing window.


  • Move the shapes and their shadows around to create a shadow casting effect.
Studio Activity

In Concentration (the work presented in this theme), Brown takes advantage of the strong  diagonalHaving a slanted direction. Any straight edge or line that is neither horizontal nor vertical is diagonal. A diagonal cut or fold of woven fabric is said to be "on the bias." (Artlex.com)   lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  and contrasts in  valueThe lightness or darkness of a colour.  to create a dynamic composition. Not only does the bench read as an important  lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  in the  compositionArrangements of elements in a work of art.  but its cast  shadowDark value of a colour made by adding black.  also contributes significant  shapeAn element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, colour, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of a solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width. Examples of shapes include: circle, oval, and oblong; polygons such as triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezium, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, undecagon, dodecagon, etc.; and such other kinds of shapes as amorphous, biomorphous, and concretion. (Artlex.com)  to the composition. 

Although we often talk about the  subjectA topic or idea represented in an art work.  matter in artwork representing the actual object, person, or place, all  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  art work is, of course, flat. Therefore graphic devices are used to signify three-dimensional  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  and  spaceSpace 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.  in two dimensional artworks.  One of these graphic devices is the rendering of light and shadow.

  • Working with film, experiment with different shutter times. If you are developing the film, also experiment with different exposure times.  For more information on shutter speed and exposure times, go to Shutter speed (Wikipedia)
  • Working digitally, experiment with different light settings and the white balance. You can also use photo editing programs to experiment with things such as highlight, shadow, and fill light.
Studio Activity
  • SpotlightUse a spotlight (see image to the right) to hit the subject matter with strong directional light. Be sure that you have produced strong highlights and shadows on the forms and well defined cast shadows.  Here is an example of some cubes with highlights and shadows.

 

 

 

 

References

Brown, Dr. Stewart A. In Phytochemical Society of North America Newsletter. November, 2006: Volume 45, Number 2. Retrieved from the internet on February 4th, 2008 at: http://www.psna-online.org/newsletters/PSNAnews452.pdf

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning