Experimentation and Contextualisation… I think

Since my trip to the Tate on Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about what to do with all those photos I took, and notes I wrote. After a little time (probably too much) speculating whether or not what I do is “right or wrong”, I took the advice of last year’s students and “dived in”… Here’s some of the results…I’ve surprised myself in a way as I didn’t expect this to yield much… Where next is the question…

Bridget Riley:

I like Bridget Riley and have always found her work pleasing to look at – calming, intriguing and just very beautiful – so I started with her piece Evoë 3… Knowing that we were looking for structures, I’d convinced myself when looking at the painting in the gallery that there was clear horizontal and vertical grid aligning the tips and sides of the curves. If I’d read the label alongside the work, and spent a little more time looking, I might have spotted what was really there – and what I discovered once I began analysing the picture:

A very clear vertical and diagonal grid.

I took a look in the catalogue from her 2003 Tate retrospective that I have a at home and found some images of studies, not of this painting, but of similar pictures.

I also played around with the grid itself to see what composition I could make with it and, no surprises here I guess, it resulted in something similar to the grouping pictures we did last week in the Visual Grammar workshop:

And of course some of earlier work is exactly this…

George Braque

I turned from Riley, back in time, to Braque to see what results this would yield. As it says in the description of the work – “Ordinary objects – a bottle and fishes on a plate, laid on a table with a drawer – have been dramatically fragmented to form a grid-like structure of interpenetrating planes.” – I was sure that some pretty cool grids and structures would reveal themselves… And I was not disappointed. What I found, though, was more than a classic grid. I think that Braque was doing something with triangles:

The focus of the picture is the table, which appears to be based on an isosceles triangle centred in the frame (outlined red in the picture on the left). I then seemed to find a series of equilateral triangles. So I made the composition on the right hand side as a sort of abstraction from the work…


Finally I took a look at the Picasso Head of a Woman as I thought it would be interesting to see what sort of grids/structures could be found in a three dimensional work. As it turns out, for a work that appears organic it seems that it is based (at least when looking at it from the front) on tight structural form. The main grid seems to emanate from a cross with the bridge of her nose as the focal point. The side on view doesn’t reveal much, I though:

Having completed this analysis, I started thinking about the remaining works in the brief to see if there was some sort of classification that could be made. What I came up with was that there appeared to be 3 types of work:

  1. Simple – those where the grid is obvious from the work itself. You could say that the grid is the work
  2. Complex – those works that are based on a grid but where that grid lies underneath the finished work
  3. Random – those works where there is no formal grid; placement is left to chance or some other force

And this is how I classified the 12 works that could be viewed at the Tate (the Richter not being on display):


Jannis Kounellis, Untitled; Ellesworth Kelly, Mediterannee; Richard Serra, Trip Hammer; Karl Andre, Zinc Plain; Richard Artschwager, Table and Chair


Bridget Riley, Evoë 3; George Braque, Bottle and Fishes; Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman


Jean Arp, Constellation According to the Laws of Chance; Max Ernst, The Entire City; Kasimir Malevich, Dynamic Suprematism; Alexander Calder, Mobile

I took loads of pictures of other works which I’ll have a go at classifying along these lines in a later post… Perhaps you could add your contributions too!



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4 responses to “Experimentation and Contextualisation… I think

  1. Susanna

    That’s really a keen analysis! Nice observations – You inspired me, I will start working on mine now 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you mentioned Braque because I was looking at him too. It’d be interesting to see how far back you could go with artists work i.e. before the deconstruction with cubism. I couldn’t find Matisse ‘The Snail’… is it on loan? I remember when I first came across it in school. I loved the simplicity and colours and what it conveyed so well. I should be writing this on my blog…

  3. Pingback: Tate Modern – Some experiments with the art works « PgCertDVC

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