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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Rhythm and Repetition

Farm Equipment,  Jawshoewhah. Photographic rhythm,
quite complex, but far from chaotic.
Open Windows,
The words "rhythm" and "repetition" are most often associated with music and poetry, but they also occupy an important place in painting, drawing, and photography. Painters, for some reason, only rarely use either one while they're often part of a photographer's stock and trade. For a painter to render the same shape again and again on the same canvas is tedious and boring. Painters hate tedious and boring. It's so damned tedious and boring. For photographers, a little compositional positioning of the camera, some momentary thought as to cropping, then click, their work is done, at least until they edit their digital image on a computer. That's a far cry from what a painter has to go through in utilizing rhythm or repetition in a painting. Even if working from a photo, it's only the first, preliminary step.
Lorraine Shemesh paintings of shoes--repetition and total chaos--except for the top image which displays a crude, rhythmic composition.
Rhythm and repetition are not the same thing, of course. All rhythm involves repetition but not all repetition has rhythm. Repetition is, more often than not, at least fairly chaotic and random. Rhythm is neither. It is, for the most part, manmade, and except for certain types of jazz, it's never random or chaotic. In the case of painting, that's never the case. By definition, rhythm in painting demands some degree of disciplined as seen in the contrast between Lorraine Shemesh's upper painting and the two lower ones.
Near perfect rhythm. Notice both are photos. No painter in their right mind
would attempt to render such images...or at least they wouldn't be in his right mind by the time they finished.
One of the few notable painters patient enough to do rhythm, and do it well, was Andy Warhol. We're all familiar with his multi-colored, multi-image portraits silkscreened onto canvas, as well as his various consumer products. Most iconic by far were his Campbell's Soup Cans (below). The Converse sneaker work is less well-known, yet both are the epitome of rhythmic painting. Strangely, though the soup cans plainly read "Beef Noodle" the painting is title Tomato 3. Moreover, in adapting the silkscreen to his painting needs, he mostly avoided the risk of rhythmic insanity.
Why is it I have this sudden craving for soup at the moment?
Copyright, Jim Lane
Shafts of Color, Jim Lane
In preparing for this discourse, I was surprised to realize just how many of my own paint-ings involve repetition. Yet on-ly one, Shafts of Color (right) was even slightly rhythmic. And in discussing the usual cha-os of painted repetition my own work stands as a prime example. Most are still-lifes but only the one at right was "arranged" as is common with most painters. Mine have more the look of having been dumped. I have long referred to them as non-traditional still-lifes in that each is painted larger than life and feature nothing in the way of a background and only a slight indication, with reference to object size toward the bottom of the paintings, as to any type of foreground. They are all content, all highly detailed, yet they convey any number of subtle themes or messages.
Copyright, Jim Lane
You can't get much more chaotic or random as to repetition than a
pack of dogs (second image)...unless it's a pack of cats.

Dried Fish, Stash Cross. I have no idea if this
is a painting or a photo. It "smells" a little
like a photo, though.

Copyright, Jim Lane
So Much to Chew, So Little Time
to Chew It, 2001, Jim Lane


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