Blesok no. 35, March-April, 2004

Point of View

Dejan Ničevski

    Compared to the popular blabbering of the 20th century, the classical philosophical systems are the miracles of consequentiality. It is questionable whether modern man can create such well-deliberated spiritual constructions. Still, even the most prominent philosophers often promoted opposed ideals. Think of freedom, for example. Rarely anyone feels free if he is precisely determined what to do. The biggest freedom means openness to all possibilities, or an absolute indefiniteness. On the other hand, the cognitive ideals seek precisely the opposite. Theorists want to have the most precise knowledge of each thing; everything should be clearly determined or defined. Therefore the presence of pure geometrical ideals in philosophy. Since Pythagoras’ times, truth was compared to a perfect geometrical body, the ball. Of course, the idea was not an egg-shaped or elliptical ball, nor some patchwork of different colors, stitches and marks. The geometrical expression of truth was an ideal ball, which is identical from all sides. No matter how one turns it, no matter where one looks at it, it remains what it is. In other words, it is independent from the point of view.
    Unfortunately, the artistic classification of the perfect geometrical body shows that the ball does not fall under painting, but under sculpture. As a rule, pictures are made on flat surfaces. But, even if that surface would be coarse, wavy, convex or concave, the painting would still in many things depend on the position of the observer. As a standard, the painting as a work of art is seen only from the front, not from the side or the back. So, we will only speak of the frontal distance and the moderate deviations of the observer.
    When a painting is made, the artist is very close to it; sometimes he touches it with his fingers or he literally steps into it. However, the painter must coordinate the direct view with the look from a bigger distance, or from a different angle. Therefore, a good painter’s studio needs space; otherwise, a lot of the knowledge about the painting when it is created remains in the area of assumptions.
    Of course, unless he knows where the painting will be exposed, the painter can only guess from where (what distance, which angle…) that painting will be most often seen. Usually, there is a “polite distance” implied when the viewer does not breathe or cough in the painting. The distance from the recipient to a big extent depends on the size of the painting; the miniatures can not be seen from ten meter distance, while some monumental paintings can be seen well from much bigger distances. As a matter of fact, it is best when the painting itself brings the viewer to the right distance. The changes in the point of view and the distance often open new artistic dimensions of the painting. Does the painting that triumphs from different aspects have to be better than the painting that is perfect only if we look at it from a certain point? It is difficult to give a complete answer to this question; here we only suppose that the solid art painting must not look deformed if the view moves but a bit to the side or moves away from it.
    Modern technology also produces images that with the change of the viewpoint look quite different; from one angle, it is a painting of Jesus, and from another of Mary… This looks more like a game than art. But, paintings of this kind can also have serious meaning in the studying of the laws of the ocular perception.
    Our topic also covers the height at which the painting it placed. In general we can say that the focus of the painting should be at eye-level, or a bit above the eyes. The height at which the painting is placed has a direct psychological connection with the humiliation and admiration; people are not prone to respect what is shorter than them. A painting exposed at a higher level is usually better lit and distant enough from other objects in the room that could influence it unfavorably. With regard to the viewer, the straight or slightly stretched position of the neck probably means easier breathing compared to bending of pressing the chest. On the other hand, the canvas painting is done mainly in such a way that the focus of the painting is under the eye-level of the painter. Such (sub)position of the painting has practical physiological reasons: human hands get tired faster if they are working at a level higher than the one of the standard manual activities. The painter in action can not have any physical discomfort; that is why he places the canvas as it is most convenient. They say that the strongest people are those who work with their hands up; this conclusion can have a funny connotation with the opposite sex. In any case, we can not expect the painter to be a body-builder and make the painting exactly at the height at which it should later be exposed. Acrobatics is necessary only in the painting of some fixed or non-portable surface such as church walls, etc. Fortunately, the height difference between the creation and the position of the painting can even be useful fro the art work. If a painting is satisfactory in the by-hand position, it should be even more beautiful when it is placed in the exhibition space.

Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska

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