Synchronicity Points (test pieces)
12 x 14cm, watercolour, plaster, 2020
Synchronicity Points (test pieces)
Beginning with the premise that point and line are the fundamental elements of a picture plane, these works investigate their relation in time. Considered temporally the uniformity of these base geometric units is disrupted – the point becomes a potential, the line a trace. These qualities of transience and mobility are examined using methods of extension, concurrence and contingency.
Vanishing Points and Horizons – the optical pull of perspective
In mathematics a point is a fixed location, a dot without dimension – the vanishing points of linear perspective conform to this principle. Linear perspective provides a geometric framework for constructing an image with spatial attributes on a flat surface. Historically, perspective in pictorial art evolves from the study of optics. Using these early scientific and mathematical theories, artists formulated structures for composition to create images with the illusion of depth. Features of visual experience such as converging parallel lines, changes in scale, and foreshortening were used by Renaissance painters to fabricate volume, space and recession in their work; and to structure visual narratives and direct the viewer’s attention.
European perspectival art conforms to a field of view constructed from a point (the eye) and lines of light (visual rays), where sight dominates the organising structure. A form of immaterial sensing, vision is considered the primary sense for directly knowing the world. Numerous metaphors about truth, light and discovery equate knowledge with seeing, and these ideas are woven into the fabric of linear perspective. The primacy of vision was central to Renaissance thought and during this time, other conceptual and symbolic pictorial systems were displaced.
The measurable clarity associated with linear perspective is achieved by the assumption of a static observer. By limiting the vantage point and forgoing experiential complexity the construction of deep pictorial space proceeds methodically. The single viewing position is fixed by a vanishing point placed on a horizon line, where the whole perspective construct pivots on its axis generating spatial dimension in the painting. A matrix of sight lines converge on the horizon as the space is pulled toward a distant focal point. The horizon line represents objects infinitely far away, reducing things in the distance to the infinitesimal. Here, three-dimensional remote space dwells in a line with zero width and zero height – an abstract, philosophical line is found hiding in a representational painting. Perhaps this horizon line with its extensive magnitudes, embedded vanishing points and infinitesimal objects, holds all the potential environments excluded from the static illusionistic space of linear perspective.
The limitations of a geometric representation of visual space are emphasised by Gaston Bachelard in his writing on the phenomenology of roundness, “…it is evident that when a geometrician speaks of volumes, he is only dealing with the surfaces that limit them. The geometrician’s sphere is an empty one.” In phenomenology, visual experience and perspective is wholly embodied and mobile – horizons and viewpoints shift. This movement adds time to the sense of sight, where points and lines fluctuate and flow, and the focal axis of the visual field is always unfixed. This active space transforms lines and points into impressions, trails and residues – event-based entities with duration, velocity and motion. An example of a point and line event could be a comet and its tail, a moving nucleus and apparent band of luminous particulate matter. When observing this phenomena vision fails to register a distinct mass, and moving particles are compressed into a dynamic line. These perceptual limits are generative, and the transient line of a moving point opens a space to think about blur.
Thought about temporally, lines become a passage both held in and by the movement of points – their trajectory a gesture between locations. The visual field seems choreographed, a performative space synonymous with critic Marcia Siegel’s description of dance as ‘a perpetual vanishing point’. Here, for the observer, all action is a flow in time – a disappearance.