Through the use of curvilinear perspective visionary landscape paintings are created to situate the viewers in an expanded sense of time and space. This curvilinear perspective approach to painting relies both on the Renaissance foundation of linear perspective and the modernist’s abstraction of pictorial time and space. This curving pictorial mode of imagery deals with a fresh approach to the fundamental problems of representing a three-dimensional world on a flat surface. Although this new approach is often overlooked it is becoming more common among contemporary painters. The results of this effort could become an accepted resolution of the postmodern antithetical split between the formalists need to abstract and the realists need to capture a concrete world.
BACKGROUND ON CURVILINEAR PERSPECTIVE
Within our normal peripheral vision objects, which are straight such as roads or buildings, can be depicted as such with straight lines in pictures. However, the act of viewing straight objects beyond our normal peripheral vision requires that we remember more than we can see at any one instant and therby we need to mentaly stitch together these multiple views. Also in the act of seeing beyond our normal peripheral vision we rotate, tilt, and twist our heads as we look around the scene. When depicting such an experience of the wider view, the combination of moving our heads and of stitching together multiple views is what creates the curved look of straight objects. For visual demonstration of this effect see the home page of the web site, brandenbergerfineart.com, or view the DVD in this packet.
A BRIEF HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BRANDENBERGER’S CURVED SPACE IN PAINTING
The Middle Ages strived to see a spiritual realm in its pictorial creations. It transported us to an abstract space and time through the use of dazzling materials like gold leaf and ceramics as well as through the use of abstract elements in line, shape and color. It did not use pictorial techniques to show a physical world.
The Renaissance needed to capture concrete reality. A major pictorial development towards this end was the creation of linear perspective as an illusion of three dimensions on a flat surface. The Renaissance abandoned the abstractions of the Middle Ages.
Modern Art was preoccupied with a formalistic ‘art for arts sake’ approach of pure vision in painting. Abstract qualities of painting ruled as a way of enhancing the design elements and compositions of the material on the surface of the paintings. Any illusion to the three dimensional world was considered superfilous to the autonomy of pure vision. The techniques of linear perspective were deemphasized.
Postmodern Art has changed the strict abstract approach to painting that prevailed in Modern Art, by loosely applying its basic formalistic premise of emphasizing the qualities of design principles and elements in figurative imagery that satisfied the needs of the mass culture. Postmodern artists also have rebelled against Modern art by employing the illusion of traditional linear perspective. Postmodern art uses either abstract or traditional representational approaches to painting or combinations of these two. But Postmodern artists have not created a new form of spatial composition.
Brandenberger’s art is designed to find a resolution to the postmodern bifurcation in painting of abstract versus representational space. His solution is to employ curvilinear perspective in a way that includes the use of temporal and spatial imagery that works with both realistic and abstract aspects of painting.
MIDDLE AGES – SPIRITUAL TIME AND SPACE
During the Middle Ages a prevailing attitude was that man should strive for an omnipresent godly understanding of his place in a spiritual world. The art of the Middle Ages was less concerned with how the physical world looks to any one person and more concerned with the scheme of the non-physical spiritual universe. ‘How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?’ points to this kind of abstract thinking. The art of the Middle Ages attended to the beauties of the abstract art by employing the use of such shimmering materials as gold leaf and ceramic surfaces and by employing the abstract order of lines, shapes, patterns and color. The depiction of physical realities including the recession of deep space was neglected or ignored.
RENAISSANCE – CONCRETE TIME AND SPACE
During the early Italian Renaissance the a new humanistic attitude evolved that promoted the idea that God gave each person the ability to reason on his own, therefore each person should use his God given abilities to reason from his own personal experiences of the world. The term ‘Renaissance Man’ refers to the ability of individuals such as Leonardo da Vince to rely on his own observations of the world to solve a myriad of problems in all kinds of disciplines. Giotto di Bondone (c, 1267-1337) used this new attitude in his paintings to depict how the physical world looks from a single person’s point of view. He has been credited as the first artist since the ancient world to create on a flat surface the appearance of three-dimensional forms. The great early Italian Renaissance architect, Filippo Bruenelleschi (1377-1446) continued this tradition of depicting three dimensions on a flat surface by creating the first consistent system of one point perspective. This form of linear perspective is based on a rational geometric system of straight lines that guide the artist in accurately depicting the recession of space according to size and position of objects as they appear from one point of view at any one instant. With this approach both time and space were considered absolute in that both time and space were unaffected by objects or their motion. Within this cultural context of needing to see the physical world the invention of linear perspective was so valued that it has dominated the art world for at least three hundred years and continues today as one of the most generally accepted artistic tools for depicting three-dimensional space on a flat surface.
As the Western culture evolved it became less reliant on direct observation of the concrete to develop its understanding of the world. After all, diseases were now thought to be caused by micro organisms and the solidity of mass itself seemed to evaporate into an invisible structure of subatomic particles. The “Renaissance Man” faded with the onslaught of the specialists formally trained in their respective disciplines. Yes, even the artists immersed into the esoteric world of formalistic art as they began to emphasize the arrangement of lines, shapes, colors and textures while deemphasizing the three dimensional qualities of shaded modeling and linear perspective. The Postimpressionist, Paul Cezanne, was the first to break the Renaissance bonds of seeing only one view at one instant and began to experiment with showing a scene with multiple views in one image. In this way he introduces a new sense of time in painting because one cannot be in two places at once. Further, Cezanne introduces a new relationship with pictorial space and energy. He employs patches of colors and broken lines which emphasized the formal abstract qualities of arranging shifting pictorial planes in a dynamic spatial composition of a scene. These images suggest that energy; matter, time and space are affected by one another as if the forces of an invisible relativistic realm are being revealed. Pablo Picasso continued to develop this multiview approach with the creation of Cubism. With Cubism the artists had stepped over the threshold of a new form of creativity by freeing themselves from referencing the world of the concrete. They transformed the multiple views into shapes, lines, colors and textures then reassembled them into pure visions beyond anything that could be seen in the ‘real’ world. Modern artists in their zeal to develop their formal discipline of art based on a pure visual aesthetic, separated themselves from the common man’s everyday view of the three dimensional world. This Formal art is based on the idea that the integrity of visual art is diluted when it pretends to be stories, illustrations or windows into other worlds because this violates the inherent flatness of a painting. Further no other media such as literature, music or architecture offers this quality of flatness. The work of the Abstract Expressionist painter, Jackson Pollack, is an example of such art that no longer refers to the illusion of a space and time of a three dimensional world but is an example of painting where material on a flat surface creates a visual simulation of a purely abstract swirling realm of its own space and time.
POSTMODERN WORLD – A FORMALISTIC CULTURAL TIME AND SPACE
As the ‘modern artists’ achieved at least in their own minds the high status of the avant-garde above the common throngs, a new form of art immerged which appealed to the masses need to see realistic images as well as their need to affirm the popularity of their mass culture. Pop Art was borne. With it came all kinds of commercial and popular images that continued or adapted the modern abstract approach to painting such as in the work of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns, Also during this postmodern phase a rebellion surfaces against formalistic tenets of modern Art with the advent of realistic paintings. Realistic paintings of the everyday world as can be seen in Richard Estes, which returned to the use of linear perspective just as it had been perfected during the Renaissance. The postmodern art world has seen many gifted painters searching and finding new exciting psychological, social, technical, and multimedia solutions to problems of painting, but few are directly attending to that perennial problem of finding new ways of depicting deep space on a flat surface like Giotto or Cezanne once attempted. The contemporary painting world seems bifurcated into accepting either the formalistic attitudes of the modern painters which emphasize material and design elements over depicting a three dimensional world or accepting the traditional techniques of linear perspective as established in the Italian Renaissance. The condition of postmodern painting is one of returning to and revising its own already established cultural achievements of expressing time and space in painting. In this sense contemporary painting is ‘retro’ which is generally considered to be one of the prevailing characteristics of the postmodern world.
One of the subtleties of considering spatial aspects of painting is that time is often over looked as an inherent feature of its imagery. For example a one-point-linear-perspective image requires that time is momentarily frozen as it shows one point of view at one instant. Whereas the imagery of Paul Cezanne’s paintings suggests that time is slightly extended beyond an instant as multiple views of the same objects implies a shifting of positions during the viewing. Likewise, curvilinear perspective that Brandenberger uses has its temporal qualities because of the time it takes to scan a scene with multiple views and then intuitively stitch these views together from memory or imagination.
In Brandenberger’s curvilinear paintings, a case can be made that this creative method is fundamentally the same as the cubistic approach begun by Cezanne and continued by Picasso. Firstly, both the cubistic approach and Brandenberger’s curvilinear approach employ a combining of multiple views in an act of creating worlds that cannot just simply be observed. Secondly, Both approaches affirm the hallmark of modern art that the artist must above all be creative i.e. create their own worlds not imitate it. Clearly when straight objects are depicted with curved lines, the viewer will consciously or unconsciously become aware that the artist is using a pictorial devise to create an image that is not imitating the world as we normally see it. In this sense both the multiple viewing and the curving of space are transcending reference to the ‘real’ three-dimensional world because the artist is manipulating space and time while creating his own visions.
On the other hand Brandenberger’s work in curvilinear perspective is much like the traditional Renaissance perspective. During the Italian Renaissance there was a need to capture reality by rationalizing understandings of the real world. In this cultural context linear perspective was created as a rational pictorial device to imitate that real world. It was based on straight-lined, geometric law-like regularity in the depiction of objects and their relative sizes as they receded in space. The result was a very consistent unbroken illusion of natural space. Brandenberger’s use of curvilinear perspective actually uses this very same unbroken consistent perspective technique when applied to images that are included within the range of normal peripheral vision. In this sense he is like all the other artists since the Italian painter Masaccio (1401-1428) that have used linear perspective. In this way Brandenberger’s work is part of one of the longest traditions of depicting the natural world by using a consistent law like method of showing the recession of natural space in paintings.
What places Brandenberger outside the tradition of simply repeating the same established tenets of linear perspective is that his perspective is radically different when it depicts objects that extend beyond the limits of our normal peripheral vision. When he depicts a scene that extends beyond normal peripheral vision, space bends and time is extended. These are opposite features from traditional perspective where guidelines are straight and time is shrunk into an instant. However, the curving and temporally expansive qualities of his curvilinear perspective become more like the cubistic approach of the early modern artists where the creative liberties of expressing pictorial time and space were exalted. The temporal/spatial aspects of his curvilinear perspective owe a great deal to both the Renaissance ideal of attending to the natural world and to the Modern Cubistic ideal those artists create their own worlds. He is synthesizing both the traditional approach to linear perspective and the cubists approach to formal space with his approach to curvilinear perspective.
Others have also explored of the spatial/temporal aspects of curvilinear perspective. The contemporary realists Clive Head one such painter. A special note goes to Rackstraw Downes with is panoramic curvilinear realists works. The artist M. C, Escher (1898-1969?) focused on curvilinear representation of space earlier than either of these two painters. In his lithograph titled ‘High and Low’ Escher creates a visual curvilinear world in which a viewer seems to wrap around himself because he is simultaneously in two different places at the same time looking at himself. Escher creates curvilinear worlds that stretch rationality to the point of absurdity.
Joining the traditions of Giotto, Bruenelleschi and Masaccio and in the traditions of Cezanne, Picasso and Warhol seems promising. Focusing on the spatial/temporal traditions of painting does have the advantage of attending to a significant artistic problem that many postmodern artists have overlooked. This effort could prove to be valuable because of the fundamental nature of the problem. History shows that solutions to this very problem have had a monumental effect on the history of art. Brandenberger is hard at work to perfect a curvilinear solution to extending the temporal/spatial qualities of painting.