Contrapunto, counterpoint, the centre of conflict, the arrow that pierces the eye or the mind of the viewer. It could be inside or outside a work of art, but today I will show you two examples of CONTRAPUNTO inside a picture. Many, and I, for one, believe that without conflict, it can never or seldom be interesting.
This is the portrait of a postman by Van Gogh. Look at it closely (click on it to get a bigger picture, it opens in a bigger size) and think where is the counterpoint.
Few people find it quickly or at all, but most would admit they lingered around the eyes.
Yes, the Centrepoint is there, in the sitter’s eye, where all the colours used in the painting come together. There, in the eye, they would sometimes complement each other, giving you a sense of harmony, or they clash, putting you on edge. Sometimes, harmony and fight get united, when the conflict in the sitter’s soul resonates with the viewer’s, not just intellectually, but emotionally too.
Here’s another portrait of the same man by Van Gogh who used a very different palette, and created the counterpoint with colours of a different tone and intensity.
Again, let’s focus on the eyes, which are a mirror of the soul in a very literal sense for Van Gogh:
Using just the colour conflict in a straightforward frontal composition, Van Gogh could communicate a very complicated mix of emotions whirring in the soul of the sitter, in his own mind that would resonate with the heart of the observer.
It is tremendously difficult NOT to make this conflict superficial, as if plastered on the portrayed face. It takes a colour genius to do it right.
And now a fun exercise. I promised that I will be showing artists I like, collect, and know – at least once a week. But this blog is not about watching art. It is about understanding and feeling it. About getting your personal kick out of it. So, let’s try it. Can you see the conflict in this still life by Sevostianov, the artist I introduced not so long ago, aptly named “Black Apples”?
I will be back with my view on it in my next post.