Contrapunto, counteroint, 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 a conflict it can never be interesting, or almost never.
This is a portrait of a postman by Van Gogh. Look at it closely (klick on it to get a bigger picture, hope it opens in a bigger size) and think where’s the counterpoint.
Few people find it fast, but most admit they lingered around the eyes of the postman.
Yes, the centrepoint is there, in the sitter’s eye, where all the colours used in the painting would come together. There, in the eye, they would sometimes compliment each other giving you a sense of harmony, or they clash, putting you on edge. Or both, showing the conflict both in the sitter’s soul and yours.
Here’s another portrait of the same man by Van Gogh – using very different palette, and creating the counterpoint with colours of other 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 very simple frontal composition, Van Gogh could communicate a very complicated mix of emotions whirring in the soul of the sitter, in his own mind, and in 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.