Category: Oil

Objects in Red Light

There is no form. There are no lines, no shapes, no objects; only color. Everything is comprised of paint brush size pixels of color, of individual unblended chips of paint spread across the canvas. The painter is merely an algorithm that sees a square of color in the subject, and transmits it to the canvas, but in doing so, discovers something uniquely beautiful.

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This was the mission assigned by Professor Sheesley.  We were then presented with a still life of white objects bathed in red light.  Following in the footsteps of the impressionists, we were charged with exploring the rich diversity of color present in a seemingly monochromatic field of view. The objects were not just red, but an assortment of oranges, reds, pinks, creams, peaches, yellows, burgundies, and violets. The shadows are not merely grey and black, but an inverse of the red light source, with a variety of greens in different tones and shades.

This approach to painting was initiated by the impressionists, and more specifically by the pointillists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, over a hundred years before the first color printer evoked a near identical process. Even the majority of digital image storage still utilizes a series of pixel patterns, or bitmaps, rendering pictures as a series of small dots of color.

The true beauty of the process is revealed when a chaotic seemingly meaningless mix of color swatches placed randomly all over the canvas begin to coalesce together into a stunning rendition of the subject material. The painter’s opinion is removed from the equation, and the image forms itself from the scientific application of color across the canvas. The result is a desire not to contrive a personal masterpiece, but to recreate the moments of splendor in the world as many times as possible.  This serial approach is best displayed in one of my favorite collections, Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedral Series, a collection of 31 canvases of the Gothic Rouen Cathedral in different lighting and weather conditions.

My small and sloppy attempt is nothing more than a cheap imitation of the masterful work Monet and his fellow impressionists created.  That being said, the project continues to be immensely beneficial for my understanding of light and color, having sharpened my eye for the beautiful visual nuance present all around me.