MEDIA IN THE SERVICE OF EXPRESSION
Before setting out to rummage through the mounds of art supplies stocked in our local art store, suppose we turn inward and tune our own equipment a bit. Before the salesperson asks us if it will be acrylic or gouache, or designer colors, or watercolors, or oils or tempera or casein, or inks, suppose we put some questions to ourselves about ourselves.
Before we make strategic decisions as to what material we “need”, we will do well to give thought to the match between what we want to say and our choice of an instrument through which to convey that statement. In other words, what alliances can we make with things in the world so as to enhance our power to transform products of the mind to products of the hand? The world at large is a vast jumble of things, the world of art only slightly less vast and jumbled. In this mad zoo, whose inhabitants alternately call to us and hide, we need somehow to find the correct fit between our purposes and the expressive power of each medium. One way to accomplish this is to set up a temporary but useful classification system by slicing the world into halves, each half revealing a telling cross-section.
Thus we can slice the entire universe of art things into a half consisting of things that are two-dimensional, planar, and one made up of all the rest, things that are three-dimensional, spatial. We then have before us two distinctive piles. In the planar pile of art media are paintings, drawings, prints, photographs. In the spatial pile are sculpture, gardens, and architecture. We can also slice the world along the axis of wet and dry. In one pile we have gouache, inks, acrylics, oils, and watercolors, in the other pile we have pencils, charcoals, and pastels. We can slice the world along other critical ways as well, and each time we do so , we reveal another display of the world’s dichotomies. Other sample cross-sections are organic/inorganic ( e.g., cherry-wood/core ten steel), color/tone, hard/soft, permanent/transitive, solitary/collaborative, mobile/stable.
Having cut the world in two, we can now proceed to test the fit between what we want and what the world (media) has to offer. In the coming descriptions of several such halvings, the cross sections are examined more closely. MORE NEXT TIME!