Line is generally considered the most basic of all the elements. In these three paintings we see a strong use of line.
In Algonquin, our spirits are elevated by the artist’s use of curved lines in the two trees, the shadow of the rutted path, and the fence. Since the lines are curving in opposite direction they balance each other well. The whole composition is stabilized with the strong vertical tree trunk on the left side.
Last week I presented Cezanne’s Three Apples in my introduction to this series and pointed out how he has used line to emphasize the outer edge or boundary of these apples. When you look at things in nature there is almost never a strong, dark line going around the outside edge, but every object in the material world has space wherein it exists and then there is space where it no longer exists. Using line, Cezanne has emphasizes that finite quality of matter. Additionally, notice how the apples arranged on the canvas suggest a curved line starting at the bottom and moving upward and to the right. That line creates grace and movement to the composition and gives a comfortable sense of relationship to the apples and the space they occupy.
In the third painting, Breathing¸ we see a beautiful rendering of the organic lines of a tree without its leaves. At first glance we might think we are looking at random lines depicting a random splatter of twigs and branches but look again. Every twig must intersect with the branch that supports it, and every branch must intersect with its own supporting branch until it is all connected to the main trunk. What appears “random” is just our lazy eye not wanting to see with understanding. Additionally, if you imagine a vertical line cutting the canvas in half you will see that the tree is perfectly balance around that “invisible” line that intersects the trunk.
By looking carefully at LINE in this way we can learn a few things about God and His nature:
• God’s Will is like a line that runs through life. As surely as the shadow of the rutted path in Algonquin, His Will gives direction and meaning to our lives. His Will also determines the unique quality of each life. We would not find another tree exactly like the one depicted in Breathing, but every tree will form its trunk and branches and twigs according to the unique plan laid out for it.
• God is a God of boundaries. Objects in the visible world exist in space and time. There is a space where the apples are and then the space allotted to them ends. During our life-time it has become popular to think that there are no boundaries. Everything is amorphous—the sexes, marriage, even life. However, in the world that God created there are clear boundaries, and in Proverbs 22:28 and other places in scripture we are told that we must not move the ancient boundary markers.
• God is a God of relationship. As we saw in Breathing every twig connects to another part of the tree. It is all dependent and part of a whole. Even with the three apples we find an invisible line that determines the harmonious relationship of the apples to each other.
While artists don’t usually approach their work as analytically as I have, they do have the unique ability to really SEE. As they work intuitively to capture and record what they see, they leave a wonderful legacy that helps us see with understanding minds.
In my next post I will focus on SHAPE.