Droppin’ Knowledge: Contrast & Composition
“Nowhere does there appear simply a hole or a void, everything is strictly determined by its contrast” – Theo VanDoesburg
Few times in my explorations with art have I found a statement that really resonates beyond one specific example. This quote by Theo Van Doesburg is in reference to the Dutch De Stijl movement that tackled art, architecture and ultimately, design. This statement is taken from the De Stijl manifesto (circa 1920), which outlines the utterly modern concept that today has influenced most skyscrapers, chairs, desks and floor plans that are essential parts of our every day lives. Something we forget about when studying our past is its relevance to our future. Contrast, is more than a setting on photoshop or the tension of a political debate; it defines edges that can complete a work, and give meaning to even to most simple black line. Composition and contrast work in close quarters with one another. Piet Mondrian taught us to look past deep inquiries and expectations of art, and to observe. This is where graffiti comes in. Too often is graffiti expected to be made into ‘something,’ into ‘real’ art work, by galleries, by other artists and by critics. The heart of graffiti does not rely on how other people want to see it conceptually, but how it is seen objectively. I find before I read a tag I have observed it for its aesthetic qualities, away from its typographical roots and into its movement. But these simple revelations could not have taken place without historical figures and experiments long before contemporary graffiti.
The trick is to remember nothing is new, but we can give new meaning to what we see.
We would not be able to gauge a single work of art without another. How is this massive scale created? Art is as vast as our compiled imaginations. So in a sea of work, we are attracted to the things we already enjoy, the things that oppose what we enjoy, and all the small contrasts in between. Without the defining qualities (good or bad) that contrast represents, how could we navigate a single thing? How could someone who fails to recognize the beauty of a well-made sticker see any value in a beautiful throw?
I found this contrast theory becoming quite heavy in all realms of my life; it goes beyond a well-lit portrait, or a clean outline. A walk can be more than exercise, a chore can become an accomplishment, a loss can become a milestone. To understand the relativity and wholeness of it all – I try and remember that even grey is made of just black and white.