Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

“Art is a theory about the way the world looks…”

with 2 comments

Self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh

In a way, art is a theory about the way the world looks to human beings. It’s abundantly obvious that one doesn’t know the world around us in detail. What artists have accomplished is realizing that there’s only a small amount of stuff that’s important, and then seeing what it was. So they can do some of my research for me. When you look at early stuff of Van Gogh there are zillions of details that are put into it, there’s always an immense amount of information in his paintings. It obviously occurred to him, what is the irreducible amount of this stuff that you have to put in. Or you can study the horizons in Dutch ink drawings from around 1600, with tiny trees and cows that look very real. If you look closely, the trees have sort of leafy boundaries, but it doesn’t work if that’s all it is—there are also, sticking in it, little pieces of twiglike stuff. There’s a definite interplay between the softer textures and the things with more definite lines. Somehow the combination gives the correct proportion. With Ruysdael and Turner, if you look at the way they construct complicated water, it is clearly done in an iterative way. There’s some level of stuff, and then stuff painted on top of that, and then corrections to that…

I truly do want to know how to describe clouds. But to say there’s a piece over here with that much density, and next to it a piece with this much density—to accumulate that much detailed information, I think is wrong. It’s certainly not how a human being perceives those things, and it’s not how an artist perceives them.

Mitchell Feigenbaum, quoted by James Gleick in Chaos

Written by nevalalee

May 2, 2015 at 7:30 am

2 Responses

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  1. Artist frame a story in a small picture but every picture tells different story. Like if we are looking 2 or more picture we can not differentiate between them they can.


    May 2, 2015 at 8:59 am

  2. I think that art should not be copies of that which already exist, it should show novel ways to see the world.

    Mind Games

    May 3, 2015 at 2:01 am

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