Friday, November 10, 2006

Left & Right

In Western cultures, people read and write from left to right, and have done so for millennia. An interesting question I once read is what effect, if any, does this have on the way a painting, or any other visual art, is perceived. Is the left side automatically the beginning of a line, and the right the end? Looking at the oversimplified example on the left, what is the difference between placing an object on the left side and one on the right side? Is the left one more inner, at the beginning? The right would thus be more outer, near the end. Now substitute the crude X with a painted figure, and the background with a coat of colour.

The question of writing affecting perception also applies to movement across the surface. A line of text comes to an end, and it is automatic to start over at the next line. A painting's end is really the edge of the canvas/surface. Consequently a painter may, weather consciously or not, place an object near the right edge to block or prevent the eye from flying off the surface. Did I place the dark tree near the right edge in this painting, oil on masonite, about 18 by 24", for exactly that reason?

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