By Erika Bass, Fine Arts Instructor
I have always loved how art pulls us in and offers us a place of reflection. This past week I was reminded of that gift as my Forest Ridge high school school art students were comparing three different artists’ work that we have been studying. We were asking the questions, “How has each artist shown balance in their composition, and what can we learn from their choices?”
The artists we have studied have each used different mediums and subject matter, but we found that they share something in common, the use of opposites. American artist, Joyce Kozloff’s paintings depict brightly colored quilt-like patterns in radial symmetry. She patches her designs together balancing symmetrical patterns in an asymmetrical way. Italian artist, Giorgio Morandi, explores balance in his still-life drawings by focusing equally on the importance of negative and positive space. Japanese wood-cut artist, Shiko Munakata, depicts balance by reversing values, with dark detailed forms on light spaces and light detailed forms on dark spaces. Each artist creates a sense of equilibrium using different methods and each shows balance as a dialogue between opposites.
When opposites are brought together in a work of art it creates a sense of wholeness. So, what is it about the contrast of opposites that is so compelling? Why is it that contrasting opposites feels balanced? What can we learn from this?
In this historic time when our community is not just divided by a virus that has us all working remotely from our homes, we are a nation with a painfully divided electorate. One could almost say our identities are defined by the sides we choose to take in this act of separation. Yet art suggests that unity lies in the marriage of opposites and it is there, with both counterparts together, that we find balance. Since art has always been an expression of our humanity and a reflection of our nature, perhaps this reminder that opposites create balance and reflect wholeness could be especially helpful right now.