Our first deeper dive into how to understand components of an artwork will start with points. What can these small figures possibly do in a painting, you may ask? They can be a symbol, a connector, an end, or an intersection. It has a greater impact than you would think — Russian painter Kandisnky didn’t write a whole volume about it for nothing! Here are five aspects of the small but mighty points.
The point is the smallest and the basic element of visual expression. The point is, specifically, the result of the contact of a tool (pencil, pen, brush, spatula, finger, needle, etc.) on a surface (canvas, paper, cardboard, clay, plaster, plastic, wood, metal, etc.). We understand that the dimensions and shape of the point is relative, but in general it is small, and its figure is rarely perfectly circular, because it is defined by the shape of the instrument used and the qualities of the receiving support.
2. Impressionism and its legacy
Impressionism was an artistic movement that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century, and that promoted a new representation of reality, which invited not the definition, but the “impression” of the moment, of light, to capture the things in a broad way. They devoted themselves to studying perception and they were the first to propose the theory that small unconnected parts, when perceived as a whole, acquired a visual unity. The Impressionists painted with small strokes of pure colors, showing that all color is relative to the colors around it.
This pictorial resource was deepened by the exponents of neo-impressionism, also called “pointillists”, which established the development of a rigorous dotted brushstroke.
3. Modern Art. Abstract art.
With the arrival of modernity, and particularly with abstract art, the point became an autonomous entity — asserting itself as the primary element in graphic work. Abstract art defines the artistic object as an independent and self-sufficient entity, which frees itself and renounces any figurative reference or representation of the real world. That is why it establishes the use of the point, line, plane, color, shape, geometry, and composition as protagonists of its language.
4. Kandinsky and Point and Line to Plane
The famous Russian painter Vasili Kandinsky published a book entitled Point and Line to Plane in 1926. This was not only one of the fundamental texts of this author, but also one of the most important publications for modern art, as he established an “analytical method with consideration of the synthetic values, directing attention towards the basic graphic elements”. Kandinsky in this very interesting book, defines, theorizes, analyzes, and introduces his aesthetic and spiritual ideas about these elements.
Kandinsky studies the point as a symbol, and defines it as a complex unit, with great inner strength and full of expressive potential.
5. The point as a symbol
Kandinsky specified that the point is not only a concrete, visible and essential unit, but also communicates and informs about the interpretative value and symbolization of the spectator. And that the point, as an expressive element, is not only present in the visual arts but we can also notice it in all other artistic manifestations. This is because points operate as a bridge between silence and expression. If we talk about sculpture and architecture, we could think of the point as the origin or the intersection of various planes. In poetry, we might note the point in literary terms or perhaps verbal intonations — and in music, in terms of sound. If a ballet dancer is walking on dancing slippers or doing a jump, we could interpret the evocation of a point on the ground. We could, for example, identify the point in the anatomy of the photographic grain. Even in digital art the point could reveal itself to us as those little units called pixels.
Written by our curator Ana Beatriz García