Composition is the foundation of a work of art, in visual art, music, dance, theater, literature or film. In a broad sense it is the division into place, time and movement.
In visual art it is the layout of a specific surface or space. For example, a painting often involves the layout of a rectangular surface.
The composition determines both harmony and tension in the artwork. But it also determines the type of drama sought and the mood. With that also the expression.
All composition is essentially abstract, and where there is a representation there is also an extra complication: the visual elements of the representation must therefore be included in the image construction, and moreover play a role in the spatial effect on a flat surface. The latter form of arrangement is called “Ordinance”.
The more detailed the representation, the more difficult it is to maintain unity: therefore compositions always go from abstraction to ordinance and from large to small: first the totals, then the parts and finally the details.
Various approaches are possible to composing, which can be applied separately or in combination. In this course we will discuss examples of three approaches: the constructed, the dynamic and the musical composition. These examples focus on painting: composing on a flat surface
The abstract composition
“Composition” is the ordering of visual elements (planes, lines, shapes, light-shadow) on a given surface, in such a way that a cohesion is created.
Every composition revolves around two opposing principles: harmony and tension.
Harmony means that the ordering is correct, that it comes across as self-evident, in such a way that the ordering principle is completely overlooked by the spectator.
Tension means that the spectator starts to look, continues to watch, becomes intrigued by what is presented. In other words: organization without tension becomes boring. Composing is therefore a game of ordering and disorganization, of balance and imbalance.
Take, for example, the painting “The Death of Sardanapalus” by Delacroix.
The story is how the Assyrian king Sardanapalus, after being defeated by the Medes, killed his entire court, set fire to his palace and committed suicide.
Delacroix’s imagination shows a lot of fuss and bustle on the canvas. But when we take a closer look at all that bustle, it appears that it has been thoroughly thought through: there is a strict ordering underneath, with different forms of approach at the same time: an abstract composition and a figurative order.
The main direction is a diagonal, in the shape of an elongated triangle. If we look at the dark areas above and below, the rectangle is divided into three triangles: the core of the story takes place in the inner, “red” triangle, additional information is less emphatically in the two dark ones.
All those triangles are approximately equal in area.
If we look at the light-dark distribution – mainly the arrangement of the figures, it appears that a strict ordering, a kind of Z-shape or pendulum movement has also been used there.
Together, these two forms of ordering ensure that all the bustle is very clearly arranged within the frame of the rectangle.
Visual art can be practiced free of any obligation and for one’s own pleasure, but the purpose of this programme goes beyond that.
Here we focus on a development on a (semi) professional level: either to make it your profession, or to be able to work at that level.
In order to check whether this programme is useful to you, we ask you to carry out an assignment as a test beforehand.
If this gives you promising prospects, we welcome you warmly.
Search in your own work for a composition that particularly appeals to you, or look for a good example in art books and make a variation in that style (not a copy)
And send the image of it (together with the example).
Depending on the response to this assignment, you may register for this program (see: purchase this course).