This is a painting I made in my art class in 2010-11. When we learned about Matisse’s piece The Red Studio, it reminded me of my own work because as you can see, this painting is also mainly red. Matisse used the ubiquity of the bold red to flatten his canvas and destroy the illusion of three-dimensional space that had been so sought after in previous artworks. He wanted to play around with the viewer’s perception of the depth of the image, and so he contrasted the solid background with the objects in the foreground–except that he also reversed the figure-ground relationship by painting using reserve lines. He painted red until only the white lines remained, rather than paint white over red.
In my painting shown here, I did not use reserve lines like Matisse. I painted the background red and then added the silhouettes of the trees, mountains, and islands in black over that. The effect is therefore different. However, the use of a single solid color with little exception is similar to Matisse; only the sun and its reflection in the water break the two-toned look of the scene. This method lessens the effect of depth created by the faded look of the mountains (which the brain interprets as being due to atmospheric interference, and therefore means they are further away).
Just as Matisse did in his studio, I left out a line that would define the space. Matisse’s wall is missing an edge over the painting on the left, and my scene lacks a horizon line on the right. Both paintings assume that the viewer’s brain will automatically extend the line suggested by the rest of the painting and fill in the gap. In this case, the bottom of the mountains defines the horizon without my needing to draw a line between the sky and the water. In fact, were it not for the sun’s reflection, it would be difficult if not impossible to tell that the lower half of the scene is water. Matisse’s studio’s missing line means that it is tricky to explain where one wall ends and the next begins. The corner lacks definition, deliberately. Both his and my works experiment with depth perception and the ability to see lines where there are none.
The Red Studio was an oil painting, and this is acrylic, but both were made on canvas. Matisse created his painting to make a statement about the change in art forms, but seven years ago I was not interested in such a grand scope: I just thought this contrast looked pretty cool.
-Chaya, team Venus