Thursday, February 4, 2010

Architecture & Representation

In beginning to understand architecture, to study it from drawings and images, you realise that such a study would be looking at architecture from a distance. It does not involve us in a living environment.

In India, architecture has had spiritual meaning that may relate to the time of day, in the way light enters the sanctum sanctorum of a temple at a particular time on a particular day in a given year. The architecture of water in the stepped wells of ahmedabad is an experience of shade from the sun for a traveller. How do you represent these experiences?

This question brings us to studying art and how it has been represented. Perhaps a study of finding meaning in art would bring us closer to finding meaning in architecture and understanding how to represent it before its creation and after.

I reproduce below an exercise I undertook as a student, to study a painting, to walk through it as if I saw nothing else, to be inside the painting and not outside it.

I looked at the painting `ANNUNCIATION´
by Crivelli

And then,
My eyes tired of the rapid translation
Of visual images into geometry
I heard the applause

I could not help seeing
The Geometry in its composition
And, for a while
Nothing else.

The second act had begun.
My mind switched
From `spatial analysis´to the `meaning´
Of this drama

Now, I had to `see´and `listen´
Listen to the murmur
Of the hands and the eyes
To later interpret their meaning

I must therefore divide this story into two parts
the first dealing with Meaning
and the second with Geometry


This painting exposes the difference between the level of curiosity of a child‘s mind as compared to that of an adult. The scene involves several characters of which only one is a child. Only this child seems to look outside of himself. He is not aware that he is being seen. The others know that they are being seen. Perhaps, they view themselves as participants of a drama. They must play their part and play it well.

The child would like to have his presence acknowledged. He could direct the world, he thinks, because he knows what‘s going on, if only they would listen to him. But, he has decided to take refuge behind the parapet, to act naive, only of course, till he is Big.

One wonders if instead of Crivelli, any one of us were painting this picture, would we have represented the little child as seated on the steps... instead of standing behind the parapet. Would it have altered the meaning of the image if instead of being concealed in part behind the parapet, the child had instead been painted as hiding himself in the folds of the robe of one of the men...

Or, what would happen to our interpretation of the composition if the child stood beside the kneeling saint and lifted a building block from the model held in the hands of the saint. Would it be a sacrilege to treat the representation of an important event in so light a manner? And, could this then be the starting point of caricature?

Besides, is the child accompanying one of the three men? Or, has he climbed the steps on his own to get away from the street and the strange happenings there? The apple and the peanut. Are they his playthings left behind on the street in his haste to get to the head of the stairs?

Have the three men gathered at the steps because a programme they were participants of within the building has just ended? Are they on their way out... Or did they hear of an extraordinary event happening in the street and therefore hurried outside to watch? Or, is this simply their favourite rendezvous after work hours? They are not plotting against enemies, are they...Is the curtain shown in Virgin Mary‘s chamber, a mere representation of a circumstantial object or is it meant to be a symbolic barrier between the duality in the life of the Virgin Mary – separating her divinity from her mortal existence and its implications, as drawn from the objects shown beyond this curtain.

Anyway, are all those objects, curtain and bed and books actually to the right of her or is that a mirror wall by her side reflection the room space to her left, hidden from our point of view behind the column...


The painting ANNUNCIATION by Crivelli confirms at the outset the presence of a spatial datum.

The vanishing point of the painting is held at the furthest end of this datum, appearing, however, at the centre of the vertical axis of this two-dimensional representation and with respect to the horizontal axis at its first quarterly division. It is a one-point perspective drawing with all the object lines directed towards and converging at this vanishing point.

One notices instantly the beam of light from the sky directed at Virgin Mary in the lower right half of the picture. It is especially conspicuous since it is the only line in the painting that does not converge or that is not directed towards the vanishing point. This divergence from the rule gives it a special quality to make it a symbol of power. It is presumably a very important feature of the act being represented. As one looks at the rug hang out on the parapet near the peacock, one may not think about what length hangs on the other side, for, one knows.

We can see in its design a symmetry about its width and from our prior exposure to such designs know that the design would be symmetrical about its length. This establishes its length to be twice as much as is visible to us on our side of the parapet. However, if the rug design were instead a small motif repeated unevenly, we would be quizzical about the length of rug that hangs on the other side of parapet.

The painting is composed so that more than one-half of its right side is occupied by a solid mass and another one-quarter of its left side, leaving a quarter-width for displaying the spatial outlay. The spaces show various forms of human behavioural patterns within the different planes. The Virgin Mary is encased within the GOLDEN RECTANGLE. Thus, the proportion of the Golden Section seems to have determined the position of the different objects within her chamber. In a reconstruction of this part of the painting, one may derive a series of golden rectangles which result in the appearance of the logarithmic spiral.

“the dichotomy of individuality and universality may be seen as
Art for art‘s sake against Art as a system
Geometry for art‘s sake and Order as a system”


Apoorva said...

I like your way of representation!
i think it has inspired me to come out of the architectural CAD plans and think into the perspective aspect!

Indian Bazaars said...

Thanks, Apoorva.