César Domela and Lao Tseu through the composition
Study of François Murez - www.francois-murez.com
Extract: Some Ideas about Modern Art
... It is common knowlegde that at the biginning of the present century certain artists circles
had had enough of traditional aesthetic canons. Their impatience with an art which had ended
up by concerning itself only ith effect was to give rise to a new, spiritual art. What
is essential is not the appearence but the spiritual world which hides itself behind. This appearence can mask
and reveal it at the same time.
... The composition forms a whole and nothing can be added or taken away from it ...
... or being and not-being.
The spiritual art and Lao Tseu... How these two notions met in César Domela's works? Let us see if the construction of its object-pictures served to transpose its philosophic ideas and how?
Relief 137 - 1971
Brass and colored wood - 75 x 100 cm
Three elements: circle, rectangle, intertwinings of lines. We find the ternary rhythm there.
So, the circle representing the infinity, the sky and the representing rectangle the finished, the earth,
are driven by this movement of lines, the median breath.
By drawing some horizontal and vertical placed in intersections of diagonals, we find the wedging of both crossed lines.
Two axes leaving of lines drawn previously give a tangent and an axis of the circle.
Let us build a rectangle just containing the circle and the rectangle and let us pull down sides.
The space between a square and the rectangle corresponds exactly to the size of the element "rectangle" of the picture. We see clearly that the circle is not in the axis of the picture: the circle, as infinity is unbalanced by comparison to the rectangle which represents the finished and which is in the axis of the picture.
The following plan shows several distances which meet in the picture :
The object-picture is previously preceded by a work on trace which allows Domela to be able to work its shapes before positioning them on the final work.
Drawing pencil on trace - 74 x 100 cm
This trace uses naturally the same composition in the same proportions.
And this trace is even preceded by a sketch covered by rectangles to allow to change scale.
Drawing pencil on trace - 16 x 24 cm
This sketch also uses the same proportions. It shows that the composition with both rectangles as seen previously is already applied to this sketch. The geometrical assembly must be applied from another trace or cardboard to which were drawn rectangles, squares, diagonals... and on which the trace of the sketch was put. Domela had to certainly recover in there several times before his sketch is good.
So this object-picture consists in fact of two sets which obey their own rules of composition, a set built around a circle and around a rectangle, a set built around the intertwining of 2 lines. These two sets speak to each other by harmonies of sizes, axes or diagonals. So three elements of the Chinese thought liven up by the composition and draw their life of the bottom of the picture, the Void, the Not-being.
Relief 147 - 1973
Plexiglass, duraluminium and colored wood - 110 x 75 cm
We find in this picture, the previous three elements: the circle, the square, an intertwining of 3 triangles which ride
circle and square. Three elements are here vertical, while they were horizontal previously. The ternary rhythm is protected. Circle and square
are on the same axis but not in the axis of the picture.
The elements of the picture do not seem to adapt themselves to this construction, only the diagonal of the square element corresponds to the diagonal of a constructed red square. But let us continue by the second smaller construction, here in yellow. It has for width the distance of 2 summits of the big triangle and for height, a little less than the height of the picture. The axis of the square passes by the intersection of 2 diagonals of a yellow square.
A yellow vertical line in the intersection of an horizontal and of a diagonal...
Another yellow vertical line in the intersection of two red diagonals...
And from there, we can draw all the sides of triangles.
The plan following watch that the distance of the axis of the square at the edge of the picture is equal to the side of the square ( green arrow) and the distance between the axis of the circle and the height of the square also meets in the composition ( blue arrow).
And to finish, 3 sides of triangles cut themselves in the same point, the big side of the white triangle equal the width of the rectangle, the diameter of the circle equal the vertical side of the red triangle, etc....
In this object-picture, we thus find 3 elements (square/earth, circle/sky, triangles/median breath) in a double composition. The full space (the geometrical shapes), symbolizing the being, remains dominating with regard to the bottom, the void, the not-being. The movement of 3 triangles livens up the set.
Relief 302 - 1991
Oil on wood, copper and plexiglass - 65 x 50 cm
The same principle of rabatment...
The second composition...
The width of the yellow figure is equal to the distance between one of the sides of the rectangle and a vertical line positioned by the blue construction (distance located by the black arrow)
The yellow figure is not in the axis of the picture. The black arrow shows the positioning of the intersection of yellow diagonals and the diagonals of the rectangle formed by the picture.
Let us draw two vertical lines (hatched yellow), the one in the axis of the yellow rectangle, the other one in the intersection
of a yellow diagonal and of a blue horizontal line.
From these horizontal and vertical, we can draw the sides of triangles and encircle the rounded off shape.
We still find thus here the same logic of construction: three elements, double architecture. The movement is given by the blue shape
the middle-rectangle, the middle-circle, openwork to let appear three ropes which put in echo three elements of the being and make the set
vibrate such a " music of the spheres ". Three until now distant elements, here, merge and unify.
This merger concentrates the Being. The bottom of the picture, the Not-being becomes dominating, and by its dominant color relegate
elements to the supporting role, because " the being arises from the non-being ".
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