REFLECTION: cont…Part 2: project 1- the combination of flatness and space

REFLECTION: the combination of flatness and space

The suggestion of ‘creating work about the space between the surface and the implied three dimensions’ has continued to intrigue me and I found I wasn’t able to let this go without further experimenting. As I said before, working with this figure is not the easiest in terms of composition, but it’s not the subject matter that I am focusing on – it’s about two different planes in a picture.

I was thinking particularly of the line from the course notes, “the relationship between drawings on surfaces and drawings of surfaces”, and this took me into further research. I looked back at the drawings of Seurat whose work I have always loved as it seemed that this was a good starting point when thinking about flatness and space. In his drawings, the choice of surface is important and draws the viewer’s eye by the marks made with the blunt crayon. There is no outlining or detailed work, just edgeless forms and spaces which seem to advance and recede according to the dots created by the texture of the surface. Space is created by these forms and at the same time the viewer is aware of the flatness and surface texture of the paper. These drawings are highly skilled as there is no room for rubbing out and readjusting the light as there is with charcoal. Because of the juxtaposition of form, space and texture, these drawings express extraordinary stillness and mystery.




Drawbridge - Seurat

Drawbridge – Seurat

Further research into the combination of flatness and space took me to Paul Cezanne and his technique of broad flat brushstrokes which seemed to emphasise the flatness of the picture surface at the same time as portraying depth and space through tone and contrast. In this still life, we seem to move through flatness and space repeatedly and the artist seems to be playing with the different planes. Just when we think we are looking at a three-dimensional object, we find that we are confronted with two-dimensional images. This makes for exciting viewing.

Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne

Giorgio Morandi on the other hand uses flatness and space in a different way and with a different effect. His obsession was bottles and other household containers and the arrangement of these objects formed the subject for the majority of his paintings. I find the subtlety of these paintings magnificent – three dimensions seem to be inferred through a subtle use of tone while the flatness of the surface created in the space around the bottles becomes full of meaning. Once again the flatness and the space work together. This watercolour illustrates the way he has used the medium to give the merest suggestion of three dimensions on what would otherwise be a two-dimensional surface.

Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi

Watercolour - Giorgio Morandi

Watercolour – Giorgio Morandi

I began thinking about surface texture in things around me.


In the studio I experimented with watercolour paper to see how the rough texture would highlight a two-dimensional aspect, following the drawings of Seurat. Using the same figure I drew the image in closeup emphasising the dark and light areas. The rough texture certainly draws the eye to the surface.


I then contrasted this by working on very smooth paper because I wanted to explore the effect that line would have in contrast to the three-dimensional tones of the figure. I explored further the idea behind the original figure, called Narcissus, and looked at contemporary images of figures engrossed in their own image through mobile devises.



There are possibilities to be explored here but for my purpose in looking at depth and surface, difficulties arose in combining line with charcoal. However I did feel that interesting things were happening in the use of these opposite mediums in regard to the combination of flatness and space.

This is a fascinating subject and I haven’t finished with it yet….



About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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