Irene Lipton Detail

Focusing on a detail is a good way to enjoy and understand a work of art or even an artist's work in general. When we look at an entire work just online, especially a larger work, say more than 24 inches high or wide, it can be hard to get a sense for the brushwork, which often is a huge part of what a painting is about. Think of a musician's tone and attack, or a writer's way with a sentence, regardless of what the overall point or message is. Even when we stand in front of a work, we might be tempted to just look at the whole thing, rather than portions or "passages." Let's say you are finding a work difficult. There's a good chance that at least part of the work will appeal or be graspable to you. When I taught, and we were reading a difficult text, I would tell students to find just one paragraph, or even one sentence that made sense to them. That's your way in. That's your platform to build on.

The image above is a detail from a 24" x 24" Irene Lipton painting that we own. I took the photo the other day. As you can see, it represents about one sixth of the total area of the piece. A few thoughts.

1. A big reason I like this part of the painting is simply because I like the shade and tone of that red she uses. Sometimes we overthink paintings. It's good to just take pleasure in the pure sensual or aesthetic qualities of a piece.

2. By looking at a detail we can see how Lipton treats a canvas as a palimpsest, with the traces, the echoes of earlier markings evident in the final piece.

3. This would make a fine painting in and of itself, wouldn't it? Sometimes painters will do a large, quick abstract, and then select a portion to develop into a coherent piece. Sometimes musical composers just keep a recorder running while they improvise and fool around with licks and melodies. Sometimes something will emerge that's worthy of further development.

4. The upper left quarter of the painting, the area from which this was taken, is much more spare than the rest of the canvas. A good reason for not treating this as its own piece, is because by including it in the larger composition it provides an interesting contrast, strengthening both it and the work as a whole.


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