On Radical Linearism: some working ideas.

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amelo14's avatar
On Radical Linearism.

Amelo 2 by amelo14

Those of you who have seen my simple drawings have done me great good. Their simplicity is shocking, specially to me. I mean, are they really complete works? Surely I must be kidding, right? Surely  they are just simple nice sketches which will be reworked finally to really produce a painting. Surely it might even seem a bit arrogant to frame such few lines and pretend they are a finished works. In a sense  this is true, but in another quite false. This is why I write this journal;  to clarify to myself and to some friends what might lie behind the appearance and decision to draw such lines. In this sense,  this journal continues the ideas present in my previous Journal “Lines and Beauty” amelo14.deviantart.com/journal…;. In it, I briefly spoke about my love of lines.

So I guess first one must say that these lines have risen out of great love of some painters in particular. They can only be understood in reference to Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, and Miró. I will provide examples of the first two to see what I mean:

1. Klee (drawings and paintings)
Radical Linearism Journal 4 by amelo14 Radical Linearism Journal 5 by amelo14 Radical Linearism Journal 6 by amelo14
Radical Linearism Journal 7 by amelo14 Radical Linearism Journal 8 by amelo14 Radical Linearism Journal 9 by amelo14

2. Kandinsky (drawings and paintings)
Radical Linearism Journal 10 by amelo14 Radical Linearism Journal 11 by amelo14 Radical Linearism Journal 12 by amelo14
Radical Linearism Journal 13 by amelo14 Radical Linearism Journal 14 by amelo14

If it were not for my contact with these painters,  I doubt I would have ever drawn what I have. This is so because “abstract impressionism” led me on a truly anti-representationalist path. As Klee wrote: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” But these drawings are much more radical in their nature, hence the name “Radical Linearism”.

Have you ever stayed up late wondering about what your art shows? Have you ever had the need to express to yourself in words what lies behind your artistic decisions? Have you ever wondered after you submit here at DA, what is it you are doing? Well if you have felt this, then you will be open to this journal. But all this requires a bit of courage and the passage of time. Courage,  because it is hard to defend a certain simplicity in our modern complex, technologically-oriented, world. And the passage of time, for I doubt a few years ago I could have even thought about writing this. Perhaps the preparation for my PhD thesis has allowed me to understand myself a bit more. And finally,  there is always recourse to great artists and thinkers. As Da Vinci is said to have written:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

Obviously this cannot mean that Da Vinci was a simpleton! Simplicity is far from superficiality. Quite the contrary, simplicity may sometimes provide a radical critique of our supposed complexity; a complexity which may truly be hiding us from ourselves. In this sense,  this journal is very Socratic ------remember Socrates preferred, for the most part,  to go about without shoes--- because  it asks of us to try to know ourselves. Perhaps more journals such as these at DA can help us better understand ourselves as artists.

To the problem. You see, the problem with these drawings I did in the period 2000-2003 ---–after having drawn for many years much more complex figures and paintings--- is clearly that they seem to be the result of a childish inability to develop one’s ideas so as to produce a real complete work. To see what I mean just take a look at some of these radical linear drawings. You will see and feel what I mean:

“Human being”
Radical Linearism II by amelo14

“Linear Woman”
Radical Linearism III by amelo14

“Minimalist landscape”
Minimalist Landscape by amelo14

“Peasant “  
Peasant by amelo14

Projection by amelo14

“Linear Woman”
Linear woman by amelo14

“Conversation over water”
Conversation over water by amelo14

“Mujer cuadriculada”
Mujer Cuadriculada by amelo14

Linear Bird 2 by amelo14

Earth-tree-bird-moon by amelo14

“Peace towers 9/11”
Peace Towers 9-11 by amelo14

“Beating Landscape”
Beating landscape by amelo14

Tu mano embarcada by amelo14

Radical Linearism I by amelo14

Beso by amelo14

(and many others found in my Gallery; and still others which I have not submitted.)

The feeling some deviant commentators have had can be summarized as follows: “Really beautiful drawings and yet there is something lacking in them, a certain depth. They are cute and nice, but inconclusive. Surely there will come a point when you will have time to work on them.”  So much have I heard this, that I even doubted whether to submit them at all, not to mention frame them as they are!

The defense. First of all I must repeat that, contrary to what one might believe, these drawings were done between 2000-2003, so that they belong to a much later date in my artistic production. Second, they arose suddenly as if of themselves. I had drawn extensively before, but these later drawings were quite unique and challenging. They seemed  absolutely simple and yet I found myself with no desire whatsoever to modify them much! It is as if they told me not to modify them much.

To understand the issue at hand I must let you see for yourselves previous paintings and drawings which show the complexity which existed before the arrival of these radical lines:

1. Anthropomorphosis (1989-90) (A complex painting)
Anthropomorphosis by amelo14

2. Temporality (A complex sketch  from 1988)

3. My house (A complex sketch from 1993)
My house by amelo14

4.  Rezo (A complex drawing from 1988)
Rezo by amelo14

So you see, now you might understand why these later drawings puzzled me so much. And what is still worse is that previously I HAD IN FACT used some older drawings to create much more complex paintings. Such is the case of

1. “Coupling”
Coupling by amelo14

whose sketch was done in 1987
Radical Linearism Journal 2 by amelo14

2. "Soaring Sunset".
Soaring sunset by amelo14

whose sketch was done in 1987 as well
Radical Linearism Journal 1 by amelo14

This is very paradoxical to me. I had already created complex paintings from similar drawings when I was much younger. These paintings provided possible solutions for the immature sketches to try to become more complete works. The solution in “Coupling” seems to create much beauty, but makes the lines fall into the background almost completely. The solution with “Soaring sunset” ----–to expand the lines and color them--- keeps the value of the lines,  but requires the use of color.

And then I asked, what if these radical linear drawings were  ends-in-themselves? What would that mean? How could I make myself clearer about this with multiple commentators arguing  that these “nice” and “cute” little sketches were just sketches? I told myself that the only solution I could afford to accept was that of making them much larger then they are,  simply widening the lines so that they would not seem as fragile as they do. But aside from that, no color or transformation in the lines. I started to worry I was loosing it. And then came DA,  and luckily I had to think about these drawings thanks to the comments by several kind deviants to whom I am grateful.

Thinking it through,  I came up with the idea of “Radical Linearism”; first as a nice title, but slowly as a more serious possibility for self-understanding. The part on “Linearism” is too obvious to even comment. But why is it radical and not merely another form of abstractionism? Because the emphasis lies in the lines themselves;  and,  as far as possible,  in the least amount of lines that one can use to express oneself with regards to any given topic or subject.

And so AT LAST,  the following 10 points are what I think might lie behind the simplicity of these lines. (Please check out my previous journals so you do not believe this is simply a crazy fluke.)

Radical Linearism: some working ideas

1.  The simplicity of these lines stands as a powerful critique of modern complexity. Busying ourselves at all times, we may have truly lost ourselves. These lines therefore stand as a kind of therapy against complexity; they remind one of  the need to stop and reconsider. In this sense, they defend another kind of complexity.

2. Their simplicity is fueled by an economic critique. Their economy of form and color is set up in contrast to a society  which enjoys consuming endlessly (consuming even the greatest of art works). Their economy of means is set up against a world of radical economic inequalities. They put forward the possibility of having less as condition for creating more.

3. The simplicity of these lines points directly to our mortality. Mathematically, a line is made up of points; but a point –according to Euclid--- is “that which has no part” mathworld.wolfram.com/Point.ht…;. They in fact arose soon after I was diagnosed with a severe illness which made it impossible for me to walk for over a year, and also made it quite difficult to draw. It hurt  to draw, hence the need for few lines. Is this why they seem to have a certain therapeutic effect? Is their simplicity to be understood in part because,  when one comes in touch with one’s mortality, one gets rid of the annoying superficial complexity of many irrelevant things?

4.  Their simplicity opens them as true possibilities. They  can be seen as the genetic structure for further projects; a kind of DNA which can generate multiple possibilities. They could allow, as sketches do, to be reworked in different directions under differing conditions. (Isn’t the DNA helix quite linear; not to mention the way we represent molecular bonds?). And yet they are completely finished unto themselves.   

5. The simplicity of these lines has a direct connection to Primitivism. They recall the symbolism of lines which appeared in caves  as some of the first expressions of our expressive possibilities as distinctly human.

Radical Linearism Journal 15 by amelo14 www.students.sbc.edu/matyseksn…

6. Their simplicity can be seen as spiritual. They can be regarded both as a reduction towards the essentials of a given object, and simultaneously  as  an ascent to a certain  kind of “purification”. Forgive me,  but here  I must have recourse to truly great painters. As Klee wrote:

“Some will not recognize the truthfulness of my mirror. Let them remember that I am not here to reflect the surface... but must penetrate inside. My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth. My human faces are truer than the real ones.” www.brainyquote.com/quotes/aut…

Or as Kandinsky famously wrote: “The contact  of the acute angle of a triangle with a circle is no less powerful in effect than that of the finger of God with the finger of Adam in Michelangelo’s’ painting.”  (p. 77 Kandinsky)  

7. The  simplicity of these lines opens us to the world in a radically new way.  The minimalist group here in DA --- minimalism ---- provides wonderful examples of what this might mean. (I myself have tried to provide photographs in this direction in my gallery.) Your eye becomes unencumbered in an age in which complex images assault us at every instant.

8. Their simplicity has a particular historical and personal context as the Colombian citizen that I am. They stand  as a contrasting balance to our famous and magnanimous Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero and his well-known over-sizing:

Radical Linearism Journal 3 by amelo14

9.  The simplicity of these lines invites the spectator to become an engaged and activate participant who ---if she/he is open enough--- must be truly puzzled by their very simplicity: As I wrote in my previous journal on lines: "One tends to think that lines reduce. But lines actually make you produce an image that is nowhere to be found in the world. Lines make you activate your seeing and your thinking. For lines ask to be completed by you, the perceiver. At first you do not see it, so you must look closer and engage what seeing cannot. They are deceptive because they seem too childish to hide any depth. But if you can see some depth in them, then ---just maybe---- you really surprise yourself and therefore start to see lines all around you in the world. Of course, I rarely succeed in doing this, but I have tried hard for several years.” These simple lines may feed us by reactivating our imagination in an age in which imagination has become choked. And finally,

10.  Their simplicity ---allow me  to venture into the area of understanding I have dedicated my last 18 years to--- might even be seen as part of the tendency by multiple philosophers (Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Taylor) to criticize the Cartesian model of reality. In particular one might think of the profoundly influential Cartesian model of the “x-y grid” which has mapped our modern space and psyche. Think, for instance, of how odd our modern maps are when compared to their medieval counterparts. The simplicity of these lines does not seek to control space, but rather to liberate it to its multiple possibilities.


So, in the end, the question which “Radical Linearism” might be said to ask is this:   why exactly can’t simple lines be just simply lines? . This journal has been but a humble attempt to answer it.  
Amelo 2 by amelo14

© 2005 - 2022 amelo14
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myrnajacobs's avatar
I'm so sorry I just couldn't read all about your radical linearism right now... but I got a bit of the concept and I am a firm believer that more can be communicated with simplicity than ith complexity... and that, indeed, complexity often obscures thought and ideas, making them less comprehensible.

I love your lines and the beauty of those pieces. Really wonderful. :D
amelo14's avatar
Thank you MYvonne for taking a stab at this journal! I think simplicity through complexity is an ideal for us humans who can never decide to just be simpletons. Being complex in simplicity is quite opposed to being complicated.

My lines feel your care.
cata555's avatar
hahaha incmplete?? es demasiadoo coooll... el hecho de que se puedan transmitir tantas imagenes con solo lineas es demasiado bacano... ademas que se e muy moderno en terminos de estetica.... ME ENCANTAAN
amelo14's avatar
Bacano que los hayas leido. Es que las lineas en verdad me apasionan. Gracias Catalina y espero que sigamos en contacto. Una linea para ti: --------------------------------------
cata555's avatar
ahahaha, thaank youu, myy own line!
RavenSkycatcher's avatar
Sometimes the simplicity masks the depths of truth. For a drop of water is simple but it can contain a complex ecosystem of bacteria. It poses the question that maybe we try to simplify or complicate that which should not be simplified or complicated in the effort to categorize and label to better grasp what little we do have during the Human experience.
amelo14's avatar
You have put it beautifully my friend. The example of a drop of water is great. Perhaps we move between complexity and simplicity, but I myself have found I have become more and more inclined to a certain simplicity in SOME respects (desire for expensive goods) and to a ceratin complexity in ohers (examination of my life, my studies and my work.) And, of course, complexity is radically different from "complicated".
RavenSkycatcher's avatar
thank you. I too have become more simplified in my worldly needs but in my mental spiritual and emotional i have delved into the more complex realizations. I think when it comes down to it the needs we really need to fulfill are those. And for me fulfillment comes from my need to create and to help.
Attalus's avatar
Very interesting essay. I am reminded of Picasso's remark after observing a group of young children draw, "When I was their age I could draw like Raphael; it took twenty years for me to be able to draw like them." Perhaps when one gets bored with representationalism, one gets more and more taken by what somebody called "The Eloquent Line." I don't know. I took up drawing again at age 56 in response to some inner urge, and so far it is figure-drawing in a representational way that satisfies it. Sometimes my wife asks me what good my drawings are. I don't know. All I can say is they make me happy when I am doing them, and some of the finished products I love, others I don't care for. I like your comments on the cave-drawings. As I am quite sure you know, they are a mixture of line and tone drawings, representing at the dawn of consciousnessness the two ways that artists can represent figures. Oddly enough, I have recently been trying to reduce line in my drawing. Perhaps it is just a stage in my journey. :)
amelo14's avatar
Thank you for sharing your love of lines with me. I feel your love running through each word you wrote. I truly enjoyed Picasso's commentary; it reminded me of Klee's courage in an age of complexity. What a nice phrase "The Eloquent Line". A truly eloquent way to put it. :-)

I have never seen a real cave drawing, but I would love to. The feeling must be deep and quite strange; to see ourselves reflected in our origins. I think we should continue to share our journey towards understanding the nature and possilbities behind the simplicity of lines. I will permanently look out for your drawings and hope I can come up wth some interesting ones myself.

Thank you once again,

Attalus's avatar
Oddly enough, just before I read the chapter on cave art that showed a juxtaposed outline and silhouette in an art history book, (Gardner's [i]Art Through the Ages[/i]), I had just read an article that claims that Man is the only species that can appreciate lineart. Other species, birds for example, can recognize detailed draing of an enemy, like an owl, and be frightened of it, at least at first, but never react to a line representation. So, this is apparently an innate ability of our species, apparent from very early on. Fascinating, no?
AlishAhsilA's avatar
:clap: First, I applaud your points. :D This is a very well-written essay of sorts on the subject.

Now, in reading this entry I got to thinking about my own work. I always try to be complex in what I do. Sometimes I'm not, but if I get too simple, I tend to get down on myself for not putting more effort into what I do. Yet I am the first person to defend simplicity, work like yours, as being just as expressive and artistic as it is- simple lines as you put it. I'm wondering why this is. As strictly a digital artist (I hardly draw anything at all on paper) already I face the divided opinion that digital art isn't on the same level as traditional art. From there I also face the (unfortunate) typical opinion that if a piece is simpler and less complex, obviously the "artist" put little effort and work into the finished product. While it may take someone a week or more to put digital piece A together, it took someone else three seconds to put digital piece B together. Does that make sense? That, I think, explains most of why the general consensus is that a simple piece cannot be entirely complete. Viewers think that there has to be more to it.

But they don't know, really, what is behind a simple work of lines or how long it took you to create it or frame it. In fact, that shouldn't be an issue. What I love about your work- as I have stated before- is that it leaves a good deal open to interpretation. It makes me think much more than many complex pieces I've seen around DA. Even the simplest lines like I see in Radical Linearism II mean something, and I enjoy the process of thinking about them.

We need to see more pieces like yours, but we don't because of fear and the stereotype that art has to be complex to truly be art.

I hope I made some sense. :)
amelo14's avatar
You made a lot of sense. I surely treasure your commentary Alisha. I think that the person who was truly courageous was Klee. He is an inspiration to me. :hug:
AlishAhsilA's avatar

Ever think of writing a book? :D

I'll reply something more serious to this in a moment. :)
amelo14's avatar
I just might. :D Actually, writing is what I dedicate my life to. :-)
KuSo-e's avatar
"Incluso cuando el objetivo de alcanzar la belleza desde la simplicidad es esteticamente menos exitante, este forzará a la mente a reconocer los simples componentes que hacen a lo complicado algo bello" :) me voy a dormir...
amelo14's avatar
Oye y la cita de quien es, tuya? Dime cuando regreses de dormir. :-)
KuSo-e's avatar
ahh, no, no es mia, creo que es algo que escribió van doesburg, pero, me rijo firmemente por esas palabras! :P
nes11's avatar
I enjoyed your journal very much, finally something more meaningful on DA! i enjoy your drawings and see that they beautiful..and i dont see how people could say how they are incomplete....i believe simplicity is also key..and that in todays society it seems to be the complete opposite..

we feel we "need" "everything" (which tends to lead to material things) in order to feel satisfied. Maybe im only speaking for myself, but i would be completly happy living only with what i need, rather than what i want...and that is why i appreciate your work because it reflects the simply beauty which ART can be. Well, yes, art covers many different areas, watercolour, photography, sculpture....but sometimes people seem to try to hard to creat something which they feel they need to add meaning to, and in the end it may look overdone....

in your drawings i enjoy the simple lines, the curves, the flow..i feel a certain feeling and sense of colour when i look at each one...maybe even feel a certain song or kind of music

thanks for the inspiration:)
amelo14's avatar
Hi Vanessa,

Your words have touch me dearly. You are a very special person.

picca's avatar
"why exactly can’t simple lines be just simply lines?" You made me think a lot with this journal entry. I'm o.k with lines, because in your work they have a purpose. For those who can't see that purpose, they'll remain as only lines.
The way you make those lines "mean something" is admirable. I guess there are people unsatissfied with simplicity. I'm not one of those, because I find beauty and power even in the most simple things.
amelo14's avatar
Thanks so much for reading my journal on lines. I truly believe that if one sees the lines then one can build upon them. Muchas gracias.
kmylo's avatar
wow......mi ser un principiante..
amelo14's avatar
Muchas gracias kmylo. Gracias por tu lectura. Todos somos medio principiantes! :-)
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