Developing a Concept of ‘Concentric Lines’ in Painting, an MFA Painting Project Report by Stephen Chinedu Achugwo


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Developing a Concept of ‘Concentric Lines’ in Painting, an MFA Painting Project Report by Stephen Chinedu Achugwo

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Home Page > Arts & Entertainment > Visual Art > Developing a Concept of ‘Concentric Lines’ in Painting, an MFA Painting Project Report by Stephen Chinedu Achugwo

Developing a Concept of ‘Concentric Lines’ in Painting, an MFA Painting Project Report by Stephen Chinedu Achugwo

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Posted: Mar 02, 2011 |Comments: 0


Developing a Concept of Concentric Lines in Painting

The term, ‘concentric lines’ means lines tending towards a common centre. It relates to the centripetal force that is drawing a line of force to a centre. An opposing force to the concentric movement is the eccentric or centrifugal force that pulls away from the centre. In terms of compositional elements, concentric lines will be visualised as a synthesis of circles, spirals, arcs, curves and curvilinear lines. 

In experimenting with concentric lines, it was essential to carry out a detailed analysis of curves, since circles, spirals, curvilinear lines and arcs derive their shapes from the level of curvature of a particular line. In other words, a curving line could develop into an arc or a circle. On interaction with a set of planes, a curve could transform into a spiral or a curvilinear line. Sausmarez (1975:22) discovers that when a line is used in relationship with a curve, a new rhythmic quality evolves. The curve possesses a framework of rectilinear relationships, which describe “the directional and proportional factors in the particular curve”. He suggests that when dealing with a shape with variety of curves, it is useful to analyse its vertical-horizontal grid, in order to ascertain the actual character of the curvatures involved. This is necessary because the character influences the expressive content of the composition.

Comparing various possible visual sensations or feelings that could be evoked due to the character of curves. Graves (1951:202) states that “The slightly-curved or undulating line is loose and flexible”. It is characterised by flowing continuity due to ‘harmonic transition’. In terms of movement, the line is slow and lazy.   Such sluggish movement could express gentleness, fertility, aimlessness or wandering effects.   The highly curved line changes direction fast. It is more active and forceful than the slightly curved line.

Both the slightly curved line and the vigorously curved line could create mechanical and organic shapes. Wong (1993:150) discovers that an organic shape exhibits convex and concave character through smoothly flowing curves with ‘imperceptible transitions’. Such character may involve projecting connections or points of contact between the curves. Wong contends that an organic shape may be simple but could exhibit intricate details. He believes that it is difficult to find straight lines in organic shapes, but a shape with curves and straight lines exhibits both geometric and organic characteristics.

In attempting a relationship of curved-rhythm, it was necessary to create numerous concentric compositions. A circle or an arc could be formed with a centre and radius. A circle is an unbroken line that encloses a plane. It demarcates the space it encloses from the space surrounding it. Wong found that with neither a definite direction nor a definite angle, a circle occupies a maximum area within a minimum boundary. A part of the circumference of a circle is described as an arc.   Circles and arcs of different circumferences can create variety. Interesting composition could emerge through sketches of circles or arcs (or circles and arcs) that touch, join, overlap or interlock.  Transparency may be employed to harmonize colours. Superimposition could be employed when using circles or arcs of different sizes. In this case, large ones may be drawn to contain smaller ones. This could be regarded as experiments with concentric circles and arcs. Flexing a line in one direction develop into a C-curve. When two alternating C-curves are joined on each end, the result is an S-curve. C and S curves were used as loops to link up other lines in most of the composition for this study.

Another experiment that was helpful to this study is the adaptation of study sketches representing paths of movement of a form, which spines on its own central axis or revolves round a fixed centre. Sausmarez (1975:23) observes that, if one set a three-dimensional form in motion and sketches the fragments of the significant phases of the movement, a new image compounded of fragments evolves. Such a fragmental image was articulated in this study through quick-sketches of moving crowd. The image has its own rhythm and principle of structure, in which the form was transformed into ‘a sort of malleable substance’; out of which a concentric composition is developed.

Apart from the subjective analysis of a curve as an integral part of concentric lines, rhythm was very essential. The principle of rhythm should be fundamental to the use of concentric lines in creating paintings. Klee (1961:85) states that “Rhythms in nature become truly individual in the figurative sense, when their parts take on a character that goes beyond the rhythmical”. He contends that in repetitive rhythm, the regular accentuation of the rhythmic repetition is affected by the intervention of a second active influence.  The second active influence lends the movement an irregular or individual accent by loosening and tightening extension and contraction with moving ground plane. Sausmarez (1975:69) states that “rhythm is fundamental to organic growth”. Repetition is the main characteristic of rhythm. Repetitive rhythm could be articulated by simple patterns and motifs. It could be visualised as movement and counter-movement in freely balanced tension. In this study, this kind of rhythm was demonstrated by spirals and curvilinear lines. Graves (1951:202) finds that in a zigzag line, “rhythm is spasmodic and staccato”.

In utilising concentric lines to develop a dynamic concept, a linear adaptation of movement was very essential. Klee (1961:343) states that “Movement is inherent in all change”. He opines that any figuration should be regarded as movement since it starts from somewhere and ends somewhere. Movement could be enhanced by repetition of lines. Hastie (1964:244) states that “Lines and repetition of line build up a quality of motion which is intrinsic…” Such intrinsic attributes are mainly associated with the line itself in preference to the motion generated by the object or the thing represented. In a related view Severini, quoted by Sausmarez (1975:74) writes, “Movement becomes what it is in reality, a synthesis of matter and energy”. He suggests, “The symbolising of form in movement is the outcome of the complex influences of vision, memory and emotion”. These aesthetic realities are indefinable and possess infinite creative possibilities.

Creative ideas were also inspired by the principle of thrust and counter-thrust, which could be used to maintain balance in the paintings. This idea was mainly employed in the first and third category of paintings, in this study. Such forces were visualised as tension generated by lines of various thickness, lengths, shapes or sizes. The forces manifested in the tonal values of the lines. Klee (1961:302) states that “The articulation of movement and counter-movement makes for synthesis and balance.”

The sensational forces were also articulated as a rotation based on circles with variety of shifted centres, moving in four main directions (upwards, downwards and from side to side). The rotation developed into shapes like spirals and coils. In flat projection the rotation transformed into a curvilinear line. The visual forces operating could be likened to the curvilinear line tracing the path of the pull of gravity. Related creative ideas could also be drawn from the study sketches of swing of a pendulum. Klee (1961:387) states that “The pendulum is an expression of temporal unity, a compromise between movement and counter-movement”. Visualization of the oscillatory forces results into a variety of spirals, which in flat projection could transform into flat coils or curvilinear lines.

The dynamics of concentric lines in painting cannot be exhausted. Further inspirational sources for painting could be drawn from study sketches representing the opposing forces of the pulley, the principles of buttressing and levers, the spring, the turning of cogwheels and the rotating or revolving orbits of the stars. Inspiration could be drawn from the growing thread of the screw. Articulation of the thread lines could result into spirals and curvilinear lines.

In conclusion, all the concepts and principles reviewed possess relevant creative ideas to the dynamics of concentric lines in painting. The researcher discovers that sources of inspiration for painting abound in several organic, dynamic and mechanical concepts and principles. These concepts and principles, in addition to the repetitive orientation of lines, characterised by waves, form the platform on which the concept of concentric lines was developed for an expressive idiom in painting.

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Article Tags:
the definition of the term concentric lines, a master of fine arts mfa degree painting project report by stephen chinedu achugwo, october 2000 department of fine art, faculty of environmental design, ahmadu bello university zaria nigeria, african art

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Adetoro, S.A. (1980): “Research Technique for Project Report, Thesis and Dissertation”, Zaria; Gaskiya Corporation Limited.

Afuwape, E. (1984): “Northern Grandeur (A study of some Decorative Arts of Northern Nigeria)”; an unpublished MFA Project Report in painting,

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