(1) General Remarks
In picture, the importance of composition is not always recognized, since the painter can freely create object and setting. This is in contrast with the emphasis put in composition in the field of photography.
On the other hand, in architecture, there is no object or setting as the
elements of composition, and hence architects ignore composition in a different
sense. As a result, lack of understanding occurs between painter and architect.
This indifference is though to cause significant losses in artistic creations.
If new formative ideas created in the field of architecture are applied to the composition of picture, there is a possibility that great innovation would happen. In the times when wall pictures were of popular use, there used to be an understanding of the sense of interrelation between picture and architecture.
However, when canvas was created and painters started to handle their work
as their own personal belonging, this interrelation vanished away from
their pictorial sense. The separation between picture and architecture
starts this way, and an integrated view that united both began
In the meantime, in sculpture, there is no such an element as setting,
and the concept of composition is never present. However, if the sculptor
wants to incorporate in his work the place where his object stands, a setting
is formed and sculptural composition becomes possible.
||(2) The characteristics of Picture and Composition
As shown in the work part, the characteristic of picture that differs from
that of architecture or sculpture is its capacity to draw a three-dimensional
space into a two-dimensional plane. The choice to draw on the picture's
surface either a two-dimensional plane or a three-dimensional object determines
the nature of the picture.
If to express the three dimensionality of an object, one has to draw it
into the picture's surface. In this case, as textbook explains, canvas
is seen as a transparent screen. This is so called "perspective plan". If one is to express only the two-dimensional plane, everything that is
seen is dropped onto the plane. This is the " projection plan".
Thus, the composition is classified into two types: "perspective plan
type" and "projection plan type", according to the nature
of the picture.
In "perspective plan type" composition, the picture's surface
is considered as human's eye retina, which strictly reproduces the object
that is reflected in the vision. This is "perspective". As shown
in the work part, in Sato' work, canvas' surface represents the painter's
eye; hence "perspective plan type" being the only composition
In "projection plan type" composition, a picture's surface is
divorced from human's sight. This type of composition is often used in
abstraction picture. In the West, the two types of composition are clearly
distinguished, but it is not so in the East. In Japanese "Ukiyoe" which uses "projection plan type" composition, perspective is naturally used. (As it is well known, the ones that use the "perspective plan" are called "Ukie".)
"Projection plan" and "perspective plan" become the
frame of composition and divide the picture's surface into several areas.
Object and setting are placed in locations chosen by the painter within
the divided areas.
The locations created here are given specific meaning, both physically
and psychologically. By overlapping these meanings with the meaning of
the object and the setting, one can understand the various meanings of
the whole picture. To consider only the cultural meaning of the object is
not enough to understand the picture as a whole. It is necessary to relate
them with the meanings that the specific area created by the composition
However, it is impossible to attain a sufficient understanding of a picture
only with factors related to technical instruments such as line and color,
without an understanding of the composition that is derived from painter's
world-view. The most important thing here is the understanding of symbol operation (in a wide sense) that is peculiar to picture: this is what
unites the material figure (the physical side) with the ideal figure
(the mental/ abstract side) of the object in the picture.
Now, what sort of meaning would we find in composition plan, which becomes an essential element in understanding the meaning of a picture? Below we explain in detail about "projection plan" and "perspective plan".
In "projection plan", every object that is to be drawn is reflected
on the picture's surface. Therefore, the meaning of composition also limits
to this surface. These are concerned to verticality and horizontality.
Here, verticality is related to the sacred and horizontality with the secular.
These are the meaning of composition in terms of world-view.
As for verticality, upper part carries the meaning of God or heaven, and
lower part of devil or hell. On the other hand, in horizontality, it is
difficult to attach any universal meaning to right and left part that corresponds
to the meanings of upper and lower part with verticality. However, as shown
in the person part, Sato has his own peculiar way of attaching the meaning
of life to verticality and of death to the horizontality, creating the
peculiarity of his work. Thus, the composition meaning that is derived
from the painter's world-view is created, according to the location on
the picture's surface.
In "perspective plan", such an effect is mostly seen when the
three-dimensionality of a body appears as depth that is expressed vertically
in the picture's surface. In simple words, the space seems to stretch toward
the far back.
In such a case, a foreground, a middleground, and a background appear on
the picture's surface. These three are physically separated from each other
and it is impossible to overlap them on the screen. Since it is possible
to express depth, "perspective plan" seems to enjoy a higher
degree of expression. But the more an object goes to background, the smaller
it becomes, and hence its degree of expression decreases, too. Also in
" projection plan", as is in "cubism", one may express many meanings by drawing things that the eyes
cannot see. Thus there is almost no difference in the degree of expression
between "perspective plan" and "projection plan". In
the meantime, the meanings of world-view mentioned above (that is expressed
in the verticality and the horizontality on the picture's surface) are
the same in "perspective plan" and "projection plan".
Usually, in "projection plan", the main object that becomes the
theme of the picture is placed at the center and in "perspective plan",
at the middleground. In "projection plan" the setting is placed
around the object. In " perspective plan", usually the setting
is placed at the background part and a subordinative object is often placed
at the foreground. In other words, background is where the setting plays
a leading role and foreground is where the object plays such a role. The
middleground is, then, where both (the setting and the object) interlace.
In "projection plan", one can place the object and the setting
next to each other, creating a contrasting effect. Also, here it is possible
for the setting to exert a strong effect on the foreground in "projection
plan". On the other hand, in "perspective plan", one can
increase the number of object and at the same time maintain its presence
and thickness. These are the merit of each plan method.
As shown above, there is no functional difference between these two plan
methods, and both have their merits and defects. In Europe, from a historical
point of view, "perspective plan" was first established, being
then overthrown by the discovery of "projection plan". But this
does not imply superiority or inferiority of either plan methods.
― Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama ―
― Original translation is rewritten by Chigusa Tanzawa ―
This text must not be translated into any other languages without author's
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