JF Ptak Science Books Post 2140 Part of the series on the History of Blank, Empty, and Missing Things.
When modern art was becoming modern, and artists were reveiling more of nature and life by using less of its components and using more of suggestion and motion and color--leaving out the "detail"--where indeed did that detail, well, go?
It is interesting to imagine a composite world to our's, a place where that missing and removed detail goes. For example, when JMW Turner painted a train passing over a river on a bridge, he was more suggestive of the scene than he was in reality-based descriptors. [Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, 1844.] The intricacies of realism and reproductional relativity is not there, the action and train and river implied, artistic impressions and whatever else was in the artist's toolbox or mind's eye.
Perhaps the seeping detail from one world to the next is more like the sphere entering the two-dimensional world of Flatland, or better yet the reverse of Charles Bragdon's 1drawings of the footprints of 3-D objects passing through a 2-D plane...the detail of the Turner seeping through the canvas and into the opposing DetailWorld, falling like rain. Maybe it is a world of non-representational images and impressions awaiting the attention and arrival of detail to give it all a solid, easily distinguishable representation of the imagined world around the easel in that Other Place.
Another beautiful image by Bragdon is from “Personalities: Tracings of the Individual (Cube) in a Plane” from Man, the Square2 shows the “shadows” of the three-dimensional figures as they lived in their two-dimensional world. It comes close to the impact of the cubes above, but really only depicts what two-dimensional creatures would see of the three-dimensional beings inhabiting their Bragdonesque world. All of this was put into my mind by seeing this image (The Goldfinch, 16540 by Carel Fabricius. Clearly we can see a bird on a perch, chained to the upper rung, with another rung below, but as much as we can see the detail we don't. So much of this image is suggested and implied, hundreds of yers before Impressionism: the face of the bird is barely there, the second rung dissolves into the wall, the shadows are muted and half-existent, and so on. The details of the painting are as much missing as they are there.
And of course the world of detail would disappear more and more, until by 1911, it existed hardly at all, the representational world drifting off the canvas completely, for those who wanted that to be the case.
Again, as much as say Kasimir Malevich made all of the detail go away in his Suprematist paintings like a white square on a white square (White on White, 1917/18, which I can say is not served well at all with images online or in books, as the artwork is really pretty textured and detailed),
at about the same time ither artists like Marcel Duchamp were both taking away details of one sort while adding new details of another never-yet-done sort, as in his Nude Descending (1912), where we begin to see the representation of the fourth dimension in art:
Perhaps the rain of details into DetailWorld work in reverse for the unexpected details of stuff we can't see in our world?
Well. We know that there is no DetailWorld, but I think it is certainly interesting enough to think of these revolutionary changes in art and trying to imagine the enormous amount of painterly stuff that the innovations/discoveries replaced, if they were to all go to one place. In a way it is analogous to the changes in the mountain that I can see now from my living room window--mostly it is invisible when the patch of woods between our house and the mountain is all leafed out (seeing the forest for the trees), but with autumn and winter here at about the same time, it is easier to appreciate both the trees that I can see when I can't, and the mountain that I can't see sometimes when I can.
1.(Bragdon) A PRIMER OF HIGHER SPACE. (The Fourth Dimension). Rochester: Manas Press, 1913. 8vo, (12), 79pp, including 30 plates.
2. (Bragdon) MAN THE SQUARE. A Higher Space Parable. Rochester: Manas Press, 1912. 12mo, 34pp, 9 illustrations.