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a review at The Art Institute of California- LA Reviewers: Erin Sharp, Sandro Alberti

1250 31st Street Los Angeles, CA

fen-om | edu, at www.fen-om.com/edu Advanced Image manipulation

instructor: Rouben Mohiuddin

There seem to be 3 main categories involved in a successful (or unsuccessful) re-presentation of Piranesi’s ‘etched’ art: 1. Texture versus volume: As seen in the preliminary versions of the ‘Piranesi-mural’ assignment, both volume and texture can be employed to bring depth and richness to an image. However, these 2 seem to act antagonically (if forms and perspectival space are brought to the forefront, it is at the expense of texture; and if textural quality is emphasized, the perspectival ‘illusion’ becomes attened). Thus, the trick is to balance the 2, or decide which one to privilege. It is interesting that this dialectic is at the root of Piranesi’s original engravings, for there the presentation was emphasized by both complex textural techniques (that sought to provide a balance between traditional crafted textures and the ‘industrialized’ engraving plates) and perspectival play (where the innovative ‘side view’ of the time is pushed to a limit that would later inspire all of our Escher-esque fantasies). 2. Light versus shadow: ‘chiaroscuro’, of course. This is where pure contrasts lie. In order to present adequate ‘depth’, it is important that each student show sufcient contrast between light and dark. This ‘play’ is also the ‘control’ for background versus foreground (since, traditionally, brighter objects come forth and darkness recedes). 3. Compositon: This is the ‘charm’ of well-thought-out form. Here is where decisions are made, regarding the form of positive and negative space, and shapes overall (particularly those compelling forms that can distinguish particular elements within the crowded context). Using these 3 categories as an evaluative basis, we here proceed to ‘gauge’ the various pieces [note: we utilize a ‘traditional’ grid labeling procedure, where rows are listed as ‘A’ through ‘F’, from top to bottom, and columns are numbered ‘1’ through ‘6’, left-to-right; the images are presented in pairs, where the top image is the most recent, from the seminal presentation, and the lower image is the rst version; apology/ errata: some of the images show some glare ‘artifacts’ from the photo of the work, while many images in the rst version were printed under low-toner conditions and thus reveal severe streaking; and, nally, some images from Piranesi’s original artwork act as ‘placeholders’ where students have not nalized their work]:


A1: [same author as tile F6] This piece, we thought, was already quite nalized in the rst version of the mural. In the second, semi-nal, version, some slight improvements seem to have been made (primarily I the area of improved textural and compositional qualities). However, light-shadow contrast seems a bit reduced. Also, now, we begin to think that, although ‘photographically’ compelling, there needs to be more thought put into the reasons behind the composition.

A2: [same author as tile F5] Contrast is much nicer in the second version. This image works very well because the very same ‘mechanism’ employed to convey an interesting sense of composition (the development of ‘alien’/ uid/ ‘neo-nouveau’ volumes) is what allows for a richness of volume AND texture (the volumes are so ‘sophisticated’, so ‘photo-real’, that they necessarily combine texture and shape; or, the other way around, this student is so good at a balance of form and texture that the work exhibits a ‘sophisticated’ quality). Both A2 and F5 work very well, in slightly different ways (A2 shows a detail view, while F5 presents a more general vista).

A3: [same author as tile F4] Contrast seems to have improved. At the same time, there is more textural richness in the seminal (second) version (this is both good and bad, as this ‘added texture’ begins to hide the ‘foamy’ forms that characterize this student’s work (see tile F4, where a ‘foamy’ doorway frame remains).


A4: [same author as tile F3] Not much seems to have changed between both versions. Throughout, the use of ‘inverted’ lightdark values is compelling (a lighter ‘glow’ in the background is used to outline the darker forms in the composition). Texture and volume and composition remain otherwise similar to the original Piranesi (where may we nd new creativity, here?).

A5: [same author as tile F2] This piece has been made lighter overall, between versions 1 and 2. This allows texture to become more evident. However, overall, both texture and formal volume are lost, since contrast value is still low I this ‘lightened’ version (for this reason, if contrast is not increased, it might be preferable to present the darker/ ambiguous/ mysterious). [Offhand, this reminds us that, traditionally, light-lled contexts are expected to reveal details; however, when light is too intense, it also act to conceal, rather than reveal].

A6: [same author as tile F1] This suffers from the opposite symptoms of tile A5. Here everything has become darker. And this does not work well because the lighter version had a stronger sense of contrast. This is also one of those tiles that fall under the rubric of the ‘2d-minimalist’ (the others being B3, C3, D4, E4, and F1). The piece might be kept this way (at/ vector-like), but needs to connect better with its neighboring tiles (for this, texture, at least carefully incorporated at the perimeter, might help). The atness also requires that the piece be much more compelling compositionally (this student must be particularly careful/ savvy about the shapes and positions of all elements employed).


B1: [same author as tile E6] This composition is interesting because it presents out-of-perspective textures (thus, the textures enter into direct conict with the volumetric-formal realm, in their orientation, yet manage to work effectively, in their texture, to dene particular areas of the image). The second version seems to have cleaned-up its background, in order to clarify volumetric issues. However, it seems too ‘at’ (the rich textures were good throughout; what was needed, more, was an increase in lightdark contrast).

B2: [same author as tile E5] Not much seems to have changed. The original, appropriate, idea remains: lters are employed to yield hand-crafted quality (one of the original ‘goals’ of Piranesi himself!), and a careful eye keeps everything in check (light-dark values bring focus to all forms within the textural ‘cloud’). Although the composition remains unaltered, the textural changes manage to affect the overall quality substantially.

B3: [same author as tile E4] Line and shading qualities are much improved, between both versions of the piece. The piece remains effectively in the realm of the ‘2d-minimalist’ and could benet from the same suggestions as A6.


B4: [same author as tile E3] This piece was working relatively well (as the similar E3), but has been, unfortunately, ‘neglected’ towards the nal project.

B5: [same author as tile E2] Not much progress here. The initial premise is valid, as odd ‘tangles’ are revealed against a lighter background of distorted structures. But this needs a bit… more.

B6: [same author as tile E1] As it seemed overly textured, this student decided to focus on formal values. However, now, the piece seems a bit ‘at’. Our recommendation, to take ‘the best of both worlds’; combine texture and form to arrive at a more complex balance. This balance has actually been accomplished already in tile E1.


C1: [same author as tile D6] Here textures have overtaken the forms. Once again: “balance, balance, balance!”

C2: [same author as tile D5] Compositional (positive-negative) values have improved, but the nice metallic quality of the owing forms has been lost. Bring it back! (this will both provide texture and richer light-dark values, in one fell swoop).

C3: [same author as tile D4] Line work has been improved, but now the enhanced detail seems to be abit ‘much’. See the comments provided for A6.


C4: [same author as tile D3] Similar textures are employed in both C4 and D3, put to different contextual ends. It works, and increased contrast has made an improvement over both presentations of the pieces. Focus on composition. How can this be made ‘fascinating’?

C5: [same author as tile D2] This is particularly good, because it manages to use volume as texture (the various forms are ‘texturized’ with mini-volumes and volumetric characteristics, such as embossing). Texture and volume become the same. Kudos to this student, also, for developing a very different technique in tile D2. Further, the volumetric-texturizing creates interesting optical effects that bring forth compositional value (notice, for example, the way in which the stones seem to tear/ disintegrate).

C6: [same author as tile D1] The second version (not very visible in this adjacent image, unfortunately) is very much improved. A bland/ average example now yields to one way in which texture can improve ‘2d-minimalist’ pieces (here the whole gains a type of ‘manga’-comic quality). Also, a detailed loop of rope plays the role of the main character, in the midst of more subdued and mysterious forms.


D1: [same author as tile C6] Shares some qualities with C6, but is not quite as strong.

D2: [same author as tile C5] Here kaleidoscopic stepping emphasizes the stone steps that emerge from the bottom of the scene (simultaneously ‘losing’ the space, in the way that Piranesi’s odd perspectives always intended to do). The quality of the edges is now a problem to solve (how can the edges of the forms be distinguished from the kaleidoscopic edges?).

D3: [same author as tile C4] See C4.


D4: [same author as tile C3] See the comments provided for A6.

D5: [same author as tile C2] Not much could be seen in the original, streaked, piece, which was nevertheless ‘given-up’ for the ď€ nal project.

D6: [same author as tile C1] Flatness and texture do not seem to coexist so well here.


E1: [same author as tilE B6] A good example of the balance that is being attempted in B6.

E2: [same author as tile B5] Nice, deep, architectural. The recreation of the ‘human element’ is a nice touch for the compositional value. Lighting seems slightly improved.

E3: [same author as tile B4] Nice use of texture (where forms seem to both fade and remain). This could become quite interesting art (what could the next move be?).


E4: [same author as tile B3] See the comments provided for A6. Also, the choice of geometries seems a bit haphazard/ clumsy (is this purposeful?).

E5: [same author as tile B2] See B2.

E6: [same author as tile B1] Another nice play of texture-volume. Here the textures have been given volume, and forms remain as memories. The loss of form (and the novel introduction of volume) provides compositional value as well.


F1: [same author as tile A6] See the comments provided for A6.

F2: [same author as tile A5] It is nice that this student concentrated on bringing meaning to the obscure smears/ scratches found in Piranesi’s original work. Here a nook is discovered, and inhabited. The comic style of the eyes, however, seems to compete with the more artistic/ textural take of the context (perhaps another way of representing either a ‘hidden creature’ or a ‘mysterious darkness’ would be more appropriate here).

F3: [same author as tile A4] As in A4, we would like to see more improvement/ progression.


F4: [same author as tile A3] Nice quality in the archway (see A3), but the overall scene lacks detail (in both texture and form).

F5: [same author as tile A2] Here, as in A2, photorealistic elements are carefully employed to provide an adequate feeling of depth.

F6: [same author as tile A1] See A1.


Re-invented Prisons (final designs)