The beauty of lines and colour

Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.

Piet Mondrian
Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow. Piet Mondrian
Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow.
Piet Mondrian

Mondrian has been a massive influence on me. I love his art. And his quote above articulates exactly what I think is the foundation of art and what I have always loved about art and images. The beauty of lines and colour and the relationship between them.

Lines and colour are the building blocks of images. The last part – the relationship between them – is the real key. These relationships are all about creating balance, and getting the balance right is the key to great images.

I’d go so far as to say that an image in which the balance is ‘just right’ actually alters my mind, like it actually changes the activity in my brain. While the chaos of the world seems to create unsynchronised waves of activity that clash and cause discomfort, it’s as though an image with perfect balance pulls these waves into phase with each other, as though activity in my brain becomes synchronised at the resonant frequency of my mind*, and it feels comfortable. It just feels right.

That’s where the joy and satisfaction in creating images lies for me – creating balance in an inherently unbalanced world, creating order from the chaos, so that something in this generally uncomfortable world feels truly comfortable.

The medium of photography has a special magic in this respect for me. With drawing and painting, you start from nothing and you have the power to create balance – that’s a fantastic possibility. But with photography, you need to find balance in what is in front of you. The order you create comes directly from the chaos – it’s part of the chaos. This is why it’s so difficult, but also why creating a photograph that hits that balance is so satisfying.

*I’m a neuroscientist, and this way of thinking about the feeling of looking at art makes me wonder what effects it actually does have on brain activity – watch this space for more on this!

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