PICS 10 and 11 and Michael's Memory

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Posted by R. John Howe on December 16, 1998 at 22:28:29:

Dear folks -

I was interested to read that Michael Wendorf sees nothing striking about the differences in the drawing of the edges of the ikat guls in PICS 10 and 11, for a comment he made to me a couple years ago about ikat pieces, is likely the source of this comparison and task.

Looking at such a piece, Michael said that he had noticed that the ones that seemed to go for big money in the auctions "had a little movement along the line" that is the edge of the gul.

When he said that something clicked in my memory. I was at one time reasonably proficient at macrame (a very democratic art indeed). What I remembered was that there is a design that I had used in a number of macrame pieces that looks quite like an ikat gul. I also remembered the first time it used it that I quickly discovered that it was much more attractive if the lines that formed it were not completely straight. The drawing of this design seemed especially effective if the line that formed the top half drooped a little producing a kind of attractive draped effect.

Anyway, this memory made me pay special attention to the feature Michael had mentioned and I have come to agree that the better drawn guls of this sort indeed do have a little movement along this outside line.

Now take this notion to PICS10 and 11. PIC11 is a very formidable piece seen face to face. It is very large and has presence. It has excellent color and is very well drawn, perhaps a little too well in my opinion on the outside lines of the guls. These look quite regular and straight to me, almost as if they had been drawn with a ruler. My reading of PIC10 is that its drawing of this outside edge has the movement to which Michael referred. This is, I think, the subtlest difference I have presented in these pieces and it may not make any difference at all to some. But it seems to me that PC10 is a superior drawing BECAUSE of the movement along that line. This is, I think, the kind of pleasing irregularity that seemingly violates The Oops Thesis, but that for me functions to give depth and complexity to the ikat design.

Christopher Alexander talks sometimes about the "being" in the rug design. Something that makes a design seem organic in the sense of a living thing. That is how the slight movement of that outside line functions for me when I look at the guls in PIC10. I almost expect it to breathe. Sometimes it makes me suspect that it is breathing. It is, against a strict application of The Oops Thesis, an irregularity that is the source for me of the visual excellence of the ikat design in PIC10.

My thanks to Michael for his triggering comment. What has followed from it may make him wonder about the advisability of sharing such observations in the future.


John Howe

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