John S. Miller/ Thoughts and Ideas / The Horizon

  • The line The line, The simplest way to create visual space
  • Yoshida, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 8", 2013 Yoshida, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 8", 2013
  • Remington, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 10", 2013 Remington, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 10", 2013
  • Gifford, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 10", 2013 Gifford, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 10", 2013
  • Darger, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 8", 2013 Darger, Acrylic paint on split panels, 8" X 8", 2013
  • Monona Sunrise, Acrylic paint on split panels, 12" X 12", 2004 Monona Sunrise, Acrylic paint on split panels, 12" X 12", 2004
  • Diptych with Ice and Sky, Acrylic paint on split panels, 12" X 12", 2004 Diptych with Ice and Sky, Acrylic paint on split panels, 12" X 12", 2004
  • Diptych with plywood, split wood and tar, 18" X 24", 2006 Diptych with plywood, split wood and tar, 18" X 24", 2006
     

Years ago, by chance, I tuned into a TV show wherein the artist/moderator was teaching a drawing lesson. He explained that the simplest thing one could do to create a landscape image was to draw a single horizontal line across the paper. This was a profound lesson in the magic of making images and I’ve dwelled on the idea of horizons ever since.

That simple line is important to more than the depiction of space. It has profound implications to human perception and our sense of physical orientation. Without a visual horizon, either the one perceived to be real or an instrumentation facsimile, most pilots would spin out of control. We bank on the horizon line as a way to maintain our balance, our upright orientation, and sense of our location in vertical space.

horizon guage

We think about and picture space the way we describe it on paper in two dimensions. In some ways it is as though we view the world as a flat screen TV. Obviously there is no horizon line. The earth is spherical and as we move toward the horizon it recedes as fast as we move towards it. The horizon line is a visual concept. No such place exists, no actual line, and yet our entire beings require an appreciation of and dependency upon it in order to know how we align with the world we live upon. This is almost spiritual. Our orientation and sense of well being is dependent upon an immeasurable concept.

I began consciously exploring horizon concepts in my work in 1996 as a result of time spent on Isle Royale in Lake Superior while Artist in Residence. Early pieces simply emphasized the horizon. But I began to appreciate that we bring an awareness of ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ together to create our sense of physical space. The horizon joins these concepts as the non-existent entity glueing them together. Thinking along these lines I began painting abstract panels and bringing them close together in order to create landscapes as a sort of abstracted ‘inhabitable’ space with the horizon implied but never created by me as a line. These are abstractions that are functionally landscapes.

This is an ongoing area of interest and I’m showing some examples of work in the slideshow above.