Alexandr Deineka, "The Skiers", 1926
Despite the obviousness of this painting, I don't see a group of seven people skiing.
What I see is the strict geometrical organization of parallel and diagonal lines.
For those who live in Rome or happen to be in Rome until the 1st of May, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni showcases an exhibition not to be missed: ALEXANDR DEINEKA, the Soviet Master of Modernity. I confess my ignorance: I hadn't even heard about him until now, but seeing his paintings today has been a marking experience to me.
Born in Kursk, Russia, in 1899, Deineka crossed the Russian/Soviet history until his death in 1969. Since the beginning of his career he shows a sublime ability in setting up the space within the canvas, based on a strict and simple geometrical organization. No matter the situations he depicts, Deineka strikes the viewer with the power of composition and the tension of the lines of force connecting all elements to each other. Although his paintings, like Cartier Bresson's photographs, are loaded with a clear and true narration, whose characters are pushed and pulled around the canvas by the composition's strenght, geometry is their real subject. Just as in Cartier Bresson's photographs.
For photographers there is a lot to learn from Deineka's work. It's not what we see through the viewfinder of our cameras: it's all about the way we look at it, the way we analyze it, the way we compose it before releasing the shutter and, consequently, the way we make viewers see at it in our photographs.
Deineka also demonstrates that geometry and chromatism (or gray value) are strictly connected. The way we perceive the size, proportion and relationship between, say, two rectangles inevitably depends on their color. Changing or simply switching colors will deeply subvert the overall result.
I think every photographer should know the work of this Russian master, whose greatness can be compared to Edward Hopper's. A wide selection of Deineka's paintings can be seen here. Enjoy.