Joining the dots

It all starts with a dot.

When you join two dots, we get a line.

When we join a few lines, we get a shape.

When we give the shape a form it becomes an object.

An object occupies space.

Space is the area around, above and within an object.

Space is used to create effective imagery, convey messages and meanings, create balance, give depth, show perspective, and draw the eye to focus on point. 

Images are powerful tools of communication. A single image can have multiple meanings.

Dots, lines, shapes, forms, colours and textures are used in multitudes or combinations to form patterns, rhythm, and movement.

These represent codes and symbols which form the vocabulary of a visual language.

Visual artists use this vocabulary via techniques and processes to evoke and capture the essence of the message or meaning they want to convey. Recognising this vocabulary allows for interpretation of the imagery.

Drawing is about seeing. Drawing is about communicating.

It all starts with a dot.

A dot is complete. It is both a form and a shape and occupies space. It can be coloured and textured. It is perhaps the first shape to be used by humans to communicate through imagery since prehistoric times. It is instinctive and primordial, born out of connection with nature.

A dot can be created by striking a surface with a pointed object, by drawing or by sculpting it (chiseling) out of material.

Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese contemporary artist uses polka dots obsessively in her paintings. She saw many dots take forms that consumed her, and these hallucinations were what prodded her on to create artworks that consisted of only dots.

Damien Hirst uses spots to create artworks that inspire, and the dots interspersed in between spots range from tiniest size to massive ones to create a depiction of an abstract idea.

Pointillism was a movement in the early 19th Century spearheaded by Georges Seurat that referred to a technique of application of paint in carefully placed dots of pure unmixed colour. The optical faculties of the viewers eye created a striking image so different from an image made from premixed colours on a palette.

But painting with dots has been used as a technique since ancient times.

Cave art or rock art from prehistoric times revealed the use of dots as symbol.  A mark that was meant to convey information -an abstract symbol conveying a meaning. This was probably a first step in transmitting information in a graphic language. It provided an immediacy to its meaning based on the placement, structure, size and colour. A system of drawing(written) and interpretation was formed which was a code to be followed by anyone who wished to communicate. Language would probably have evolved out of sound exchanges and attaching a code of symbols(letters) to the sound would perhaps been a precursor to evolution of different languages in the world.

Examples of cave or rock art used since prehistoric times have been discovered in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Human migrations that happened nearly 70, 000 years ago bind people of those times from Africa, Australia and Asia with a similar migratory culture, story-telling, communication, landscape and even music.

A dot was the oldest and perhaps the most prolific symbol used to convey meaning. It seems to be the most natural and instinctive action in creating a visual language.

The versatility and universality of the dot to start communication via visual language is popular even to this day.  Humankind is drawn to it instinctively.

India has records of cave and rock paintings from pre-historic times (Bhimbetka cave paintings) until as recent as 6th Century CE (Ajanta cave paintings). From basic dots and lines to sophisticated wall murals, cave paintings in India are a reflection of the visual images used to communicate ideas.

Gond paintings from India

Gond painting is a famous folk art of the Gond tribal community of central India. It is a form of painting from folk and tribal art that is practiced by one of the largest tribes in India – the Gond – who are predominantly from Madhya Pradesh, but can also be found in pockets of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The history of the Gond people dates nearly 1400 years. The wonder of Gond paintings lies in its minimalistic, and often an abstract view of their spiritual beliefs, their forest/mountainous environment and stories from their past. The paintings use dots, lines and dashes to great effect in creating patterns that highlight the idea behind the painting. The themes are usually the birds and animals of the forest, the spirits of the forests and stories of the spirits of the forests. The painting is a story told via the language of visual expressions of simple lines and shapes filled in with rhythmic patterns. The colours are vibrant and garnered from the forests themselves. Over time, these painting s have moved from wall paintings to being painted on paper using modern materials. Gond art is very popular amongst both creators and buyers because of its unique  themed depiction and almost contemporary presentation.

Dot Art from India & Australia

Gond Art and the popular dot paintings from Australia inspired by aboriginal art have striking similarities. Perhaps this dates back to the time of migration of humans in Africa, Asia,  and Australia.

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, a leading contemporary artist, argues that there is an ancient, shared history and geography: “Gond is very similar to Aboriginal art because the Aborigines have their own stories like we do about creation, and they too make dashes and dots. Aboriginal art and Gond art have their connection because we are originally from the same continent of Gondwana when there were just two continents, Gondwana and Laurasia. India and Australia came from Gondwana and America came from Laurasia. The performances, dances and rituals, as well as the drink they serve, is like ours. Their surname is Maravily while ours is Maravi. I spoke at the Monash University in Melbourne and at the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane on the theme, ‘You are My Brother, in you I found myself’.”

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