A visit to the Royal Academy of Arts in London – Part 2

Evaluating works seen at the Royal Academy of Arts 

Metascheme ~ Hélio Oiticica (1958)
Metascheme ~ Hélio Oiticica (1958)

Hélio Oiticica – Metascheme – 1958

I like the simplicity and neatness of the painting but also the obvious disorderliness of it. The white lines around the black rectangles and squares in the centre are very straight and planned out whereas the actual black shapes are all oddly shaped, with lines that are slanted and wonky but there is something harmonious about the contrast between the perfectness of the white and the disarranged black shapes. I think there is a message sent out by the painting because of the difference between the components.

The artwork has been created using gouache and ink on cardboard. I think the way Oiticica wanted the viewer to experience this painting was to see the black shapes first and not realise that the white lined border was even there until they looked more closely at the painting; I believe this is a clever way of creating a piece of art as it means that to experience the full effect of the art you had to be engrossed by it and I can see that the black shapes engross while the white lines that appear afterwards almost, are there to interest the viewer more.

The materials used to create this piece of art was, as mentioned before, gouache and ink paint however painted on cardboard rather than a canvas. I found that many other paintings done around the same time as this one with gouache and/or ink were all “messy”. In most of the other paintings you were able to see brush strokes and marks left by other materials used, however in this painting you cannot see the marks left by the use of the gouache and ink. Most probably because a stencil was used to ensure that the boxes were perfectly straight, same with the white lines.

It appears as though the scale in this art is very important as you can see that all the black shapes are placed on the page differently, and the lines along the edges are all an even width apart. Another thing I also noticed was that the space between the black shapes and the white lines it more or less the same width all the way around. I think Oiticica intended to leave the same width of space around the whole centre part to give the painting more depth; even though it may be hard to see because the edges of the black shapes stick out into the space, I think the black shapes sticking out into the space creates a sort of confusion and looks almost like the start of an optical illusion.

I think, similar to Hlito, Oiticica has taken inspiration from a lined sheet of paper for the border of her artwork. While Hlito had used the lines sparingly across his work Oiticica used then around the whole thing, I believe this may have been done to give the art some depth. This works because the lines are white and so they recede giving the black shapes a change to jump out of the page to the viewer. The graphic device used in this painting, possibly intentionally, is that there is a sense of relative scale within the image, because the black shapes are feel more forward than the white lines I think it create a 3D sense within a 2D image.

I believe the artist would have had to plan this art out before actually creating it, in order to fit in all the elements they could, such as the even space all around and the crooked black shapes. I said earlier that the artist might have been inspired by the lined paper or even from seeing another piece of artwork by another artist who included the lines in such a manner on their work.

The artwork I think has been created using ink and a stencil. The stencil would have been cut first and then placed down, followed by the application of the ink and then stencil removed. I think the white lines would have been done last as they are around the edges of the black ink and possibly could only have been determined how long the lines were meant to get after the initial black shapes had been put down.

One thing I would like to take away from Oiticica’s work and possibly use in my own, is the use of solid shapes and not putting them perfectly straight to create and interesting effect that jumps out at people who look at the piece along with the contrast between the white and black against the cardboard background.


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