Forms and colors – Victor Vasarely (LS-ME-564)

Explore the connection between geometry and fine arts. With this Europeana Learning Scenario you will discover the possibility to see the transformation of an artistic composition when using several geometrical shapes and colors.

Overview

As a museum educator, I I always felt passion about the connection between geometry and fine arts. Modern art movements emphasized the link between these two fields. The man who extensively worked in this direction was Victor Vasarely, a Hungarian artist who lived in France. In his approach, he offered the viewer the possibility to see the transformation of an artistic composition when using several geometrical shapes and colors.

The learning scenario that I created introduces Victor Vasarely and the art mouvement Op Art to kindergarten students. Notions of the theory of color were presented as well. As art and geometry need practice, after the discussion part, I imagined a workshop. The activity took place in the classroom and the works of art were brought to the students.

Looking at the works of Victor Vasarely

Bringing the works of art in a classroom is something magic as the classroom becomes a museum for a short moment. The students appreciate this change and the proximity with the art works. For this learning scenario I used 4 art impressions of the works of Victor Vasarely, produced in the ’70 by the Publishing House Griffon Neufchatel, Switzerland. All these works contained repeated geometrical shapes that created dynamic compositions. Three of them were in black and white. In the last work, Vasarely used several shades of blue.

Natural forms with geometrical shapes

I considered that it’s very important to tell the students how Vasarely discovered that geometrical shapes exist in nature too. To make this story more playful, I made up a scale model containing the portrait of the artist, a background photo of Belle Isle (the location where Vasarely realized that pebbles on the beach are shape alike geometrical figures) and another background photo of the Vasarely Foundation. Additionally, I collected pebbles from the beach with forms of: triangle, disc, half of disc, square. In this way, students could see the evolution of the creative process of the artist.

To highlight the transition from the natural items to drawing ones, I created a puzzle game. Therefore, on a long sheet of paper, I did drawn outlines of forms of the pebbles. Participants had to name the geometrical shapes of the pebbles (triangle, disk, square and half of the disk) and place them on the right drawing on the paper. 

Analyzing the Vasarely’ works of art

I placed the 4 works of art in the classroom and I started a dialogue with the students about the geometrical shapes. For example, I asked them where they see triangles/squares/disks/half of disks. How many? Do the triangles have the same size? What is their color? Moreover, I approached matters like the position of the forms. How are the geometrical forms arranged? Did the artist imagined an emplacement for each form? Finally, I spoke with them about color. Did Vasarely use the same shade of blue everywhere?

Vasarely’s creative process

To facilitate the comprehension of the creative process of Vasarely, I conceived other games. With the help of little soft black linoleum squares I showed how Vasarely organized his forms in order to have a dynamic composition. First, I arranged them vertically to form a square. Then, I tilt the little squares inside the big square. For the second game, together with the participants, I wanted to create a dynamic composition. Therefore, each participant had to place on a long sheet of paper, on the good outline, a linoleum square shape. Meanwhile, we had to respect a certain order. 

Obtaining shades of blue

Vasarely used color to give a mouvement to the forms he laid on the surface of his canvas. By coloring progressively, from dark to pale, in the work I showed to the participants, Vasarely created a mouvement.

First of all I asked the participants to enumerate the colors they see. They remarked that Vasarely used white, black and blue. We discussed about how many types of blue Vasarely used. The participants remarked that the artist painted with several sorts of blue. In addition, they noticed that the blue darkens or pales progressively. I also mentioned primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and secondary colors (green, purple, orange) and how to obtain them.

My goal was to show how to obtain pale or dark shades of blue. For this, I imagined a demonstrative session. I squished some drops of black paint and nearby, on the painting tray, some drops of blue paint. Afterwards, lifting the painting tray face to the audience, I mixed the two colors with a painting brush. I asked the participants if the new color obtained is pale or dark. I did the same operation for the pale blue and for the secondary colors. Moreover, to explain progressive shades in the manner of Vasarely, I made a color shade chart with the same form and dimension as in the painting. This shade chart was like a puzzle and each piece had a different shade.

Painting as Victor Vasarely

For the practical part, each participant had to make a work using geometrical shapes colored with blue, pale blue and dark blue. As I was working with kindergarten participants I prepared for them stencils made out ou soft linoleum. The participants received a sheet of paper, pencil and stencils with geometrical forms. They drew geometrical shapes with the help of the stencils. When drawing was finished, they had to paint these forms. To do so, they received on their painting tray separately blue paint and white paint. With their painting brush they had to mix until they obtained a pale blue. With the obtained color, one form on the paper was painted. Then, on their painting tray, they had blue and black and by mixing them they obtained dark blue. With dark blue another form was covered. The last form was painted with simple blue. At the end of the practical part, each participant presented his work explaining how he/she obtained the blue shades. In addition, they also had to name the geometrical shape they had drawn with the stencils.

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Public Domain Mark 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on
Europeana and has been provided by the Csorba Győző Könyvtár – Pécs.

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