In 1997 Robert Levine, a social psychologist, published a book entitled, The Geography of Time (Basic Books). Love the paradox of that title! In it he uses his personal experiences in another culture, his field research examining how different cultures think of time, and his observations on the history of time as a human invention to support his premise that “time talks with an accent.” I suspect some of the data are now not as “timely” as they were when he wrote the book due to the explosion of internet use and the phenomena of social media. Nevertheless, his 8 lessons to be learned remain good instruction for anyone planning to travel or live in another culture.
In lesson Number 4, Levine describes the importance of understanding the pauses, the silences, and the doing nothing that might occur in social interactions. As an artist I was particularly taken with the idea that it is the pauses and the silences that may be the most meaning-filled aspect of a conversation. And so it is with a really arresting painting. The negative spaces, which I would call the silences in the painting, are often the key to the meaning in the work. It is these “silences” that reveal the forms central to the visual experience and give us a place to pause and consider the whole.