Lines and Space

by mitchellgallery

Prints of Venice 4

There’s something  ethereal about Sydney Litten’s work. The articulation of the buildings are not quite defined, the water only seen by the amorphous reflections of the gondolas and structures, the people shadowy images melding into the print itself. The architecture Litten portrays is not detailed, in fact one can only just barely see glimpses of the famed attributes of the facade.

Is there a fog, a mist over enveloping the viewer’s gaze? Have I slipped into a Midsummer’s night dream?

Unlike other printers, Litten does not use line to separate space from space. His lines do not delineate a building or outline a figure. Dark does not mean line, and light does not mean space. Rather his lines are the very space by which his forms come to be. The gondolas are not “shaded” in with lines between an outline; the lines are the form of the gondola.

In this way, Litten does not simply articulate space his print, but creates space. The dark is just as much a part of the print as is the light. His lines, forms, merge a balance of the two tones. If too dark the forms become distinctly separate from his created space. If too light, the structures are not forms at all. The lines provide both articulation and form, an emergence from space without entirely leaving the material from which the form was created.

Litten’s buildings appear to float upon the water as lightly as the gondolas glide across the canals. There’s something magical about this. A floating city is indeed a romantic notion. Reality and dream meld together as easily as the structures in the distance in meld into the background. 

Am I dreaming? Do I want to wake up?


Holly Huey – St. John’s College student

Photo credit: Sydney Mackenzie Litten, Salute Steps, 1887-1949