Friday, February 4, 2011

Down the Trap Door

a contemplative series by Serhend Sirkecioglu

#2 : The Tao of Style
This has been on my mind for a while, the meaning of the oh so abstract idea of style. Personally I would define it as more of a social idea than an aesthetic one on the count of style is ultimately determined by others according to some established canon or principles in said field, but that would be the dismissive non-rambling way of answering it and I LOVE rambling plus God has yet to cut me down so enjoy this pomegranate green tea fueled rant on my opinion on the nature of style.

Style, which is a person’s personal method of working kind of meshes with the philosophy of Yin and Yang, collectively Taiji and for good reason. Despite the arbitrary everybody wins attitude of my fellow Gen Y’s, there is a finality to the way we work where you are one of the three: Yin, Yang, or Wuji. Reading this you may also see overlap with Isaiah Berlin’s essay The Hedgehog and the Fox and McCloud’s four tribes of artists from Making Comics, both of which you should buy/read. That said I hope no one takes this seriously and remember this is less about the look of the art but more the approach of making art/solving problems.

Yin is control. Consistent, Cool, Collected, and Calculating control. A Yin artist has a style and they impose that style on the whatever they approach. Now an example of a Yin artist would be the slight majority of the art world, most of us have a way we like to work and we stick to it & for good reason whether for refining our craft, finding an endless challenge in it or quite simply it works for us and we enjoy it. Like lightning it will find the best route to imposing that style or in lightning’s case reach the ground, meaning there a “good” and “bad” to a Yin Artist when working. Like I mentioned earlier the majority of artists work this was since it’s natural for people to work in a way they like, refine it till it becomes second nature, pick and choose which techniques to benefit said style. A concrete constant.

Examples of Yin artists
Ralph Baseman
John K.
Steve Ditko
Will Eisner
Walt Disney
Piet Mondrian
Osamu Tezuka

Yang is not Yin, far from it. A good analogy for Yang is fire, which burns and finds anyway possible to burn regardless of outside forces. Yang artists are flexible in their approach and daring in trying new things but there is a recurring quality that carries over every time. Fire burns in many different colors and ways but will always burn. Now with yang though there is variety in their approach there is a consistent quality stringing it all together, yang artists do get homesick from what is their default aka their preferred fuel to the fire. When it come to a good and bad yang perceives all as good until they are “extinguished” and yang will work around the “bad” instead of avoiding it . The yang artists are opposite to the yin work in this manner possibly cause of a lack of mastery in one focus and compensates by being competent in many skills, You can say Yin knows one big thing and yang knows many little things. Yang’s variance is grounded and compliment’s Yin’s grounded focus. An adjustable constant

Examples of Yang Artists
Peter Kuper
Paul Klee
Art Spiegleman

Now Wuji, which means “emptiness” is the third type of artist. For this type of artist imagine Ice, it can be solid like yin, become water and flow like yang, or evaporate into to something radically different(Remember the Porcupine and Fox? Wuji is a chimera). A Wuji artist unlike yin mixes things up but not because of a lack like yang. They are focused unlike yang but not doesn’t stick with anything like yin. Simply Wuji has no style, instead has multiple styles that can be called upon. This does not mean working in many different medium or genre but more like artists DID (multiple personalities). While a Yin artist refines their style and a Yang artist looks for a new approach/spin on their style, Wuji artists invent a new style, sticks with for a while before making another style based on a quality from the prior style then finds a new quality in that style to make another style and so on. Now Wuji artists are very uncommon and like ice we never see it phase change(unless were lucky/patient), we see it in it’s many forms more often which can act like Yin or Yang artists. A viral constant

Examples of Wuji Artists
Marcel Duchamp
Max Ernst

So to summarize this analysis I’ll breakdown the three types again

Yin Artist
A Concrete Constant
Goal: To refine/master
Focuses on a particular way of working
Has a personal canon( a good and bad)
Good is used to reinforce their way of working
Bad is avoided
Transparent(sees what they did before as “the way“)

Yang Artist
An Adjustable Constant
Goal: to explore/mix things up
To find variations to a way of working
Has a loose canon, willing to experiment
Has a default style as a jump off point/aesthetic HQ
Translucent(see what they did before as a launch pad)

Wuji Artist
A Viral constant
Goal: to invent and reinvent
Multiple distinct ways of working
Can be Yin or Yang but not married to either approach
No canon
Opaque(always starting from square one)

You may be saying that we also as artists experiment regularly to get better and find new ways of working, but people do experiment but even in a deliberate fashion. Do we find things to reinforce the way we work? Do we experiment generously with a way of working, or do we start from square one altogether? With all that said and done where do you think you fit? Personally I see myself as Wuji or Yang, what do you think about that observation and where you see yourself?


  1. Ralph Baseman
    John K.
    Steve Ditko
    Will Eisner
    Walt Disney
    Piet Mondrian
    Osamu Tezuka

    What did they avoid?

  2. whatever was the antithesis of thier body of work.
    Will you ever find a reubenesque painting in Mondrians body of work? No, even his early landscapes and drawings are composed underneath like his De Stijl paintings.

    To point out every single thing they preferred is missing the point of how they worked which is in a focused manner, to find a way of working and build upon it.

  3. I like how you explained and related that to trap doors. Thanks a lot for sharing your insights.

    garage doors perth

  4. Interesting. Do you think these types of artists are applicable in kitchen design? It sure sounds like it.

  5. If I'm not mistaken, the logo you presented above is yingyang logo right?