Monday, October 11, 2010

Lampo Leong's "Omega Curve"

    In an age of image overload, and a cynical society it is nearly impossible for great works of art to achieve that mythical quality of a masterpiece anymore. It seems that everything in art has been done already and it is impossible to innovate. In an age without any Picassos, Michelangelos, or Van Goughs, it is comforting to look back to the masterpieces in art history and wonder: What makes them click? What is that quality that we are no longer able to capture in art and design?
    Lampo Leong, an acclaimed painter, calligrapher, and professor proposes a very astute theory in a lecture on a repeating element that gives masterpieces that sense of grandeur and loftiness. In a study of masterpieces of art, he has found a repeating shape in the composition of those paintings. He calls this "the Ω curve," an intentional arrangement of elements shaped like an omega sign. Leong emphasizes that  this shape appears in both western and eastern art, making the composition of each work more lively and powerful. For example Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam, the drape around god curves under on both sides, but doesn't quite touch, just like an Ω. The same is seen in Henry Moore's work:
photos courtesy of

    In Eastern art, the shape is found in paintings like Summer Mountains; mountains who aren't mere static triangles, but curve in at the top, giving them a sort of movement and epic quality. The omega is also visible in the brushstrokes of master Chinese calligraphy, the tension between straight and curved lines giving more movement to the piece.

courtesy of  and

    Leong also incorporates Chinese calligraphy into much of his art, putting the characters on abstract backgrounds and rearranging them. He seeks to express, with an emphasis on form over meaning.
photo courtesy of

    The lecture was very inspiring: the listener seemed to enter that invisible world of energy flow in art and design, understanding more fully what these icons are made of and how important movement is in design. His theory on the omega curve is very clever, and definitely present in many master works. When I examine omega curve arrangements, I see that it's the tension of what's not there(the ends of the curve don't touch even though they seem like they're going to) that gives it its power and sense of motion. Perhaps this design in composition could be used to revitalize art and design and recapture the grandeur and the sublime that society craves.

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