Artistic Elements through the Eyes and Lens of Chris O'Brien: Colour

While studying the art work of children recently I spent a little time thinking about the elements that go to make up a work of art - be it a sculpture installation, a painting or a photograph - as we are going to appreciate today.

The AnArt4Life subscriber New York subscriber Chris O'Brien often shares with us his experience of walking around New York. Over the next three posts I want to examine some of Chris' images through my lens of some artistic elements namely colour, line and shape, and surprisingly let's tip our toes once more into illusion.

Colour is what attracts most of us to first look at a scene, an image, a painting.

Some images have a flash of colour, others a dominance of one colour, and sometimes the effect is kaleidoscopic having complex patterns of colours.

You will at first note the flash of red in the two images above. Take a moment to scan around the images taking in the colours and the shapes they fill. In the image on the left above, the white stripes of the crossing dominate the foreground and the repetition of these stripes lead the viewer deeper into the image.

In the right hand image the eye and mind can be easily confused because Chris has used reflection and illusion to trick your perception of the scene. This, with the multiple darker shapes on the right of the image, force you to focus on the centre building shape with its red and near cyan colour giving stability to the image.

Sometimes one colour dominates in an image. In the image (left below) the purple door below stands out from the muted bricks. And the overwheling blue of the image on the right is only interrupted by the tiny dark outline of New Year Eve confetti. If you look very carefully you can see more confetti against the blue of hope.

What message do these colours and their positions in the images signal to the viewer?

For me both invite the viewer to enter the image. What message do they send to you?

And again (below) the near cyan colour dominates, attracts and harmonsises the composition in the remarkable image of Moynihan Train Hall at New York Penn Station. The sharp flash of green and orange on the far right stops your eyes from wandering: forcing you to seek more information.

Moynihan Train Hall at New York Penn Station Photo: Chris O'Brien ©

Inside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall at New York Penn Station colour takes on a kaleidoscopic effect.

Inside Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall Photo: Chris O'Brien ©

Architecture studio SOM has converted the Beaux-Arts James A Farley Post Office in New York into the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall as part of the renovation of Penn Station.

Standing opposite Madison Square Garden on 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall opened to passengers on January 1, 2021

The 486,000-square-foot development increases the total concourse space at the largely underground Pennsylvania Station, which is New York's main inter-city interchange and the busiest station in the Western Hemisphere, by 50 per cent. 1

To give you an idea of the structure of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall below is a bird's eye view image photographed by Lucas Blair Simpson and Aaron Fedor.

Photo by Lucas Blair Simpson and Aaron Fedor (1)

But let us return to the prismatic, polychromatic images of the Train Hall created by Chris O'Brien.

These are alluring images made even more remarkable by the absence of people.

"One of the most remarkable things about this project is the way that it transforms an under-utilized and under-appreciated building into a new, inviting front door for this city," said Roger Duffy, the retired SOM design partner who led the design of the project.

"The train hall is at the core of this transformation. It is designed with lightness and warmth, which combine to reestablish the essence of what it means to come to New York." 1

And now jump aboard and enjoy a virtual tour of Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station. Use the directional indicator to pan a 360º view of the environment. The video takes about 20 minutes.

Tomorrow we are going to see some more images captured by Chris O'Brien and continue our exploration of colour and explore more about the elements of line and shape -

announced by that New York confetti.

Times Square, New York City Photo: Chris O'Brien ©