A D R I A N S T O K E S
M A I N I N T R O D U C T I O N - Richard Wollheim
And then in Colour and Form, which appeared in 1937, but represented several years of thought and of discussion mainly with Adrian Kent, his first mentor in painting and who had been with him on the painting holiday to St Ives, Stokes extended the concept of carving from its original home into the domain of painting - further sign of how effectively the concept had been freed,within his mind, from its literal or purely technical sense. Piero, it is true, had been there from the beginning as a Quattro Cento artist, but Stokes now felt able to identify, characteristic by characteristic, a whole kind of painting which systematically exhibited the essential quality or qualities he had thus far found largely in the work of fifteenth-century sculptors and architects. Colour and Form contains much from which any serious painter can learn, but I must pass over this detail and concentrate on the characteristics.
Fundamentally a kind of painting in which the carving conception is realized is one in which vitality (a crucial notion) is attributed to the surface of the canvas and the painter dedicates himself to its preservation - and Stokes draws an explicit parallel between this vitality with which the canvas is endowed and the potential life that (as we have seen) the true carver attributes to the stone and then tries to reveal. But vitality can be preserved only if colour determines form, or colour serves as 'a principle of creation'. But not just any use of colour to determine form will serve as the analogue to carving, and the remaining characteristics fix the relevant use. In the first place, colour must be used so as to provide a total organization of the forms that a picture contains. It must not be used simply to balance or offset adjacent forms. Stokes talks of chromatic relations as 'reversible', by which he means that the terms to such a relation must be mutually enhanced, and one may not act as foil to the other. For the realization of this Stokes advocates the use of near-complementary colours. Secondly, colour must be used so as to suggest that each form has its own inner light. This effect Stokes calls luminosity, and he contrasts it with the use of colour to represent reflected light or a source of illumination or atmosphere. And, finally, the total organization of colour must reveal itself all at once or 'in a fraction of a second'. Forms must not be 'groped for', and Vasari's dictum that a painting of Giorgione could be seized in 'una sola occhiata' is treated as pure praise. This chromatic immediacy of forms is, of course, the analogue to mass in architecture or relief, and it is this that ensures painting a visual - not an exclusively but a primarily visual - character.
With these characteristics fixed Stokes was able to construct the proper carving tradition in painting, which could now transcend the frontiers of chronology as well as of art-form. After Piero came Giorgione, Bruegel, Chardin and Cezanne. Later he added the names of Georges de la Tour, Vermeer and Picasso.