Art In History Art Blog
I have recently been talking to clients about framing options, and decided that the subject was very worthy of a blog. There are many theories of framing which differ markedly from each other, based in large part on assumtpions about the function of the frame itself. My own theory is that the frame is a buffer between the painting and its environment, an environment often not controlled by the artist. What does this mean for how you choose a frame for your work?
One major choice you have is whether to "frame the work" or "frame the space". In the first instance, the frame is chosen entirely to best set off the works: its colors, its light, its degree of strength or subtlety. In the second instance, you choose a frame for the environment in which it will live, a very different frame for a decor of high finish than for one of natural colors and textures. In fact, the best thing would be to choose a frame that does both.
David Bowerman, a good friend and a gold member, is of the school that creates a frame for each individual work he makes. The incredible subtlety of his color interactions and delicacy of his internal light demand it; without the proper frame, many of the subtler harmonies would simply not be visible. It follows from this that, for best results, he also needs to control the environment outside the frame as much as possible. When he installs one of his works he will often install the lighting to go with it, or strongly recommend certain lighting to his client.
I, on the other hand, take the approach that the painting may end up in many kinds of spaces. I know what kind of frame I prefer for my work, but I also know that it will not work well in many environment. Thus, I am always willing to sell my work either framed or unframed.
My preferred choice of frame for my work is a relatively wide frame, a dark frame, and best of all a rough natural frame. My work attempts to create an illusion of reality; thus, the wide frame separates the work from the realtiy around it and allows the illusion to flourish. My work is very much about a situation in light, a described light; thus, the darker frame allows the light to shine out of the work more strongly. Lastly, the rough barnboard frames which I make myself are rich in warms and cools, reflecting the balance of tones in the work, and have a texture which corresponds to the relative freedom of the paint-handling.
There is a crucial difference in the relationship of a work to its environment, based on whether it is an illusion of a separate reality (as my work is) or is an object participating in the real space around it. Since a sculpture is clearly an object in real space, it is seldom framed; it is all the more fascinating to see David framing his sculpture of two heads, in order to transform the space in which it exists. On the other hand, many paintings are not intended as illusions but as objects; I'll use a Mondriaan as an example. It makes no sense to frame such a work, except as a border to give it finish. So, as you chose the kind of frame you wish to use, or recommend, with your work, ask yourself whether you are creating an object in the real space, or an illusion of a separate space which needs to be nurtured and defended.