Thursday 23 October 2008

Beautiful Contrasts

There are many people who believe that beauty is simply the result of perfect symmetry. Psychological and sociological studies seem to suggest that we are predisposed to be more sympathetic to people with a mathematically pure facial structure, whilst physicists and chemists speak of natural symmetry dominating in other spheres. It is a sign of healthiness perhaps, or maybe just a symbol of comforting conformity.

Personally, I find uniformity of form to be oppressive and tedious. I am no fan of French manicured gardens for example, and I prefer to see organic contrasts and juxtapositions working together to enhance the beauty of each other. I stopped to admire the handsome art nouveau building in the picture above, but I was only impelled to take a photo after noticing the hairdressing salon at ground floor level. The decay of the shop-sign against the pristine building is almost a definition of charm, with the reds smeared like cheap lipstick on the pale face of duchess.

A little further along, another clash of two distinct styles; imposing masculine neo-classical solidity and feminine art-deco curves and decorative tiling. Both would be ordinary and non-descript taken in isolation, but dancing together they are Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And in the middle, where the flesh joins, a final poignant and touching sight – a shared drainpipe!


JChevais said...

Interesting. In art school, we were taught that symmetry was boring and that we, as human beings, were probably more disposed to being attracted to subtle imperfections in symmetry.

An optician told this to me once too when I was complaining that one of my eyebrows was higher than the other. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

This post somehow reminded me of a great song by the slightly absurd and extremely wacky Bonzo Dog Band (led by the late Viv Stanshall, a Great British eccentric): My Pink Half of the Drainpipe. It's all about how the narrator's pink half of the drainpipe is some kind of buffer zone keeping his neighbour at bay. Lyrics and a lone explanation here...

Adam said...

Hi Mrs C. I certainly agree with your art teacher, who seems to have taught you the art of Wabi-sabi (

Hello Tim. I'll check out the song!

Adam said...

Here's an article discussing symmetry as beauty.

And here's another investigating symmetry in nature.

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