Princeton-based photographer Ricardo Barros will present the illustrated talk “Figuring Space” during the Princeton Photography Club’s meeting at the D&R Greenway on Monday, April 3.

“‘Figuring Space’ employs the human figure to probe the meaning of space,” writes Barros about his series using the human nude and a geometric form. “Space can mean many things, ranging from physical clearance to opportunity, to loss, to comfort level in a relationship,” he says. “I soon realized that both figure and box were a portal through which I could address larger concerns. These range from the distinction between ‘naked’ and ‘nude’ to an artist’s purpose.”

In a general letter to friends and associates, Barros mused on another artist’s use of space and figure — and a new exhibition on view for area viewers:

The Princeton University Art Museum has mounted a wonderful show of ancient Greek vase paintings entitled “The Berlin Painter.” The Berlin Painter was an artisan whose work is so extraordinary that he is now recognized as a particular individual even though his identity remains anonymous. His painted figures are truly breathtaking.

The tangential connection to me is that the Berlin Painter had a very different concept of space than you or I. For one thing, vanishing point perspective hadn’t been invented back then. Also, even though his ‘canvas’ physically wrapped around a vase, he addressed the vase’s surface as if it were flat. The viewer must move through space to take in the whole, rather than remain stationary and allow the artist to suggest wholeness. Moreover, despite this three-dimensional construct, The Berlin Painter’s figurative imagery remains two-dimensional. Absent (to our modern eyes) is a persuasive depiction of depth. Compositional elements do overlap, such that one is foreground and the other background, but both are flattened to the same plane.

With respect to visual narrative, vase paintings cycle upon themselves. Their story unfolds only if a viewer circles the vase — and then it repeats. One finishes where one started, only to cycle again. It occurs to me that this is not unlike other things … maybe even ideas. While I was not previously aware of the Berlin Painter’s work, I see that his masterful works engage space in a distinctive way. I resonate with his concerns. I would be honored to orbit the Berlin Painter’s accomplishment, just as I would be to join him and many others in orbiting similar ideas. As I can attest through Figuring Space, one learns a little more with every cycle.

Figuring Space, Princeton Photography Club, D&R Greenway Land Trust, 1 Preservation Place, Princeton. Monday, April 3, 7:30 p.m. Free. www.ricardobarros.com.

The Berlin Painter and His World: Athenian Vase-Painting in the Early Fifth Century B.C., Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton. Through Sunday, June 11. Free. 609-258-3788 or artmuseum.princeton.edu.

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