Friday, 17 September 2010

ALL THIS JUICE AND ALL THIS JOY


Seymour Chwast

Some readers didn't like the traditional figure drawings in my previous post:
I can't believe such pointless work is still being appreciated today. Anyone can achieve the same thing in half a second with a camera...

My camera is capable of interpretations too, I can set it to add filters and thus alter the actual captured photons. After all, you can call every human drawing an interpretation...
Some scolded that to qualify as genuine Art, "The act of interpretation should be in service of something more" than merely "perceiving form" with pencil or charcoal.

But I can't help it, I'm a sucker for perceiving form.  For me, the melodies that arise from the perception of form can rival the most elaborate intellectual construct.

Take the most famous figure painting of the 20th century:



Picasso wasn't merely capturing a likeness of the human form.  He deconstructed the form, moving in stages from mere likeness to the jagged underside of reality.  But deconstructing a row of human figures is nothing new.  Rembrandt did the same thing 300 years earlier:



Rembrandt's intent differed from Picasso's-- Rembrandt abstracted his figures in the service of speed and design rather than to express a sociological concepts-- but the outcome is just as scary:



I am not deaf to the conceptual potential of figure drawing. There is probably no subject more ripe than the human figure for conveying "something more" than mere form.


John Cuneo explains "Why I Went to Art School" from his book, nEuROTIC


Kathe Kollwitz used human forms as icons to convey strong political messages.


But whether an artist is merely trying to achieve a likeness or to convey "something more," every considered line represents a choice and therefore has meaning.  Sometimes it's difficult to find a line that is not "in the service of something more." Consider this phantom figure drawing by Rembrandt:



The background contains ten thousand lines



...yet none of those lines attracts our attention the way these few stray wispy lines do:



Physically the lines are all similar, all made with the same etching needle, but psychologically some lines weigh more than others. Rembrandt couldn't avoid conceptual content if he tried. And even if he succeeded, the viewer would still perceive it (but that's OK).

So when I hear that "real" Art requires something more than perceiving form with a stick of charcoal, I just can't agree. I look at the torrent of figure of drawings produced over the years, from ancient Egyptian walls to the earnest labors of George Bridgeman's students, to today's artists posting their latest sketch on their blog, and it makes me happy-- even without a conceptual "something more."
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning.
...............................-- Gerard Manley Hopkins


Matisse


Rodin


The Provensens boldly transformed the figure for their wonderful illustrations of children's books


Robert Fawcett used a dry felt tip marker to search for the rhythm in the bodies of construction workers


Jeffrey Catherine Jones found style and grace in the human form

Arkady Roytman posts a new drawing each day