The figure- emotions

The research for Part 4 – the figure and the head- can be divided into different categories as suggested: The nude, the moving figure, underlying structure of the body, foreshortening and then the face and self-portrait. But I came across a few artists that use the human figure primarily to express different emotions and stories, and who don’t really fit into any of the above categories- so I chose to study them here under a chapter just called “emotions”.


While visiting the Tate Modern, I visited an “artist room” dedicated to the French artist Louise Bourgeois. The room contained several hanging cloth figures and huge series of etchings with various media on paper.

The etchings are in red colours with parts of human figures and snakelike forms, reminiscent of umbilical cords or blood arteries. There is definitely flesh and organs and something disturbingly raw and human here in the juxtaposition of different bits and pieces.

The second series with the hands explores her collaboration with her assistant through their hands.

Louise Bourgeois is exploring primal human emotions, like fear, rage ,sexuality, jealousy   through her work. She looks at dreams and childhood memories, it is a sort of visual psychoanalysis.

I found these illustrations in the beautiful book Drawing People by Roger Malvert


These are watercolours, in the same red. I am really touched by these drawings  – so little detail, so little information and yet so much to be felt and seen.

Above photographs mine from the exhibition, the watercolors from Malvert (no date). Drawing People, the human figure in contemporary art: Thames &Hudson.


TOMOKO KASHIKI (b. 1982 Kyoto, Japan)

The young Japanese artist Tomoko Kashiki is inspired by the traditional Japanese Bijinga paintings, but although that style and Japanese surroundings and patterns are still clearly visible, Tomoko’s paintings bring us into a dreamlike space.

She paints only a solitary woman, or rather a girl-woman with elongated sinous limbs in a crouching, curled up or strangely suspended position. There is a sense of dream, of mystery.

Often water is present, creating a flowing, mirroring, layering atmosphere with the bodies merging or dissolving into the space.

There is something so fragile and beautiful in these paintings. I love the merging of figure and dream, the many layers of stories and realities.

Otafineartscom. 2017. Otafineartscom. [Online]. [23 January 2017]. Available from:

 TRACEY EMIN (b. 1963, UK)

There was a discussion on the OCA Drawing student thread , if Tracey Emin can draw and if she would pass assessment of Drawing 1. This made me very curious to look closer at the work of this controversial artist, who installed her dirty bed as an art work in Tate Britain.


Previously, I have not felt drawn to any of her art and the grand exhibition of Tracey Emins work along side with Egon Schiele’s in the Leopold Museum in Vienna left me feeling slightly irritated, as I really admire Egon Schiele’s work.

Now I watched several Youtube videos ( “What do artists do all day”,” Tracey Emin in Confidence”, and her “Talk at MCA”, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia) and I have come to a whole new understanding and appreciation of her work.

She counters the question if she can draw with – ” I spent 7 years learning how to draw” and repeats “I am an artist” often. Her work is based on her own life experiences , with sexual abuse  and abortions and about being a woman. “My work isn’t about art, its about a life experience, about living.” “If I feel something, I make work about it”.  ” Art mustn’t be fake, you have to feel something” And others will share the same feelings, also the same life experiences, loss, abuse, hurt, anxiety.

“I didn’t have children, I have art. The only children I could have had are the abortions I had. My children hang on the walls of Tate Britain”.


Her art is often referred to as autobiographical , or confessional . But “Drawing is not like a diary, it’s more like a system of thought”.”It’s my language, I invented it, it’s like a scientist or an inventor- you have to crack a code.” This was a crucial moment for me in understanding her work. It is not about pouring out your feelings while smearing media, it is about cracking that very special code you have been given as an artist.

“People often ask me why I don’t draw faces in, and its’ because it’s really not important if it is me, it’s the woman that is important and i am so lucky I have a very good subject matter  (…) I can use myself- I am my first muse and my first model”

“I am sitting in my studio in London feeling depressed, feeling so far from nature and then I realize- I am not! I AM nature. That’s why great artists painted women, men , self portraits, because they were trying to get INTO the nature of themselves and understand what it is to be part of this world, and that is the job of the artist- to be working WITH the world.” Her backgrounds with soft pinks or ochre tones, that could be taken for bodyparts, are elements of nature- volcanoes, mountains, grottoes.

I tried drawing in Traceys Emin’s “code”- which definitely opened up a new level of understanding for her work and I believe really helped me loosening up in figure drawing as well.  The drawings are posted in the Sketchbook 4 section. I feel grateful for all the ideas and insights that came with exploring this artist. I am still not in awe of the work, it is still not a language that speaks to me like for example Egon Schiele’s art, but I feel a new respect and curiosity for it.


Fireley Baez is a young artist from the Dominican Republic who lives and works in New York. I really like the way she includes feathers and patterns, leaves and symbols into her drawings of the figure. For her this is a way to explore stories around ancestry and cultural identity.

I feel very drawn to explore using patterns and the human figure to tell stories too, this is something I would very much like to look in to more in my own drawing.

Gallerywendinorriscom. 2016. Gallery Wendi Norris. [Online]. [16 April 2017]. Available



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