The Face : portrait and self- portrait

At first I would like to remember some of the artists I have already written about during the course, whose work become even more relevant now when embarking upon the study of the face:

Ritchelly Oliveira‘s photographically precise portraits , suddenly with some parts like the clothing left unfinished and with surreal elements like birds swirling around the heads, or leaves, bubbles, a line of paint covering some part. I am always fascinated by the balance between finished- unfinished and realism-fantasy.

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Tina Berning’s portraits of women, in a quick sketchy way in different media but always with interesting expressive mark-making, on various random paper- also something that attracts me.

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Picasso’s portraits, that are so very different over the course of his life. I wrote a post about this after visiting the exhibition in the National portrait Gallery in London.

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Käthe Kollwitz captivating charcoal portraits and self- portraits, expressing so much emotion and humanity. One of her most famous self- portraits also shows the unfinished- finished with the face in detail and then her arm continuing into a rough scribble. I wrote a post about this artist during the Foundation course. Taking another look at her portraits makes me want to explore the use of charcoal more in depth.

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As part of the research suggested by the course, I will take a look at the portraits of Graham Little compared to the ones of Elisabeth Peyton.

GRAHAM LITTLE  (b. 1972)

Although Graham Little’s portraits shows women in an interior environment and usually busying themselves with some task, they are very calm and quiet. The colours are subtle, the expressions gentle, the movements seem slow. There is a very quiet atmosphere in all of these gouache and coloured pencil works on paper. There is also an oddly disturbing sense of unreality in the grey glow of the women and the too perfect, stylized poses and detailed surroundings.

Graham little, . 2017. Alison Jacques Gallery. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.alisonjacquesgallery.com/artists/26-graham-little

ELISABETH PEYTON (b. 1965)

Elisabeth Peyton is panting on wood panels that she first covers with many layers of gesso, sanding in between so that the surface becomes like glass and allows her to use the paint with bold quick strokes that remain clearly visible. She paints in large blocks of colour, very different from the subtle tones of Graham Little above.

The left painting is a self -portrait. Otherwise Elisabeth Peyton paints artists, musicians and in any case studies and expresses the personality of her models through the painting- also very different from the neutral personality-devoid models of Graham Little’s work.

Gladstonegallerycom. 2017. Gladstonegallerycom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.gladstonegallery.com/artist/elizabeth-peyton/work

Gagosiancom. 2017. Gagosiancom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.gagosian.com/artists/elizabeth-peyton


JUUL KRAIJER  (b. 1970)

The Dutch artist Juul Kraijer draws the “everywoman” in portraits or nudes- the female form of being human, without personality- an archetype- naked and without eyebrows.

She uses charcoal, and rarely ink , little detail, basic media. Her drawings often have a surreal element – swarms of insects, flames, letters emerging from the faces or bodies.

Again I am rather fascinated by these surrealist elements appearing and would like to experiment with various patterns and the face in my own drawings. I am also curious about this exploring of the face without personality.

Juul kraijer. 2017. Juulkraijercom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.juulkraijer.com/


 

 ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901-1966)

I have become slightly obsessed with the portraits of Alberto Giacometti. I saw some of his paintings in the Stuttgart Staatsgallery and then came across them again while researching drawing with a limited palette, and now I have been watching several biographies about his art.

Giacometti was constantly drawing since early childhood and he says in an interview that everything is drawing for him, sculpture is just drawing in a different media. After a few years exploring surrealist art, he returns to reality and models, and these are the works that interest me the most. He is constantly drawing and painting the same motives and models over and over and also drawing and painting over and over the same canvas , on the search for a truth that is just evading.

Giacometti came from a small Swiss- Italian village where he returned regularly, but chose to mainly live and work in a small very simple studio in Paris that is pictured in many of his paintings- you can see the canvases in the background of the portraits, and stillife of bottles and apples in his studio was a recurring theme.

Giacometti used the same model again and again- his wife Anette, his mother, his lover Caroline, his friend the Japanese philisopher Isaku Yanaihara, so there are many many works of these same models.

The model had to be very still. Giacometti did not want to express any emotion, he was searching for some deeper human universal qualities. He always started with the eyes- the eyes he said- are made of a whole other material than the rest, it is precise like an optical instrument. From there he found lines and frames and scribbles his dark strong marks before adding colours. This goes on in layers upon layers, but with parts left untouched. I think this is part of what fascinates me. This search that doesn’t stop til all the colors blend in a grey , and yet, some parts left untouched and marks from previous forms left there as well. A contrast between the stillness of the model too and the movement and chaos of the marks and work of the artist.

There is mostly a lighter halo around the head, or as in the last one, a dark cloud. Giacometti explained this as the form of the person always surpassing the person.

Giacomettis many many sculptures of an elongated female figure standing still and a male figure walking is what I knew before discovering his portraits:

The figures become longer and thinner towards disappearing. They are always alone, even placed in large groups, they will have no interaction between them whatsoever and never meet. The women are immobile, only to be looked at and to return that look- the men in action, like himself, constantly doing in front of the immobile model.

Fondation-giacomettifr. 2017. Fondation-giacomettifr. [Online]. [1 February 2017]. Available from: http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en/art/16/discover-giacometti/18/alberto-giacometti-database/


MARK MANDERS (b. 1968)

I came across the work of the Dutch artist Mark Manders while struggling with vanishing point and perspective, as he has created various drawings around this theme, like these two that I find really funny :

He has also repeatedly exhibited a larger body of work including drawings and installations named “Self portrait through a building”. I found this rather fascinating as it is so very remote from how I could ever express a self- portrait:

 

Markmandersorg. 2017. Markmandersorg. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.markmanders.org


VERI APRIYATNO  (b. 1973)

The Indonesian artist Veri Apriyatno draws very large scale detailed multiple self-portraits in pencil. He appears several times in different dynamic poses within each drawing. He explains in an interview in the Daily Mail that he explores who he is by identifying his emotions such as alienation, loneliness and emptiness, emotions that change the whole time.

I came across this artist while researching the moving figure- and the dynamic movement in the drawings is what attracts me the most. I like the idea of combining several self-portraits with varying emotions into the same drawing and am thinking of how to explore this idea.


 

PEPIJN SIMON, MAXIM FOMENKO,  NORRIS JIM-  “MELTING FACES”

Looking at contemporary portrait artists, I discovered a surprising number of portraits that appear to be melting, or flowing away from the canvas- where the portrait is smeared almost to a point of being unrecognizable.

This reminds me of some works by Francis Bacon, and although they create an alarming sense of anguish or fear, I find this movement rather unappealing and strange that it can gain such popularity internationally.

Pepijn Simon, Netherlands

Pepijnsimoncom. 2017. Pepijnsimoncom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://pepijnsimon.com/info

Norris Yim, Hong Kong:

Theartlingcom. 2017. Theartlingcom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: https://theartling.com/artists/norris-yim/

Maxim Fomenko, Germany:

Fomenkoartcom. 2017. Fomenkoartcom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://fomenkoart.com/


EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)

I wrote quite extensively about Egon Schiele for the section on “the Nude”, so I will avoid repeating myself here- but want to take a closer look at his portraits, and especially self- portraits.

Egon Schiele painted and drew an incredible number of self- portraits , revealing  the same intensity of emotion as his other works, raw, anguished, intensely sexual, angry, or just disdainful, self confident. The mark making and cropping mirrors this. There is nothing idealized or embellished, and this sense of raw honesty makes me just admire Egon Schieles portraits .

Leopoldmuseumorg. 2017. Leopoldmuseumorg. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.leopoldmuseum.org/en/leopoldcollection/focus/Schiele

 

the NUDE

What is a nude?

In his book “The Nude: a study in ideal form” from 1956, Kenneth Clark writes “being naked is being without clothes. The nude is a form of art”

In episode 2 of his famous TV series ” Ways of Seeing ” from 1972, (available on You Tube) as well as in his book of the same name, John Berger says “to be naked is to be oneself, to be nude is to be SEEN naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself (p.54) “A naked body has to be seen as an object to become a nude”. (…)”Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. To be naked is to be without disguise. To be on display is to have the surface of one’s own body, turned into disguise which, in that situation , can never be discarded. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress”.

There is also a very big gap between the perception of men and women that John Berger talks about.

“Men dream of women, women dream of themselves as being dreamed of. Men look at women.Women watch themselves being looked at.” This is the opening phrase of the TV program . And further : ” a woman is always accompanied by her own image of herself”.

Seeing and reading John Berger’s explanations has altered my view of many paintings and on the nude in European oil painting especially. I think that although I am a woman, I have often admired a nude from the point of view of the (male) spectator, without becoming fully aware of the passivity, of the submission of the model, of the disappearance of the person. It is true, that in the tradition of European oil painting, the female nude is showed reclined, languid , passive and often in an awareness of being seen by the spectator outside of the painting. I am also reminded of how my own perception of beauty is formed by this long history of looking at the nude, mainly the female nude, with it’s changing beauty ideals from this point of the judging viewer.

In the European oil painting, there are a very few exceptions , as John Berger points out (p.57) where artists have painted the women they love, and then break the art form, the nude becoming a love poem to a specific person, where the woman is just more or less naked.

I will here take a look at some of the classical modern nude paintings and then explore some contemporary nudes and how valid this definition seems today.

Kenneth Clark (1956). The Nude: a study in ideal form. Garden City, NY : : Doubleday Anchor Books.

John Berger (1972). Ways of Seeing. England: BBC and Penguin books.

EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

When thinking of Edgar Degas , his pastel drawings of ballet dancers come to my mind first, but I am also touched by some of his beautiful nudes, that contrary to the languid models exposing themselves to the viewer in the older European oil paintings, are busy and seem unaware of being observed in intimate moments.

Degas continued drawing nudes all through his life, so used all the different styles and techniques he explored in this genre too, going from complex historical paintings, to series of prostitutes in brothels. But these “naturalist nudes’, where he observes simple daily routines of bathing or combing the hair are the works that I like the most.

Gradually the works became less detailed and more bold in colour experimentation, with unusual angles and light.

Musee-orsayfr. 2017. Musee-orsayfr. [Online]. [4 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/events/exhibitions/in-the-musee-dorsay/exhibitions-in-the-musee-dorsay-more/page/0/article/degas-and-the-nude-31063.html

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

The innovations that Henri Matisse brought to modern art can be equaled to those of Picasso. He emerged as a post impressionist and then created the art movement Fauvism. He used some elements of Cubism, but it was always color that was the main element of his work.

I just love the vibrant colors and effortless form of Henri Matisses paintings. Instead of using shading or working on depth of  form, he is using contrasting areas of color.

Although the reclining subjects of pink nude and blue nude follow the traditional submissive reclined female nude’s format- there is nothing submissive in these models.

The dance is a dance of joy and color

The sculptural and joyful approach to the human figure culminated in the cut outs that Matisse turned too at the end of his life. Here there is a definite move away from the idealized human figure, rather they become a symbol of the nude.

Henrimatisseorg. 2017. Henrimatisseorg. [Online]. [4 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.henrimatisse.org/pink-nude.jsp

Theartstoryorg. 2017. The Art Story. [Online]. [16 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-matisse-henri.htm

 EGON SCHIELE (1890 – 1918)

The twisted , gnarly, anguished, passionate drawings of Egon Schiele touch me deeply.

With sparse and at times chaotic marks and unproportionate big hands and heads Egon Schiele’s work has a very personal style. It is a very new and frank depiction of the human body, full of emotion, anxiety, anger, desire, passion. His nudes are raw and sexual, sometimes the models are masturbating.

It is not surprising that he was accused of pornography and arrested at his time.  Egon Schiele lived in Vienna at the beginning of the 19 th Century- as Vienna was the capital of the Austro- Hungarian Empire, and it was a climate of contradictions  between the luxury of high life, high society and the collapse facing World War 1. Gustav Klimt was the most famous painter in Vienna at the time  and a mentor of Schiele’s, the expressionist Oscar Kokoshka another contemporary  and Sigmund Freud leading the intellectual debate.

Egon Schiele was obsessed by himself- creating hundreds of self- portraits that I will look at again in the portrait section. He also drew himself nude , and masturbating- a stark frankness.

He was also obsessed by the body, by sex, by death. After a passionate love affair with  his model Waly, that lasted for 4 years, he paints the masterpiece “Death and the Maiden” 1915- the death of a love affair as Egon Schiele moves on to marry another woman- and the death of Europe – World War 1. He is himself the model for Death , and Waly the Maiden.

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Looking at the drawings again, I am drawn to the twisted, torn, tense and bony bodies. I admire the sparse marks and how many parts of the drawing are left unfinished. Often the face and hands are detailed and the rest of the figures are left unfinished, although often intricate eyecatching patterns are part of the drawings. Face-hands-patterns. There is often a combination of coloured parts and uncoloured as well, that I would like to explore.

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

I took a closer look at Pablo Picasso’s portraits for the visit of his exhibition at the National Art Gallery in London in a separate post.

The nude was also a theme that recurred in every phase of Picasso’s  artistic development.

I especially like this very well known “Blue Nude” from 1902, a very simple composition and pose, painted in only one colour and still expressing so much :

blue-nude

“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” from 1907 is the most famous example of cubist painting:

avignonThe bodies are distorted and formed by unexpected geometric shapes, a new way of seeing! This is far from the traditional beauty ideals of the female body, but at the same time , thinking of John Berger’s ways of seeing, here is still the traditional exposure of the female body, the look to the viewer.

In “Woman in an arm chair” from 1929, the human figure has become even more surrealist, with organic, melting shapes. This may be another masterpiece, but I find it disturbing ugly.

woman-in-an-armchair

Pablopicassoorg. 2017. Pablopicassoorg. [Online]. [16 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.pablopicasso.org

 AMEDEO MODIGLIANI (1884-1920)

The Italian artist Amedeo Modigliano  painted faces and figures that are elongated and flat. He painted many reclining nudes, in a very classical pose, but with that modern flat take.

He modernized the view of many traditional classical paintings. This painting, “standing blonde nude with dropped chemise” from 1917 is referring to Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, but in a modern way, and instead of hiding the sex, the composition is drawing our attention to it in a rather provocative way.

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Theartstoryorg. 2017. The Art Story. [Online]. [16 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-modigliani-amedeo-artworks.htm

EUAN UGLOW  (1932-2000)

The British painter Euan Uglow painted nudes in  sparse bare settings. They appear almost sculptural with patches of colour that make the flesh seem chiseled from stone.

Nude 1962-3 Euan Uglow 1932-2000 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1964 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00659
Zagi 1981-2 Euan Uglow 1932-2000 Purchased 1982 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03418
Uglow, Euan; Gyroscope Nude; The Hepworth Wakefield; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/gyroscope-nude-22546

I have read that Uglow painted very slowly and took very careful and slow measurements which are still visible on the canvas, but the final painting is not so detailed , it still has a roughness that appeals to me. I also like the simple interaction of the models with their environment.

Tate. 2017. Tate. [Online]. [3 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/euan-uglow-2084

Artukorg. 2017. Artukorg. [Online]. [3 April 2017]. Available from: https://artuk.org/discover/artists/uglow-euan-19322000

JENNY SAVILLE b 1970

I have written more about Jenny Saville’s approach to the nude as “a contemporary landscape of the body” in the section “Foreshortening”, but here I want to take another look at her work “the Mirror”.

Jenny_Saville_Mirror

This painting is the history of the reclining nude reflecting itself.    In a conversation for the opening of her exhibition in 2012 at the TATE Modern (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMIICxZ669Q) Jenny says:

“The nude is a very difficult language to meet today, because you read every nude , with all the other nudes that you have seen, and all the ones that you have made and all the ones that exist in art history. So instead of trying to make a new one, I just brought them all in. It was working with Picasso, with Manet..”

“I don’t have a very scholarly view of art history- I am more a scavenger- I take bits here and there. You are constantly stealing anyway.”

Besides really liking Jenny Saville’s paintings and the many layers and simultaneous stories of her drawings, I admire this bold borrowing from the masters of Modern Art, and the ease with which Jenny places herself in their lineage.

JOSE RODRIGUES

I came across the beautiful book ” Exercisios de delicada Intimidade” (Exercises in delicate intimacy), with drawings and paintings from contemporary Portuguese artist Jose Rodrigues.

He treats a wide range of themes from mythology and religion through figure drawings, but also personal experiences, like studying the pubic hair of his lover.  But although the themes vary greatly,  his style of roughly drawn outlines and unfinished details , sometimes combined with an element of collage, is consistent.

I keep being drawn to works with this rougher or unfinished style and really want to learn how to stop polishing everything too much 🙂

Jose rodrigues (2012). Exercisios de delicada intimidade. Porto: Bial.

 

JOHN CURRIN b. 1962

The American artist John Currin is pushing the controversy or the dialogue around the female nude to a peak with his provocative art.

“Consistent throughout his oeuvre is his search for the point at which the beautiful and the grotesque are held in perfect balance.”

He is a master of classical technique, but then uses pin up pictures and expressively provocative sexual poses and symbols to chock.

I am not particulary attracted to John Currin’s paintings, but find it interesting to note that they are at a peak of popularity now, selling at enormous sums and appearing at exhibitions around the world.

http://www.gagosian.com/artists/john-currin


I have written about Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois and Anthony Gormley‘s work in a separate post called “Emotions, memories , dreams” as they are all working mainly with their own bodies in different ways, but their approach is exploring being in the body as a personal experience and not exploring the nude in the sense of the artists I have written about here.

 

 

 

The Sibyl’s gaze, Museu do Oriente

Today I visited the exhibition “the Sibyl’s gaze” at the Museu do Oriente in Lisbon. The theme of the exhibition is the transformation of the body, with the figure of Sibyl as a metaphor therefor. The exhibition has been created by 6 different art institutions coming together and unites works in many different media- drawing, painting, sculpture, installations, video work and written word. It is widely advertised all over town.

I guess my expectations were too high, especially as it seemed to fit my studies of the human figure so perfectly, so I was very disappointed at the exhibition.

First of all I had a really hard time finding a connection between the theme and most of the art. I guess “transformation of the body” does not have to mean the human body, at least not in any recognizable form.

Here I will write about a few works that deal with the human figure, as that is what interested me.

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These drawings in oil pastel and graphite on paper are by Portuguese artist Joana Villaverde. I do not really appreciate how abruptly they end and the limbs missing, but a good reminder to explore the “unfinished drawing”. Despite always liking an unfinished element , I always fiddle too much and finish my own drawings.

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This is a cloth sculpture called “when you wish upon a star” by Joao Pedro Vale, the nose of the figure continuing into this mass, Pinocchios lies neverending maybe.

Two small oil paintings by Vieira da Silva, the right one a self portrait of the artist. I was happy to see these paintings here as Vieira da Silva is an artist I have been wanting to discover for a while. I will look closer at her work in the portrait part of the course.

IMG_6690

This oil painting called “Heaven” by artist Gemuce from Mocambique touched me. There is such a contrast between the heaviness I associate with the burkha and the lightness of the sky and the movement of the figure on the swing. The pose is still contained and careful, but there is the flying sensation of being weightless too.

IMG_6694

This photograph on a light box by young Portuguese artist Rita GT is a strong image too. All the focus of the image is led to the centre, between the legs of the model where she is collecting wrapped candies. An image that can tell many different stories.

Lastly I include this painting, as it was the most clearly dealing with the theme of transformation, although I am not sure about the body here- it looks like a beast or maybe a Kafka transformation, but I guess that can open up a lot of musings about what the body is and means…..

IMG_6656

 

The moving figure

ANTHONY GORMLEY (b. 1950, UK)

The British artist Anthony Gormley is primarily known for his sculptures and large installations, but I first came across his drawings while visiting the National Portrait Gallery in London – “Fall”, a series of 9 drawings of a falling body.

Every drawing is a solitary figure  in a void. This is a theme recurring in Gormley’s work- here from the series “the Grid” 2016:

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Or from the series “Body and Light” , ink drawings on wet ground:

In stead of placing the figure in recognizable surroundings, Gormley explores the human body in a void- questioning the relationship between the body we occupy and the space around it. All through his career , Anthony Gormley has been exploring this theme of the experience of occupying a human body. He uses his own body for casts for his sculptures.

I feel inspired to experiment with wet paper and human form and also to explore what difference it makes to leave the scribbled figures floating in space versus giving them somewhere to stand or something to hold on to.

Antonygormleycom. 2017. Antonygormleycom. [Online]. [23 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.antonygormley.com


RICHARD HAMBLETON b. 1954

Richard Hambleton was born in Canada but relocated to New York in the 1970’s. He became known as “the Godfather of street art” with his series of graffitti “Shadows” all over New York in the 1980’s.

Since then his paintings have been presented in galleries and museums with more than man sized shadow figures. I love the energy and spontaneous expression of these figures and can imagine the impressive effect when seeing them larger than man.

I love the way he can express a precise movement and even expression with only a shadow, a blur or dot of black paint. His brushstrokes seem as fast as the moving figures he captures.

I just now discovered that he even paints portraits in the same manner, including colour or gold dust.

There is definitely an “a la Richard Hambleton” experiment coming up in my “Sketchbook section” now.


 

DAVID HAINES b. 1969

David Haines is a British contemporary artist making videos and hyper realistic drawings in pencil on paper. I can just marvel at the skill and draughtmanship here. David Haines seems to catch a glimpse of a brief moment, a quick movement and moment in time, but renders it with such precision and detail, that it is a very slow process. I just read in an interview with the artist in the magazine “mimik”, that he spent a whole year on the giant pencil drawing “Radiant bodies” for example.

index a

David Haines collects various images mainly relating to a street and gay culture , and then reinterprets them in his own specific image language – “the drawings are not protests but they seek to create a new visual vocabulary”.

Sneakers and anatomical hearts appear in many of his works

t_CompositionwithHeartandUsedMenSneakersBoughtonE

Fascinating detail and drawing skills, but I feel personally less touched by these hyper realistic drawings than the quick splattered movements by Richard Hambleton.

Mimikmagazinecom. 2017. Mimik Magazine. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from: http://mimikmagazine.com/mirrorfragments/david-haines-gathering-languages/

Davidhainesorg. 2017. Davidhainesorg. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.davidhaines.org/work04.html


 EMMA TALBOT b. 1969
I discovered the British artist Emma Talbot in the beautiful book “Drawing people- the human figure in contemporary art” by Roger Malbert. At a first glimpse, I could have turned over the page and seen her watercolour drawings as cartoon like and light, but I found myself drawn to looking at them over and over again.
The drawings can be read as a diary, or as an imaginary diary of the same figure without facial features. They are like glimpses of a short mundane moment-like washing the clothes in a sink, or walking up the stairs.
Some drawings are complex stories interwoven in a intricate pattern
There is an underlying atmosphere of threat and sadness. I find myself a little surprised at how touched I am by these series of drawings.
Malbert, Roger (2016). Drawing people, the human figure in contemporary art. England: Thames & Hudson.
Emmatalbotorguk. 2017. Emmatalbotorguk. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.emmatalbot.org.uk/

 

HEATHER HANSEN

American dancer and artist Heather Hansen presents another perspective on “the figure in movement”- her own movements creating patterns on a huge paper she dances on with charcoal in her hands.

I am particularly attracted to this right now as my own movements are restricted due to medical condition, and I am usually a person with a regular dynamic yoga practice. I can’t wait to be able to move my arms freely again and try this out.

Heatherhansennet. 2017. Heatherhansennet. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.heatherhansen.net/


 

 

The underlying structure of the body

LEONARDO da VINCI (1452-1519)

Leonardo da Vincis’ unsatiable curiosity about how the human body functions and his research into anatomy that he documented with hundreds of pages of precise sketches and descriptions have been an invaluable source of information for art history and science ever since.

 

He was the first known scientist going as far as to dissect the human body to draw what he discovered inside. I find his anatomical drawings mesmerizing by the passion for knowledge and detail that shines through them.

LAURA FERGUSON

I came across the American contemporary artist Laura Ferguson through a fellow student’s blog- and am so happy I did! I love the multi-layered drawings combining a dreamlike, emotional drawing of the body in combination with the accuracy of the underlying anatomy – the skeleton or soft tissues drawn in precise detail.

“Art creates a different vision of the inner body: one that is personal  rather than medical (though still anatomically accurate), and more reflective of our experience of the bodies we inhabit.” “Drawing myself, I could work from the inside out. ”

To keep it real, Laura draws in the Lab of the NYU School of Medicine with actual dissections, or from various medical imagery and Xrays of herself.  I find her work fascinating with this very personal emotional expression combined with a scientific approach.

Laurafergusonnet. 2017. Laurafergusonnet. [Online]. [25 March 2017]. Available from: http://www.lauraferguson.net/body-narrative-galleries/

When searching for more art involving X-Rays , I discovered that there is a whole art movement around this, since the beginning of the 20 th century when X-rays started to be used. Flowers and other botanical specimens seem to have been the main subjects, but some more contemporary artists have explored the human body as well.

NICK VEASEY

Nick Veasey is a Bristish contemporary artist working only with Xrays. For some images he uses the huge Xray machines at  borders to produce pictures of vehicles, then he Xrays his skeleton Frida in various poses to complete the images.

His newest project is about superheroes, and what is under the skin of the superhero.

This is how Nick Veasey describes his art:

“I like to challenge this automatic way that we react to just physical appearance by highlighting the, often surprising, inner beauty.”

“By revealing the inside, the quintessential element of my art speculates upon what the manufactured and natural world really consists of.”

I think it is an interesting query, but do not feel that the images answer it. To me they are too simple in a way, without any added emotion or message. They are often humorous, but then I react to that as to just another physical appearance.

Nickveaseycom. 2017. Nickveaseycom. [Online]. [25 March 2017]. Available from: http://www.nickveasey.com/home/4570152827

HUGH TURVEY

Hugh Turvey is a British contemporary artist who has worked with Xrays for over 20 years. He uses many objects, many flowers, and sometimes the human form.

Some of his huge installations of colorful XRays of flower details are beautiful;

uch_radiotherapy_hughturvey

And other Xray pictures humorous, like “the Fan” with a football shaped brain.

Although funny and colourful , these art works too lack something more personal or a deeper layer that I found in for example Laura Fergusons work.

Hugh turvey, . 2017. XOGRAM. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.xogram.com

 

ADA DOBRZELECKA b.1983

The yound Polish artist Ada Dobrzelecka shows many layers of  the human body in her oil paintings. At first glimpse I thought she used Xrays too, that she painted over, but looking more closely, I believe her paintings to be all in oil.

The earlier works are rather nightmarish, with cold colours, scared expressions and the many different layers of the face and body creating a scary image.

Her later works from the series “my Inner Garden” are more poetical, with flowers and softer colours, although the many layers are still visible.

I feel pulled in and intrigued by the many layers of stories happening in these paintings.

I can feel that place of anguish and also curiosity at what is underlying our surface. Also I just tried myself to draw on XRays ( and posted the drawings in the “Sketchbook 4 continued” post) and it all became rather nightmarish and full of anguish as well.

Ada dobrzelecka. 2017. Ada Dobrrzelecka. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.adadobrzelecka.com

Saatchiartcom. 2017. Saatchi Art. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from: https://www.saatchiart.com/adadobrzelecka

 

Foreshortening

The definition of foreshortening according to the TATE Glossary of Art terms  (Tateorguk, 2017):

“Foreshortening refers to the technique of depicting an object or human body in a picture so as to produce an illusion of projection or extension in space”

JENNY SAVILLE

(Born in 1970, Cambridge, England)

Jenny Saville is the first artist that comes to mind when thinking of figure drawing and foreshortening. Her large scale paintings of massive human bodies use foreshortening to the extreme. The angles of the models allow her to lead  our gaze from one body part to the other, like here from the penis to the stomach, to the breasts in the transvestite, or around the surgeons marks on the right image.

The formats are massive, and the figures are massive, continuing far over the borders of the canvas.

The human flesh is overwhelmingly dominant and has an almost tactile character. According to an interview with Simon Schama for the Saatchi Gallery, Jenny Saville is looking for “a contemporary architeture of the body” and it is true that I feel like I am looking at monuments or landscape of the human here.

Gagosiancom. 2017. Gagosiancom. [Online]. [29 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.gagosian.com/artists/jenny-saville/selected-works

Saatchi gallery. 2017. Saatchigallerycom. [Online]. [29 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/jenny_saville.htm

Tateorguk. 2017. Tateorguk. [Online]. [29 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/f/foreshortening

 

 

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”.

LOUISE BOURGEOIS (1911-2010)

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: http://www.otafinearts.com/en/artists/tomoko-kashiki/


 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.

tracey-emin-my-bed

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 b. 1981

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

from: http://www.gallerywendinorris.com/baez/