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Archive for the ‘literalness’ Category

16septdanstilllife

Dan Goffman never likes his work. He can see that his drawings are not realistic.

But I’m fascinated by it. Could that be because I’m a modernist.  I respond to composition.  Realism?  Not so much.

Ten years ago Dan Goffman suffered a stroke which resulted in partial paralysis and aphasia.  He’s a historian and author with a long scholarly bibliography. Drawing was suggested as therapy and now he draws every day.  I have his permission to show and talk about his work.  “If I hadn’t had the stroke, I wouldn’t have discovered that I can draw,” he says with wry humor.

20160922_144150What you see in this drawing is far from a depiction of objects on a table.  You throw away the realism check-list and instead your eye wanders through this pattern of shapes, textures and negative spaces.  Of all the things he could have focused on, he chose these shapes from the still life set up on the table. They sit on the page with an uncanny sense of rightness, balance and economy. Any concern about “realism” or more “detail” would have ruined the drawing. Do we need the three-dimensionality of the oranges and that bowl?  No.  The ellipse in the upper right corner is enough.  Notice how your eye briefly rests there and then keeps moving through the composition.

Drawing by Dan Goffman, graphite on paper, 30” x 22”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/reading-a-shape/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/how-it-sits-on-the-page/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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20160922_144150The artist/student saw the turquoise drapery as a shape. When he drew this shape, his mind simplified it into geometrical planes which sit on the page as a stepped pattern.  If you expect the drawing to document the real thing, you’ll be disappointed.  But if you look at the shape on the page and see it as something new, you’ll be intrigued.  Don’t ask, how accurate a depiction is this, but why is this so much fun to look at. 

Drawing by Charles Stern, graphite on paper, 30” x 22”

16septcharlstilllife

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/how-it-sits-on-the-page/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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16septlargedrapepot

Draw a portion of the still life so that your drawing will have a definite shape on the page.  That was the assignment.  I brought in large 20160922_144208textured paper, 30” x 22”, and encouraged everyone to work in charcoal or very soft graphite.

Notice that the pot in reality is big.  Does it have to be drawn big? No.  The pot and the drapery should be drawn in such a way that they sit nicely on the page.  The artist adjusted the size of the pot so that it becomes part of the arc of the composition.

The arc could have been drawn as if floating in space, but the artist suggests some terra firma by putting in a line to indicate a table top.  Notice that the table top line is broken cezanne-sl-applesbehind the pot.  Cézanne plays this game in his paintings all the time. We’re not committed to documenting reality. The goal is to create a lively page.

Drawing by Jeanne Mueller, charcoal on paper, 30” x 22”

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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michelangelodrawusd

More precisely, drawing from photos of sculpture.

michelangeloupsidedownIf you think of drawing as translating, then drawing from sculpture is easier than drawing from life, because the sculptor has already done the half the work for you. He or she has simplified the forms for you.

Taking this a step further, drawing from a photo of a sculpture means that two-thirds of the work has been done for you.  The photo takes the additional step of flattening the three-dimension orm into two and two dimensions is where your drawing functions.   Piece o’ cake.

Well, no, not exactly simple.  You still have to get over naming what you’re drawing because naming—the whole verbal mode—gets in the way. To that end, we turn things upside-down.  And to turn a Michelangelo sculpture up-side-down, it’s really handy to have a photo of michelangelodrawingthe humongous thing, especially if the original is in Florence.

Drawing by Jeanne Mueller, graphite on paper, ~14” x 11”

michelangelo-tomb-lorenzomichelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarotti, 1475-1564.  The Medici Chapel, 1520-1534

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/drawing-on-the-right-side-of-the-brain-by-betty-edwards/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/ptolemy-in-ulm/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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jeanneptolomyupsidedown

jorgsyrlinptolomyupsidedownWhen I bring in photographs of figures or faces to draw, my students more often than not choose to draw upside-down.  This may seem counter-intuitive.  I must have been persuasive, about three years ago, when I presented Betty Edwards’ theory and research on the subject:  when you draw something upside down, you are able to disconnect your expectations and verbal labeling, allowing your brain to go into visual.  And then–ta-tah!–you actually see.

Yes, the drawing you see here was made as you see it, upside-down, from a photo that the artist/student was looking at, also upside-down.

jorgsyrlinptolomyjeanneptolomy

This is Ptolemy with is model of rotating heavenly spheres. He is one of the many historical and mythical figures that the sculptor Jörg Syrlin the Elder (1425 – 1491) carved out of oak for the choir stalls in the Ulm Minster, around 1470.

jorgsyrlinselfHere’s the sculptor, portraying himself at the end of a row of his figures, surveys his work.  These sculptures, btw, are perfectly preserved.  1470!  Very moving.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulmer_M%C3%BCnster

Building on the Ulm Minster in Southern Germany was begun in 1399 and completed in 1890.

Drawing by Jeanne Mueller, graphite on paper, ~14″ x 11″

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/drawing-on-the-right-side-of-the-brain-by-betty-edwards/

jorgsyrlinulmmuensterAll contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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albertoehlen

Imagine the conversation in this room.

Now imagine how the painting affects the conversation. Or doesn’t it?

Replace the painting with a reproduction of a 16th century nude. A portrait of Henry VIII.  The descent from the cross by Rubens.  A Bruegel landscape.  A Norman Rockwell, the boys running past the “No Swimming” sign, blown up to 6 feet high.

We all know that a painting profoundly affects the feeling of a room.  How  does this painting by Albert Oehlen affect the feeling of the room?

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/seeing-something-awful/

Photo of interior with Albert Oehlen painting from National Geographic.

titiandanaeTitian 1488-1576

hansholbeinhenryviiiHans Holbein the Younger 1497-1543

rubensdescentcrossPeter Paul Rubens 1577-1640

breugelharvesterPieter Bruegel the Elder 1525-1569

normanrockwellnoswimmingNorman Rockwell 1894-1978

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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bigblue

It would never occur to you to ask, “what’s it supposed to be.”  The painting tells you how it wants to be looked at and being looked at as an illustration is out.  It’s not an illustration of anything, it’s something new.  I love looking at this thing. I’ll skip the analysis and leave that up to you.  Look at it and observe how your eye moves through it.  That’s the analysis and no matter how clear your analysis, the pleasure of looking at this will remain fresh.

Painting by Pamela Habel, acrylic on canvas, 40” x 30.”  This painting gives me particular pleasure because Pamela was new in my “What Would Mondrian Do?” class and she produced this lively painting after just a few weeks. Brava!!!

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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icongaragemoma

This garage is directly across the street from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Not knowing that Icon is the name of a NY garage chain, I thought it was a clever name for a MoMA garage. MoMA houses major “Icons of Modernism” and isn’t that an oxymoron.   I pictured the parking guys in blue Icon uniforms with their first names embroidered over the breast pockets discussing how Picasso, Braque and Matisse et al had been exerting themselves to produce images that negated all that iconic stuff they’d been brought up with and now, here in this MoMA building were their once outrageous paintings, all gaped at with touristy awe because, well, because now they’re Icons. One of the guys in this garage conversation about semiotics and art history likes to say, that deserves to be deconstructed.  Or so I imagined.

The word icon comes from the Greek, meaning image.  The term was first used for depictions of the central characters of Christian mythology that confronted the faithful with severe, staring authority.

iconpantokrator13cent

In the early Christian church there were opposing views on whether these images should even be allowed, since they posed the czestochowskatemptation for the faithful to fall into idolatry.  That idolatry won out is suggested by the fact that some of these old icons draw pilgrims to their site, as for example, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, one of the national symbols of Poland. Such an image is commonly called “sacred icon.”

If you don’t get it, you’re not one of us.

 

That’s nice to know, you say, a little history never hurts, but we’re in the 21st and icons are about the internet. So you type in “icon” and you get a site, https://icons8.com/web-app/,  that gives you mouse-5033,600 icons including this, which you recognize instantly.

The communication is one-dimensional and unambiguous. Recognizing the icon puts you in the In-group. If you don’t get it, you’re not one of us.

Now back to the MoMA. This is Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907.  It’s called an “icon of modernism.”  The people standing around it have seen it in reproductions, but they’ve come here to be with it in person.

posingpicassoavignon2

Are they pilgrims. Is this a sacred site?

To be instantly recognizable is the same as to be famous. Did the tourists travel here to see something famous? By being with this famous object are they participating in its fame?  Is fame something intrinsic in that canvas and does fame radiate out so that those close by can absorb some of it?

If you don’t get it, you’re not one of us.

Maybe the designation “icon” does apply equally to the Byzantine deity, the mouse and the 1907 Picasso, the common denominator being fame, which separates the in-group from the out.

Funny how that boundary can shift.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/les-demoiselles-davignon/

uffizitourists

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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Drapery_Study_for_a_Seated_Figure_c1470_Leonardo_da_Vinci

Leonardo was about eighteen when he made this study of drapery.  Doesn’t matter how old he was.  He was making drapery studies when he was forty-DraperyStudyLeonardoDetaileight, too.  It’s not something you master and then you’re done with it.  Drapery is mesmerizing, both for the artist working on it and for us, the viewers.  It draws you into a universe that envelopes you and at the same time feels utterly alien.

The Leonardo drawing activates your sense of touch, convincing you that you’re inhabiting a real world, as if you were feeling your way through a cave with a bizarre topography that nevertheless completely seduces your senses.

DraperyStudyLeonardoAnalysisYou can snap out of the trance, however.  And when you do, you’ll notice that some passages are unreal.  He just made some crinkles up—out of whole cloth, so to speak.  With your (momentarily) sober mind you can look at this passage, for example, (pink circle) and realize that cloth does not behave this way.

Leonardo lied.  He created this fiction. Why?  Because it’s fun to create fiction.  He creates the illusion of reality but he’s actually playing with form.

Look at Rogier van der Weyden, who’s about fifty years earlier than Leonardo.

Full title: The Magdalen Reading Artist: Rogier van der Weyden Date made: before 1438 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Are these green folds hammered out of aluminum?  You know very well, cloth does not drape, fold and crinkle this way.  Yet, here it is, captivating us, compelling us to its rhythms like a fierce drummer.  (Ha, I’m looking at 15th century drapery and thinking of Gene Krupa and Art Blakey.)

Drapery, in other words, is a wild thing.

Linné Dosé, whose love of form and composition lead to daring omissions in his choice of still life elements, came up with this cloth floating in space.  No table to rest on.  He apparently saw that shape, found it compelling and that was enough.

16AprilDrapery

Now, when you see this thing sitting there on the page, it harmonizes with the Drapery15%behavior of drapery, but it also becomes something in itself.  Your imagination kicks into the surreal.  What is this?  It looks like a critter, doesn’t it.  You’re now in that cave with Leonardo and Rogier.

Leonardo and Rogier worked for clients who were all-powerful and dictated the subject matter to be depicted.  The artist then set out to work as if he were saying, fine, I’ll give you your mythological characters, but I’ll go wild with the drapery. You can have your Magdalen, but the drapery is mine.

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 – 1519

Rogier van der Weyden, 1400 – 1464

Linné Dosé, graphite on paper, ~12” x 18”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/the-square/

20160428_155310

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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15JanPots

This is how the drawing sat on the page.

You can see that the artist/student, Linné Dosé, has developed a love of composition and form.   The drawing suggests a still life, you know, the usual pottery. But notice, we don’t get details here, no loyalty to the objects, no shadow and reflected-light games.

A work of art tells you how it wants to be looked at. This drawing directs your mind away from literalness.  It says, forget the pots.

Shape, Form, Space!

As it sits on the drawing paper it extends horizontally and that suggests a setting, a certain degree of literalness.

Now look what happens when we crop it to a square.

15JanPotsCropRad

The forms are so much more pure forms.

The square format will do that.  Uncanny.  It speaks to our modern sensibility.

Why would that be?

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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