I have recently been introduced to the stunning drawings by Pontormo a Renaissance artist (1494 – 1557) whose beautiful expressive images use line in a very particular way – half there – not there with tonal values added that show an extensive understanding of anatomy.
Leaping through the years the anguished lines of Egon Schiele depict his own searching for accuracy and engangement via his numerous self-portraits. However as shown by the drawing on the right he was capable of exceptional accurate sculptural studies too.
I have also been drawn to the work of Kathe Kollowitz whose many images particularly of mothers and children evoke a caring kind of intimacy which I admire.
And Frank Auerbach’s expressive excursions of images of particularly the face. The overworking and layering using eccentric marks and materials.
Finally in the drawings I enjoy the work of contemporary artist Piet Peere. Here Anatomy is carved in a different way tonally as opposed to lineal marks by Auerbach.
What I want to Say about Bodies
If I look at the different work above and the styles of the artists I am struck by how I am drawn to two opposing energies. The strong individual lines and marks that are Schiele and Auerbach. In contrast the careful tonal weight and intimacy of the bodies by Pontormo and Peete among others.
This is the ambiguity I experience when I am working on a drawing. Working fast and innately or working slower thinking the structures , relationships, and form. It is also the experience of my own relationship to my body, being female, daughter, mother, grandmother…..there is often, always (conscious or unconsciously) the pull and push of the two sides – energies which are nurturing and those which are wilder, more destructive perhaps, certainly physical. Energies that even yet require the testing of boundaries and limits.
Moving through the exercises I am surprised by how much I am drawn to the self portrait. Capturing the intimacy with oneself at the same time as knowing you are going to be observed – viewed is challenging. Do I want to appear better than I am – what is better? Younger, less double chin and drooping jowls. Actually I realise this is the one place I can be totally honest. Not driven by acceptable presentation of the self to the work as in social media, advertising, celebrity driven guidelines.
You can only be an acceptable older woman if you are Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, Jane Fonda etc. …. Talented, slim, tweeked. I love my long grey hair – the only time I have had long hair in my life. I am thinking of a 65+ year old version of Munch…
Strange when I found this again I was surprised that it was not as I remember it. The figure less erotic, the hair less evocative of looseness, sexuality. It wasn’t until I looked it up that I realised that this is called Madonna. To my non Christian background this was not obvious…… His work has been described as “psychological talisman”(theartstory.org). which I think is what interests me about the work. Immediately I am thinking about Cindy Sherman’s historic images series…..
and Henrik Kerstens iconic plastic bags ……
with all the trimmings – doilies et al.
As I draw to the end of this section, Part 4, I am more interested in drawing on my own body, literally as a source and am thinking of ways in which I can form the Part 5 around this theme. However I am also still interested in my dolls – and doll parts (see sketchbook) and the influence of Hans Bellmer.
At this stage of my life 65+ I am less inhibited about my own body than ever and rather like John Coplans – would like to find a way to use my own anatomy as a metaphor.
I particularly like the images where the body is not immediately “readable” – enigmatic.
Said Coplans: “I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body. I’m seventy years old, and generally the bodies of seventy-year old men look somewhat like my body. It’s a neglected subject matter…So, I’m using my body and saying, even though it’s a seventy year old body, I can make it interesting. This keeps me alive and gives me vitality. It’s a kind of process of energising myself by my belief that the classical tradition of art that we’ve inherited from the Greeks is a load of bullshit.” (Wikipedia)