Friday, 7 December 2012

Pursuing Gesture: The Legacy of the Greeks. Part one.

Greek, 2nd century B.C. Torso of Satyr.
Michelangelo. A Battle Scene, c. 1504
Raphael. Men Fighting (1504?).
Gian Lorenzo Bernini. David, 1624.
Frank Frazetta. Mid-20th century.
Patricia Hannaway
Patricia Hannaway.
Michael Whynot. Thirty second gesture drawing, 2012.
Michael Whynot. Fifteen minute torso study, 2012.


I have touched upon gesture in a previous post, but I find myself returning to it again and again, the eternal moth to the flame, since it lies at the heart of everything I find beautiful in art.

Gesture is not new, nor is it limited to a single time period. Great artists, since antiquity, have been capturing it, imbuing form with life.

Sometime around 480-450 B.C., Greek art began to evolve. Up until that point there was an unnatural lifelessness inherent in their sculpture and painting. It was hard and cold and lacked what we now refer to as gesture. But once the Greeks were able to overcome the initial stiffness of their early work (see the beautiful, 2nd century B.C., Torso of a Satyr, above), the vitality of the gesture has flowed down the ages, from the Greeks to the Romans, from Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini, to modern artists.

Frank Frazetta was able to capture the essence of movement in a few perceptively placed ink strokes. Long time animator, Patricia Hannaway, has a lovely, expressive touch with line and light. Lastly, I have included a thirty second gesture drawing and a fifteen minute torso study of my own.

Life moves quickly, so the artist's eye must move quicker still; must notice even more. Gesture neither begins nor ends, but is in a constant state of flux. What a wonderful ability: to pluck life from between God's own fingers and shape it into material form, the grace of which others might now behold and wonder that they had never before noticed such beauty.

Life unravels too quickly, too quickly altogether. Art offers us a respite, a chance to breathe and experience the wonder of existence; art is a nightlight shinning at 3:00 in the morning.