March 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
Every decade or so an article appears in the press proclaiming the return of the figure in art, implying that it somehow “went away.” In fact, the figure as a subject for painting never went away, and never will until the human race itself disappears. In a symposium on drawing several years ago at Randolph-Macon Womans College (now Randolph College) in Lynchburg, Virginia, I heard Janet Fish say, “Isms come and isms go, and the realists just keep painting.” (Or something to that effect.) Her statement could, I think, be applied accurately to the state of figure painting. Whatever the current obsession of the so-called art world, artists just keep painting the figure. Below is an album of some of the most compelling figure artists working today.
September 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
Two recent articles from Notes on Looking, a blog that focuses on the contemporary art scene of Los Angeles.
“There is a freemasonry of painting among figurative painters – and I mean the term in the metaphoric sense of a secret club as well as the sense of a guild of highly developed craftsmen, for great skill is required to observe and render the body. And it is both, observation as well as drafting. Over a lifetime of close watching one learns how muscles move and pull and place our bones into postures, and the ways that our bodies and faces can reveal our thoughts; the long, slow, laborious practice of making marks to represent what one sees isn’t as direct as the same thing might be if one takes a photograph, the mark-making also conveys what one senses and feels. The hand is an interpreter, not a copyist…” -Geoff Tuck
“A mirror lets me become an anthropologist of my own body. It is an almost transparent barrier between my faculties of perception and the thing I’m looking at. It is also a lie, a flattened out and distorted image of a live, fleshy, thinking and perceiving body. But it is a useful lie in that it allows me to look from a distance at something intimately familiar. I think that realism, both in art and in literature, works in a similar way. It pictures an alternate reality so life-like that we can’t help but see in it a reflection of our own condition…” -Ariane Vielmetter
July 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
In the wake of Lucian Freud’s recent death, another great contemporary figure painter comes to the fore, Jerome Witkin, with a 40-year retrospective promised at Syracuse University, where Witkin, in his 70s, still teaches. Witkin has always been more of a story-teller than Freud, who, it seems, allowed the flesh itself to speak without feeling compelled to construct narrative contexts for its meanings. Witkin, on the other hand is the consummate story teller, as art historian and critic John Seed explores in the following article. Witkin is also the master draughtsman, colorist, composer, and paint manipulator, bringing all of his force to bear on the realization of his ideas. Witkin is, in this writer’s opinion, one of our greatest living figure painters, if not the greatest.