[Clayart] can't help myself, stuff happens

Paul Gerhold gerholdclay at gmail.com
Sat Jan 16 07:35:29 EST 2016


And of course when an artist is working at representational art the artist still chooses the reality that is being represented.

Paul 

Sent from my iPad

> On Jan 15, 2016, at 1:54 PM, Snail Scott via Clayart <clayart at lists.clayartworld.com> wrote:
> 
> 
>> On Jan 15, 2016, at 10:51 AM, mel jacobson via Clayart <clayart at lists.clayartworld.com> wrote:
>> ...send the model, the woman, we will measure her, and make
>> a life size copy of her and my pal does not have to do a thing.
>> $45,000.
> 
> 
> A lot of people mistake the purpose of representational art. They get lost in pure reproduction as a goal. It takes a lot of skill to do it the ‘hard way’, and skill, in and of itself, is admirable. Without a greater intent, however, it’s just BB-stacking. When an artist engages in representation, even in an ultra-realist style, the goal is not to exactly replicate the subject. There is always a divergence between subject and artwork, even when we don’t see it. We’ve been trained since infancy to ignore certain divergences that are screamingly obvious to someone without the same exposure to representational art.
> 
> The project Mel referenced is a figure, so let’s start there. First, there’s medium. That gets forgotten surprisingly often. People are made of meat. Skin, hair, fabric clothing, whatever is there - when it’s rendered in clay, wood, bronze - whatever - you, as the artist, have made a choice and a change. We tend to give that a free pass in traditional European-derived fine art, but in contemporary art, it’s not a freebie. What does that material contribute to the artwork? Is it just a form-generating substance in the beaux-arts tradition, or are you saying something? Stone, wood, clay, metal, topiary, or candy wrappers? Even when it’s not intended as a statement, it’s not the same as the model, and it nearly always requires change. Nothing looks like hair, really, except hair. And so on.
> 
> In surface quality - is the bronze patinated to be lifelike, or is it metallic-looking? Is the clay bare, or glazed, or what? Some artists (Tip Toland, Ron Mueck) aim at real verisimilitude in surfaces, but we don’t always consider it, due to the ‘free pass’ generated by a heritage of too much bare marble or brown-patinated bronze - people stand around saying - “ooh, so realistic’, because we, culturally, have agreed to ignore that, just as we ignore the un-realism of a black-and-white photograph. (Or the flatness of a photograph itself!) Is this figure sculpture to be done up like a department-store mannequin? or solid colored? Color has meaning, so what color? Even the skin of one individual isn’t all one color!  And as yet, the nuances of actual color can’t be reproduced on dimensional surfaces by mechanized means.
> 
> Scale - if it’s not life-size, it’s a change that's chosen. And it matters. Bigger or smaller than the viewer - bigger or smaller compared with its surroundings - it has a big effect on perception. It’s why traditional outdoor figure sculpture is usually 1-1/2 times life-size, so it doesn’t look as small as a real person when placed in from of a building or landscape. Smaller-than-life isn’t just a matter of cost and convenience. It says something about the subject. Precious? or just trivial? Contemporary art doesn’t allow us to ignore that. It’s important. 
> 
> And do on. It doesn’t smell like the model, squish like the model, move like the model, sound like the model, or hardly anything, really except surface contour and texture. And we call it realism? It merely fits the limited bounds of what we, culturally, call realism. It’s actually no more realistic than a Kabuki performance; it’s just stylized in different, more familiar ways. 
> 
> And then there’s style. Even the most realistically accurate artists generally have a recognizable style, because even if every surface and form is an exact replica, the choice of WHAT to represent is part of the artist’s contribution. So is the manner of its depiction. The pose of the model? If it’s left up to the model, then the model is the artist, at least for that aspect. What makes it art is the choices the artist makes, and how they are manifested.
> 
> No representational artists, even those working in the traditional Beaux-arts mode, are completely, accurately, realistic. Not really. That’s because accuracy, even if possible (see above) is not the goal in itself. It’s a tool. An artist might lavish attention to every detail of a face, but loosely rough in the details of garments, because the artist knows that detail draws attention, and they want the viewer’s focus on the face, not the clothing. (Or maybe even the opposite, if that’s their intention.) Depicting every strand of hair is usually pointless, but the choice of how to render it is still relevant. And so on. These choices, made by the artist, are what makes it art. Not the degree to which it replicates the subject, but the merit of the artist’s choices and corresponding presentation of those choices to the viewer. 
> 
> This is called abstraction.
> 
> All representational art contains some amount of it, even if the artist isn’t consciously thinking of it as such. The choice of what to include and what to leave out entirely, what to change and by how much and in what way - all of those are the essence of abstraction - to select and include what’s important to the artwork, and exclude or modify what isn't. Reality is a referent, not a rulebook.  
> 
> Abstraction is not the opposite of representation, but a component of it, to a greater or lesser degree, in ALL representational artwork. It’s what the artist brings to the table.  It’s why the computer-generated, CNC-fabricated rendering of the model is not art. It’s not the computer or the milling machine that makes it not-art. These are powerful tools when actually used by an artist, but they can’t make art without a human mind directing the choices made. The point is not to replicate reality - we’ve already got reality for that job; it’s covered - but to augment it by presenting the artist’s version of it - a communication between human minds. 
> 
>         -Snail
> 
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