persistent themes

Anita Mills, who has contributed the chapter on drawing to the forthcoming Lund Humphries monograph, wrote to me yesterday pointing out that the composition of a recent painting reaches back into my long-past life as a stage designer. She put together a couple of images that it would never have crossed my mind to compare, and I’m rather astounded by what she’s discovered. I offer her observation by way of a footnote to yesterday’s Little Shop of Horrors post. Over twenty five years separate the stage design sketch and the painting shown below it.

Little Shop of Horrors concept sketch.

The Prophet Fed by a Raven

‘Diagonal boxes, lower staircase and propped leg, lighted stairwell on the right and raven’s wings, stair-stepped feathers, etc., etc.  Très intéressant!
Compositional interests that have carried through the years…’
Anita Mills in an e-mail dated 30/01/11.

7 thoughts on “persistent themes

  1. Pingback: The Restless Prophet and his Raven | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Clive, I have the privilege of seeing “Prophet Fed by a Raven” every time I look out from my desk. Lucky me!!! So, perhaps the comparison was easier for me to see.

    Many theorists/aestheticians speak of the “iconic themes” that follow an artist through his/her life’s work. Usually, they are speaking of the narrative or psychological themes, but I also believe that artists revisit “essential” compositional themes as well. I grew to maturity as an artist/theorist in the eras of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and conceptual art—we studied composition solely through the lens of “Formalism.” (Wikipedia has a good description of this.) Later, I focused upon the march of artists from the Renaissance and Baroque through to Impressionism and Modern Art, where I first learned of Heinrich Wöfflin’s “Principles of Art History.” Though he used his principles to compare work done between the 16th and 17th centuries, I believe they are useful to anyone’s understanding of art from ANY era, and I have used them consistently in my own “looking.” Among the other theorists I have employed is Wassily Kandinsky and his “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.” Kandinsky’s ideas are sometimes “out there,” but his notion that great art must have a “spiritual” (broadly defined!) component in order to be meaningful, moving, and lasting, is right on. These are just a few of the reasons/ways of my own obsession to analyze pictorial composition… and this post on your Artlog does fall under the category: OBSESSIONS.

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