The Celebration of Human
10 - 23 Oct 2015
‘Configuration’, literally translate as an arrangement of parts or elements in a particular form, figure, or combination. The wide-ranging approached in figurative art suggesting the shifting of attitude, particularly in painting, beckoning the eclectic outlook of the world. As the title suggested, the exhibition intended to yield range of attitudes tackling the subject of figurative against a miscellany of each individuals. This text is not to describe the artists and their artworks, but more of an author’s insight upon reading visual images. That is to say, the text not suggesting how we should look at figurative art, but a mere attempt to comprehend the basic visual theory in reading art based on current point of view.
- The subject of human form linked to the oldest tradition of art. Since ancient civilization, subject of a human body going through various interpretation from the religious to the portrayal of everydayness against urban landscape. For the decades, figurative art inexhaustibly fascinates artists alike. It never cease from the reconstruction of contemporary outlook and consistently going through changes. Still, human figure used as subject to depict our narratives, adorn our dwellings, and give release to that passion for creativity in the human soul, spirit, and mind.
The term figurative art can be defined in various ways. In its narrowest sense, it is art that takes as its subject the human form (perhaps even more narrowly, the accurate representation of the human form). More broadly, it is art that is intended to emulate reality. Since the arrival of abstract art the term figurative has been used to refer to any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world and particularly to the human figure. In a general sense figurative also applies retrospectively to all art before abstract art. Modern figurative art can be seen as distinct from modern realism in that figurative art uses modern idioms, while modern realist work in styles preceding Post-Impressionism (more or less). In fact, modern figurative art is more or less identical with the general current of expressionism that can be traced through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
As individual, artist is part of larger society. An artworks produced by artist is the extension of their perspectives and thought. Although the work produced by the artist inherently personal, it is presumably connected with the world he or she belongs to. Contemporary artist (particularly outside of European region) negotiate with duality, partly linked to the modern, and other held in their local tradition and culture. Thus creates profusion of images profoundly reflected the environment they live in. Current art not solely implying formalities, but profess colliding cultural values and convention. Whether influenced by the influx of images picked from various media, or outwardly conveying inner reflection, the artist’s illustrate the diachronic relationship of representation and meaning.
- In context of aesthetic, the term ’representation’ generally use to emphasis subject matter in work of art. In this sense, representation means a materialized form of ideas. The oldest philosophical tradition related to ‘representation’ coined by the Greek philosopher Plato as mimesis and inadequately translated to English words as imitation. It is considered as fundamental element in creating the work of art (and used favourably when theorizing art). Plato hold that every work of art is a representation of the real world, thrice remove from its original state, and the artist is copying the nature based on his/her interest. Thus, the works produced by the artist do not hold the resemblance of what Plato called reality, but merely an object of gratification. He maintained the scheme as inferior to his concept of ideal. The theory of mimesis, however, was not a well-articulated theory but was rather a fundamental outlook shared by most authors, philosophers and educated audiences in the classical period, in antiquity as a whole, and even later. It is commonly used when describing representative type of art, particularly in figurative art or figurativism.
Correspondingly, the figuration of human body is the most privileged subject matter in the history of Western art comes up as an attempt to reach the perfect body form. The embodiment of perfect body forms does not only offer ideal definitions for male and female body but also invite a particular mode of viewing that condition the self-contained and relaxed viewer. In that respect figuration must be regarded as a discourse on subject rather than an aesthetic category merely concerned with the principles of taste. More than being just a judgment on what is beautiful, figuration is indeed a process of framing that aims to make safe the permeable boundary between the inside and outside of the body, between the inner self and outside world, a representational strategy that participates in the construction of subjectivity.
- Human figure have been through a great deal of reform. It interesting how the depiction of human figure took on a different point of representation, interweave with various subjectivity of history and knowledge. Any mythological and historical account predominatly positioned human figure as the central of its narrative. For example, the Greek god resembled in human form and showed on human feelings. The Greek gods were created by man to explain the world around them, act as a means of exploration, provide legitimacy and authority to ancient Greek aristocracy, and provide entertainment for the masses. This could be the case of our modern mythology, based from our convoluted experience produced by the visuality of our environment. Roland Barthes stated mythologies is the system of language. He goes saying, ‘myth is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utters this message: there are formal limits to myth, there are no ‘substantial’ ones.’[i] In this course, the object are ‘decorated, adapted to a certain type of consumption, laden with literary self-indulgence, revolt, images, in short with a type of social usage which is added to pure matter.’[ii] As the result, the ‘object’ becomes adorned subject and recognized as an images of mystifying figures.
- It is common today’s live perpetuated by copious of images. They are central to how we represent, make meaning, and communicate around us. In many ways, our culture is an increasingly visual one. Even the bastion of the printed word, the newspaper, has turned to images and color images by the end of the twentieth century to draw in its readers and add to the meaning of its stories. Images is not merely illustrations, they carry important content. Often these images embody an object to represent the underlying idea or meaning. The relation of object and meaning known as a signs better illustrated in the field of semiotics.
In general, signs are structured from two basic sources – natural and cultural or convention. In natural, we’ve read images as text and managed to understand the natural meaning by discoveries. For example, we’ve learned the sunlight is hot comparing to moonlight. In contrast, culturally produced signs depend on culture, thus constructed on convention. Cultural signs are invented to communicate with each other in complex ways. For example, the color black means death in most Western culture, opposite to most Eastern culture, white is the symbol of death. Semiotic research navigate through a structure of language and association of meaning in communication.
- The way we communicate transform simultaneously parallel to the technological innovation. Images we’ve seen is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced, detached from the place and time in which it first made its appearance.[iii] In present, excessive access to visual information inadvertently influence the production of works of art. Also, presumably change the way we see and experience the artworks. This makes the dynamic relation of seeing and recognition developed into the systems in which our past experience and knowledge change the way we see things. The images we’ve experienced not only carry the information of the subject it depicts, but layered by its history, culture, politic and economic measures beyond the proximity of our worlds.
[i] Barthes, R., Mythologies, trans. Lavers, A., (New York: The Noonday Press, 1972), 107.
[ii] Ibid, 107.
[iii] Berger, J., Way of Seeing, (London: Penguin, 1976), 9.
By Azzad Diah Ahmad Zabidi
Click to view Artist Profile
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