Figures and Bodies
An overarching idea explored throughout Chapter 7 that was most intriguing was the difference between the body and the figure. Throughout the history of painting, figure painting either involved a ‘faceless’ figure represented for its pureness of form or portrait painting, which still involved depicting the human form in its visual perfection. Paintings of the figure are about capturing the ideal form. “The body is how we experience our own physical condition…figures do not sweat or fart bodies do.” Showing the human body for its physical and psychological imperfections is a widely explored subject of contemporary figure painters like Jenny Saville. Concern shifts from ideal perfection to literal representation of identity in Saville’s work; there is a revealing of flaw that creates a deeper sense of the physical existence and experience of the body.
A representation of a person, no matter how the image is handled, is never the real thing. It’s strange how a painting “both can and cannot be equivalent to the person it depicts.” That considered, a painting is different then a photograph in its innate ability to seemingly capture a feeling, rather then a singular stagnant moment. There is something human about a paintings surface; it is a document of experience regardless of the subject matter. Artist Marlene Dumas said “Painting is about the trace of a human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard. The content of a painting cannot be separated from the feel of its surface.”
All content sighted is derived from Painting Today by Tony Godfrey, PHAIDON