I was reading my 1929 copy of Clive Bell’s book Since Cézanne. Since it is in the public domain, I have an electronic copy too. However, I don’t think I would have stumbled upon a gem of a quote without thumbing through my print copy.
Art critics’ responsibilities
In the introductory essay, Bell, an English art critic, discusses another book that inspired him to study contemporary art (at that time). At the time of writing of the essay, he held the writer of that text in disdain for lack of scholarship and other complaints. “But whatever I may think of it now I shall not forget what I owe that book,” he continued. He explains his wish to be able to inspire others with his own aesthetic appreciation. I love the following quote from this same essay: “Everyone I know, must see with his own eyes and feel through his own nerves; none can lend another eyes or emotions: nevertheless, one can point and gesticulate and in doing so excite.” Bell is saying this as an art critic. From this quote, I imagine that he saw his job as finding a great work of art and creating excitement about it by whatever means possible including jumping up and down and pointing to it.
Since I have been discussion gestures in the past couple of posts, the word ‘gesticulate’ in the above quote drew my attention. In Bell’s case, his gestures were in service of attracting people to art that he deemed worthy. The artist has a responsibility to portray the truth as he or she sees it. It doesn’t matter if the style is realist, impressionist, abstract or abstract expressionist, the artist must get his point across, or at least be thought provoking. Gesticulations on the artists’ part are what he or she does with the canvas. They can actually be gestures, icons or any other kind of visual shorthand an artist develops.
Gestural icon/barrier study
Part of my efforts in the past few weeks have been to use hand gestures in my abstract expressionist studies. My library of relevant hand gestures comes from photographs I have taken of my older autistic brother over the years. I wish to use them to express some of my own feelings, ranging from those I felt years ago to those I currently experience.
The study below uses two hand gestures on the right-hand side of the picture. To me, the first of these hand positions represent the “autistic I” of my brother, who is not communicative; the other represents the cause of his internal stimulation.
On the left-hand side of the barrier, there is only one hand gesture. I mean that to be my hand saying something like, “What is this?”, “What’s going on here?” or “See what is going on for yourself.” The other iconography includes my own eyes looking toward the barrier and looking at the viewer; the blank ‘word balloon’ and others.