20 March, 2007

Intuition and Gesture

Yellow Gesture
18" x 11"
Original Pastel
Casey Klahn

The gesture embodies the intuitive approach to art. Sure, color choice looms large. Linear composition, also big.

And I am holding drawing up as the most fundamental pursuit within the big tent that is fine art. No offense, ceramic and glass. No offense print media, and photography. But drawing is the alpha (if not the omega) of artistic expression.

So, consider the gesture. Robert Henri denigrated the gesture in his seminal book: The Art Spirit. His opinion was that the gesture cannot stand without some purpose, or composition to be a part of. However, taken as an element of expression, what else goes so close to the bone of the artist's intention as the curling, bold, climactic gesture?

In keeping with my pastel feature this month, I offer the gesture as a pigmented mark pregnant with feeling. Grab a pastel; scumble it on it's side to tone your paper. Don't think about the next color. Grab the pastel stick and make a gesture with your whole arm - No! Your whole body! How does that look to you? Can it be improved upon? Should you add some definition to it? Or should you just discard it? Another color, perhaps.

Have a seat, now, square in front of you easel, and ruminate. That's it! Get up, choose another pastel stick and gesture along the paper. Now that precious mark has been covered; changed forever.

How does the drawing look, now? Was your intuitive choice of color agony, or ecstasy?


tlwest said...

haha! It looks fun- I have done this but -- but my end result ususally lacks any redeeming qualities

Mary Richmond said...

it's always fun to play--and having just come back from a week in NYC where I saw a whole exhibit based on mark making with bodily functions and various body parts to smear and move them....I think sometimes our gestures are best kept to ourselves ;-)
Seriously, I love doing gestural art and looking at it--it seems very alive and visceral to me. and I think gesture without intent becomes a tricky thing for some artists. it lacks content, both visually and ideologically (sp?)Now the question becomes...does it need either to be art??

Casey Klahn said...

Yick. Sounds like an awful exhibit to me, Mary. I guess if it has patronage...
As to actual gesture art (ahem), I think emotive content is important. In abstract gesture, I feel that a lack of intent helps with more intuitive marks. I don't agree with saying, "that (abstract) reminds me of [fill in the blank]".

Mary Richmond said...

intent can be intuitive or even just to be intuitive, don't you think? i don't think we have to know "what" we're doing when we touch the paper or cavas but usually we have an intent around color, mood, communication or emotion. i have students sometimes who seem to think mindless scribble will produce thoughtful or thought provoking work. often it just produces mindless scribble....and they are very frustrated by their own results. in my mind some intent or purpose goes a long way. most abstract artists, historical or modern, have a pretty serious construct around their work. it may appear random but is in fact based on many layers of thought and intention.

Tracy Helgeson said...

I love this piece, Casey. Great energy and color!

Casey Klahn said...

I don't disagree at all, Mary. I wonder, though, how to impart or teach intuitive approach by asking for intent?
I'm not saying you do that, I'm just putting myself in the teacher's role and wondering what I would do to impart "nothing" to the student.
I agree that the abstractionist, to be successful, comes to the easel with a body of knowledge at a subliminal level. And a long portfolio of content of some form or another. The great Abstract Expressionists were also great essayists.
But, you should see my children's art. The boy is long on intuition and has made very coherent scribbles that those art students would envy. The girl stays in the lines, and is long on intention. Someday I will post that art.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Tracy.
Makes me wish, in another life, that I could add abstraction to my portfolio. Ah, for a little "free time"...

Robyn Sinclair said...

I look at this one Casey and I hear the music.

Philip said...

The issue of gesture is something I am grappling with at present. I can do it on a thrwo away doodle but don't find it easy to include in a more serious painting. How about you?

Casey Klahn said...

You raise a common issue with me, too.
The thing with me and gesture is to execute it on the actual work. Once I do a very intuitive, and loose gesture on a small study - it is almost unrepeatable in a larger format.
If I do a study that is too good to throw out, I have to go to great lengths to blow it up. My tricks involve gridding, projecting, scanning and photoshopping bigger. Any idea that will keep the "mojo" that was in the little intuitive study!
My main method, though, is to do small color studies, and small value studies, but to execute right on the final paper.
The image on this post was done at DT's abstract workshop, and it was a very focused session. But, I can get these gestures I think based on lots and lots of abstract drawing.
Hope something makes sense, here! Thanks for the question.

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism