Homage to Giacometti 2. Line Drawing Portraits

Homage to Giacometti  Part 2
Line Drawing Portraits 
Photographs Inspired by or Related to the Paintings,  
Drawings & Sculptures of Alberto Giacometti

1.  Introduction : "Portraits" Heads Faces
2.  Line-Drawing Photograph Portraits
3.  Figures & Triadic Visual Poems 
4.  Landscapes, Still Lifes, Place and Presence
5.  Regarding Giacometti's Fear of Death  
6.  Vision, Re-vision and "Recurrence of Creation"
7.  New Work, Commentaries, Epilogue

Introduction : Re-vision  
The images presented here, blurred photograph-portraits with line-drawings appearing as if over the surface of the image, are yet another example of how I re-use or re-vise (re-vision) photographs over and over again within my creative process.  I like to see how an image is changed visually or affected in meaning when submitted to different manipulations and placed in varying conceptual contexts.  In this regards, there is I believe a parallel here to Giacometti's creative process, especially his painting.   He would work, re-work, destroy and re-create over and over again the same painting . . . sometimes within one sitting, and oftentimes during multiple sittings with the same model and working on the same canvas.  What we get in his paintings is the "residue" of a creative process that is always ongoing and changing from moment to moment, from one glance of the model to the next.  The canvas is a visible document or record of Giacometti's process of perception and his desperate attempt to paint what he sees, which is in his words is impossible because what he is seeing and how he is seeing is always changing.

  Fig. 1  Giacometti  1954  Annette  (Detail)  Oil
(Click on the images to enlarge)

I will try to describe the relationships I see between my Line Drawing Photograph Portraits and selected works of Giacometti.   For example, in the detailed view (above,  Fig. 1) of Giacometti's 1954 painting of his wife Annette, there are multi-dimensional layered spaces in this web-like complex of lines which render Annette's face.  Some lines come to the surface of the painting, some recede to the background, while other lines contribute to the overall visual gestalt and atmosphere of the image, and then others caress and define particular features of Annette's face.  It seems appropriate to repeat here a passage from the first Introductory chapter to my Homage to Giacometti projectpassages by Yves Bonnefoy taken from his excellent book Giacometti.  

Bonnefoy writes about Being in relation to Giacometti's work, and particularly in terms of the continuous movement of lines that build up the layerings of space in the drawings and paintings, ". . . sometimes cross-hatchings, sometimes concentric circles, sometimes rays spreading in all directions . . ."  All these lines, says Bonnefoy, makes the impression, and increasingly suggests, a "transparency of space in the object and its relation to the space surrounding and behind it."  And in this space, he says, there occurs a transcendence,  ". . . a Unity, asserted amid a multiplicity surrounding it on all sides on the sheet of paper, the canvas or in the lump of clay or plaster."  

Bonnefoy concludes: "And therein, thereby, space is transcended at the heart of the very object Giacometti encounters in it.  To see, actually and really to see a part of this object [in this case, Annett's face, Fig. 1] would mean being released from space; and, obviously, it would be helpful for a further grasp of the being which is out there, beyond space like all existence."


In my Line Drawing Photograph Portraits there is the issue of a spatial inter-face between the sharp, hard-edged lines which most often appear to be on the surface of the image, and the blurred portrait image which seems to exist behind the plane upon which the lines exist.  The lines are often in visual sympathy with the forms and gestural movements of the figure within the portrait image, and yet the illusion of spatial depth created by the inclusion of the lines on the image surface creates an emotional distance in some of the images as well.

The digitally drawn lines on the surface of the image have their own separate visual presence; they create and occupy their own visual world, their own space.  The lines also have their own sense of time; perhaps something close to stasis, or a timeless quality relative to the more familiar world from which the photographic portrait originates--a world with its own presence and sense of "real" gestural time.  However, because the image is out of focus, the presence of time is often associated with remembrance, of a moment in the nostalgic past, perhaps, rather than time in the immediate present.

Each image presents a silent dialogue between these varying worlds of sharp digital lines and soft nostalgic memories.  This dynamic invites us to enter into the conversation through an Imaginal space which Henry Corbin termed an Interworld, that is to say, an Intermediary Imaginal World, a space of ineffable mystery which exists between any two mirroring--corresponding worlds: inner and outer, physical and spiritual.  The Interworld is the place were the physical becomes spiritualized and the spiritual takes on physical-visible form.   

Though the lines in my photographs echo and interact in sympathy with the forms in the portrait image, they remain in their own world, distant from the out-of-focus world of the portrait.  The lines seem to signify a release or expression of energy; they may signify in their own cryptic way a new form of consciousness or thought which is trying at once to acknowledge, be sympathetic to, and converse with the world of the portrait.  There is a tension in this desire to be seen and "heard," and the viewer is invited to engaged with and embrace both these worlds.


Though lines have played a dominate role in other earlier projects, such as the Negative Print Series of 1978-80, and the The Lake Series of 1981-82, the lines drawn into (or onto) the portrait images represent an an unexpected shift in my creative process when they occurred in 2003-07 for the multi-chaptered project entitled Triadic Memories, subtitled The Repetition Series Photographs.  The large project consists of the following collection of smaller, related projects or chapters:  

Lines first manifested spontaneously in some of the Repetition Triads, Continuums & Vertical Thoughts; then they grew in presence, and with more self-awareness, in the Chromatic Fields.  I then decided to more consciously work with recurring lines in the Gridline Photographs.  This familiarity with line in my imagery gave me the incentive to experiment with added lines to some of my digital Thing Centered Photographs (2003-07)  See for example the "Fulcrum with lines" photograph).

It eventually became quite apparent to me that the concept of Triadic Memories must somehow engage the triangular form, and thus I made the Triangulated Photographs using the Chromatic Fields as the image ground upon which I defined a triangulated picture space with a Photoshop selection tool and then inversed the tonalities within the selected triangular area.  

I extended the triangulated imagery by adding the Circle form not only to the Chromatic Field images, but also I added circles to some of the images I had Triangulated as well.  The  Circled Photographs represented for me the over-riding unity that I believe exists within the collection of different but related Triadic Memories projects.  This overall sense of unity is quite literally asserted through the exploration of image repetition and re-visioning many of the same images within the different project parts.  The growing vocabulary of transformational approaches used in the Triadic Memories, including of course the "Triangulated" and "Circled" projects, then were adapted for use with the Photograph Portraits that became part of the 2007 project entitled The Departing Landscape. 

Fig. 2  Line Drawing Photograph Portrait  

The portrait images were but one part of another large collection of projects that formed the Departing Landscape project as a whole (2007-12).  The Departing Landscape was the third of a triad of projects inspired by my fascination with the music and writings of American composer Morton Feldman.  The earliest Feldman inspired project was the Garage Series of 1999-2000; then came Triadic Memories (2003-07), and finally The Departing Landscape.  These three projects are intimately connected in multiple ways conceptually and visually, but also my the simple fact that they were created in Homage to, in response to . . . Morton Feldman as a thinker and composer, and then of course the music he created.  I have made several other Homage projects for artists: jazz writers and performes Steve Lacy and Thelonious Monk, and painters Charles BurchfieldPaul Klee and Giorgio Morandi.    

Giacometti's Influence on the Line-Drawing Photographs
Some things simply cannot be explained when it comes to the origin of new work; the creative process, at its best--in my opinion--transcends intellectual-verbal analysis.  My Creative Process is quite mysterious, at least for me; truly speaking it functions autonomously; it goes where It wants to go--I simply try to stay out of the way so that it can do what's most necessary.  

I have in varying ways been influenced by Giacometti and his work; however I have also discovered relationships between myself and Giacometti, and between his work and mine, that were self-evident and yet pre-existent to the self-conscious act of my responding to his work.  Indeed I have written earlier that I feel kindred in spirit to Giacometti; that at times it has seemed to me as if we have shared the same Self in some strange way.  (If you were to take the yogic view of life, and creation-- which I have written about at great length in many of my photography project--this idea would not seem so strange.)     


Fig. 3  Giacometti  Oil Painting  1960
Tall Nude Standing (59x10")

I will now point to certain relationships I see existing between my Line Drawing Photograph Portraits and carefully selected examples of Giacometti's work.  Again, though I could say I have been "influenced" by his work at various times with my creative process, I would assert that I think the inspiration goes very deep.  When one makes art out of necessity, out of the soul's yearning to return to its source, intelligence and logic can only go so far to explain things, for there is an underlying current of creative energy that all artists tap into, I believe.  (See my many Sacred Art Photography Projects.)

There are some interesting uses of line in Giacometti's earlier sculptures.  He etched lines on the flat stone surfaces of the early faces and heads.  (See Figs. 4 & 5 below.)  He also introduced lines into his surreal pieces by suspending forms from string, or creating tension in his pieces by the use of string (and wire) pulled taught, as in Fig. 6.  And in later works he literally drew with pencil and paint directly upon his plaster and clay sculptures.  (Fig. 7)  I have written quite extensively here, above, and in the first part of my Homage to Giacometti about his use of line in the paintings.  

I have also included in this collection of images, for obvious reasons, if compared to my Line-Drawing Photograph Portrait (Fig. 2)a detail of the 1960 oil painting Tall Nude Standing (Fig. 3), which includes multiple circles and triangles within the torso area.        

Please note, you can click on the images to enlarge them.  

  Fig. 4  Giacometti  1927  Artist's Father

Fig. 5  Giacometti  1927  Artist's Father  Flat, engraved 

Fig. 6  Giacometti  1933  Flower in Danger  Wood, string, plaster 

Fig. 7   Giacometti  1938-9 Head of Isabel    Plaster, Pencil 

______________  *  ______________

  Fig. 8   Giacometti  1950   The Chariot   Bronze
(Click on the images to enlarge)

The Chariot
One of the most mysterious of Giacometti's later sculptures, for me, is the piece he entitled The Chariot (1950).   It is not self-consciously surreal like many of his earlier works; indeed The Chariot was based on an actual visionary experience Giacometti encountered in a hospital in 1938 when his foot was run over by a car.  Giacometti said he contemplated that experience continually for nearly twelve years, trying to find a way to create a work based on that visionary experience in the hospital and the car accident that occurred late at night in Paris when a car driven by a mysterious woman, ran over the street curb, onto the sidewalk, and over his foot.  After Giacometti's foot healed as completely as possible, it continued to give him a slight limp, which would always function as a reminder to him of that very strange, seemingly destined and personally meaningful experience which had initiated for him a badly sought for transformation of his creative process.  (Read James Lord's biography Giacometti for the most in-depth and insightful exploration of this event in Giacometti's life.) 

It is impossible to really know how The Chariot (or should I say the photograph of the sculptural piece, Fig. 8 above) seems to me to be so connected to my Line Drawing Portraits.  I can say that I have often thought of the skinny figures Giacometti made of plaster and clay as line-drawings in real space.  Seen in a certain way, the figures appear as if drawings on real space.  And then, of course the wheels between which the skinny female figure stands in the sculpture relates to my Circled Photographs and the circles in my Line Drawing Photograph Portraits.  

But perhaps most importantly is a certain condition of space I experience in this sculpture.  It's as if the figure is far away, perhaps a distant memory; and yet, psychically the figure--thin, elongated, female--is at the same time psychically close, "larger than life" internally, imaginatively.  That is to say, the figure has a dynamic presence that comes forward, toward me; indeed she seems at times very close to me.  It is the presence is an extraordinary being, perhaps an ancient, mythic goddess . . . who, in her Imaginal world perhaps is parading ceremoniously in circles around the sun before those who worship Her. 

The wheels, the rod that holds them together, and the plinth upon which the 'goddess' stands--regally elevated upon two additional risers--manifests an inexplicable vast imaginal space.  I must say it again: this space is such that the figure is simultaneously distant and too intensely close.  It's a good example of how the presence of the human head or figure, both in Giacometti's three dimensional works and in the Line Drawing Photograph Portraits, functions for me as if a catalyst of memory . . . that psychologically haunts the space behind the line configurations--configurations which seem to appear to have been drawn on the "surface" of the "real world" and the surface photograph behind which the figure is present as an out-of-focus image. 

Cirlot writes in his wonderful book Dictionary of Symbols:  "One of the basic analogies in the universal tradition of symbolism is that of the chariot in relation to the human being.  The charioteer represents the Self of Jungian psychology; the chariot, the human body and also thought in its transitory aspects relative to things terrestrial . . . "

Conclusion & Prelude
I will conclude this introductory text with a quote from James Lord's book Giacometti, A Biography.  I also consider the quote as an appropriate prelude to the Line-Drawing Portrait Photographs

Alberto had created and cultivated [through his creative process] . . . a relation with reality that was not only external and physical but also, and primarily, inward and psychic.  He had developed a capacity for abstraction, a disposition to establish between himself and the objects of his perception a psychic as well as a physical distance.  This leads to the propensity for creating symbols which activates the imagination by providing for a relationship with reality which does not depend principally upon reality itself.   James Lord, Giacometti, A Biography  

The Line-Drawing 
Photograph Portraits

 Image 1   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Head-Line, Sun-Line"

 Image 2   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Face of Light & intersecting line"

 Image 3   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    

 Image 4   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Vertically Circled Face"

 Image 5   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Tilted Head inside an expanding Line-tunnel"

 Image 6  Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Black Shadowed Face with intersecting lines"

 Image 7   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Face with triangular line-shapes"

 Image 8   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Face with Triangle inside of Circle . . . "

 Image 9   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Face with circles and two triangles"

 Image 10   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    

 Image 11   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    

 Image 12   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Head thinking in lines"

 Image 13   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    "Woman with Hand to Face & lines"

 Image 14   Line-Drawings Photograph Portraits    Face Circled, Inversed

"Symbol & Likeness"

In both of the quotes I used above as both a conclusion to the Introduction and a prelude to the photographs, I invoked the idea of the symbol.  Cirlot relates Giacometti's Chariot to what Carl Jung termed the Self; James Lord wrote that Giacometti had a propensity for creating symbols which activates the imagination, "providing for a relationship with reality which does not depend principally upon reality itself."  

The symbol is, for me, the most important concept that belies my creative process.  For one, I like Jung's definition of a symbol: "the best possible expression of that which is presently unknown."  Henry Corbin took up Jung's idea of the symbol and extended it in his research and publications on the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi and Islamic Sacred Art.  I have written quite consistently about the symbol and its relation to my creative process; I invite you to read my collection of texts which reflect my perspective on the Symbol.  Click on the following link to my blog: Symbol and The Symbolic Photograph. 

Giacometti was always striving for what he termed "likeness" and not surprisingly this concept did not relate directly to appearance, but rather to what he called Truth.  James Lord quotes Giacometti as having once said: "The truer a work of art is, the more it has a style.  Which is strange because style is not the truth of appearances, and yet the heads which I find most like those of the people one sees in the street are the least realistic heads, the heads of Egyptian, Chinese, or archaic Greek sculpture.  For me, the greatest inventiveness leads to the greatest likeness."  

I find this statement by Giacometti once again very much akin to my own way of thinking.  Indeed, Giacometti's art works are anything put representational; rather, they are symbols striving to give visual form to the invisible, the Truth of Reality, of Being.  I tend to make photographs that approach abstraction; they often hold in a delicate, tentative balance a relationship between direct "photographic" rendering of the appearances of the outer world, and just the right amount of what Giacometti calls "style" and which for me means graphic transformation, visual experimentation.  

My intention is always to make photographs which functions as symbols, images which open the doors of the mind and of the heart ; images which permit entrance into the Imaginal World that exists  between psyche and the physical, the world of symbols.  

Symbols unite the corresponding counterparts from the two worlds, inner and outer, heaven and earth, yin and yang.  And in the union of those counterparts the light of grace, the light of Truth, the light of the Self leads us into theUnitary Reality that Jung and saints like Ibn 'Arabi termed the Self.  


I invite you to continue on to the third part of my Homage to Giacometti project.  Click on the highlighted titles in the list of Homage to Giacometti projects below.  Part 3 is entitled Figures & Triadic Visual Poems.

This project was posted on my Welcome Page
August 4, 2017

Homage to Giacometti Projects List

1.  Introduction : "Portraits" Heads Faces
2.  Line-Drawing Photograph Portraits
3.  Figures & Triadic Visual Poems 
4.  Landscapes, Still Lifes, Place and Presence
5.  Regarding Giacometti's Fear of Death  
6.  Vision, Re-vision and "Recurrence of Creation"
7.  New Work, Commentaries, Epilogue

Welcome Page for this website TheDepartingLandscape.blogspot.com which includes the complete listing of my online photography projects, my resume, contact information, and much more.