Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ballpoint pen drawings of a lily - renderings for an artists book.

This blog post consists of more ballpoint pen drawings for my new work, an artists book, as mentioned in previous entries. The drawings are of flora selected for their close associations with the character in the book I am referencing.  I refer to Des Esseintes, the hero in the Huysmans’ novel Against Nature (A Rebours), in particular his expressed preference for the artificial as appose to the natural. 

His choices affirmed a decadent approach with regard to purchases – leaning towards all things artificial, his choice of pants included Caladiums and the Cypripedium (to mention only two varieties) - not featuring on his list was the extraordinary variety of corpse flowers (image on the left and below). The colours of which formed the inspiration for my drawing (above) featured here step by step. 

By way of introduction I chose to render the Lily, as they are sculptural and lends it self to be easily altered and modeled.  Through shading (cross hatching) one is able to alter the leaves to imitate a variety of textures and surfaces, whilst retaining its inherent attributes. 

I also explored a variety of colour options – testing a range of ballpoint pen brands to achieve the desired effect. This is a step by step account of the drawing process, the different pens and available colours. I tried to embrace the hero’s fixation with flora that imitates the look and feel of the artificial (fake), as mentioned below and contextualized by McGuiness in his introduction to the translation of Huysmans’s novel by Robert Baldick.

‘Nature…. has had her day, he muses, seeking the copy or the mechanically produced, not as a substitute for the natural but in preference to it.  His is an artificial world; abstracted and decontextualized, full of gadgets and refined objects, custom-built and chemical (McGuiness xxxi; 1956).

Des Esseintes had a passion for flowers, the author dedicating an entire chapter to define the hero’s obsession with absurd looking varieties – ‘choosing real flowers that seem to imitate artificial ones, thereby reversing the relationship between natural and artificial, copy and original’. 

McGuiness in his introduction refers to the influence of Baudelaire (his art writings) – ‘nature was what pushed human beings to kill and brutalize each other; the authority and civilization that maintained humane values were themselves artificial: laws, religions, moral codes’.

They both supported the notion that Art should not merely imitate; endorsing art’s liberation from a slave to nature. The hero admired the work of Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) – ‘the luxury of his conceptions and the methodological dimensions of his paintings, and for his removal from the ‘hateful period’ in which he lived (he belonged nowhere). The ‘bad dreams and fevered visions’ reflected in the mysterious paintings of Odilon Redon (1840-1916) also found favour with Des Esseintes’ artistic tastes. Reference is also made to the work of El Greco and the Dutch engraver, Jan Luyken – specific reference is made to his renderings of suffering and anguish.

I am particularly interested in the way the renderings are digitally altered (scanned images) into creating wallpaper like patterns –  working from a photograph, the ballpoint pen renderings of flowers and or plants are transformed into patterns that taken on a life and meaning of their own.  Abstracted they transcend their lifelike counterparts; metaphysical renditions of thwarted dreams of isolation, power and discovery. 

On completing his purchase of flora the hero had this to say about his collection of plants. These plants are really astounding, ‘he said to himself, stepping back to appraise the entire collection. Yes, his object had been achieved: not one of them looked real; it was as if cloth, paper, porcelain and metal had been lent by man to Nature to enable her to create these monstrosities. Where she had not found it possible to imitate the work of human hands, she had been reduced to copying the membranes of animals’ organs to borrowing the vivid tints of their rotting flesh, the hideous splendours of their gangrened skin’ (Baldick, 2003; 87).

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