Liu Hong - Anatomy of grace

This paper aims to demonstrate how the artist introduces a complex betweenness of lines and forms. The following interrelation of forms presents elementary forms nested within an existing geometry, remindful of combinatorial geometry.
The observed combination yields an arresting structure of space (deployment) which is intriguing.

Its monastic tone mirrors a mental space related to an invisible action (time occurence undefined) and is built by the sharp usage of elementary geometry conveying a conspicuous result through its disciplined formulation. The wholeness and harmony of the anatomy of the figure disclaims the usage of geometrical deconstruction dear to Cubism. The artist does not deconstruct but reunites the figure and builds a focused set of lines and forms that join and meet.

Our condensed argumentation will deal with visual observation only, to outline the parametrization of various planes being inserted in one another. Indeed, such planes show strategic meeting sections or points enhancing dualistic and rich interplay of voids against organic matter. We could have started our demonstration by studying the core geometry of the figure which consists as we present below, of closed related triangles. Conversely, we chose to grasp first the translation of the peripheral space and then proceed inwards. Our few diagrams illustrate only the main geometric manifestations observed.

The anatomy of space introduces the artist’s conceptual construction made of close (referring here to distance relation) intersecting geometrical planes with verticals and horizontals mainly setting the frame where the action is taking place involving a single human figure ushered in a rectangular shape that is elevated on a vertical plane, itself part of a global space divided in four cubic areas. The four areas leave the main part to the left cubic end, in strong contrast with the small upper right portion of shoulder where fair matter rests on dark matter.

Two main diagonals (mutual intersection in one point) indicate the focus of the composition and the figure itself, being the junction between the boundary of the head and the knee. The left diagonal meets with the diagonal of the head and then intersects with the right diagonal. Head and knee are joined, and the diagonals epitomize (spatial relation) the theme of meditation. Hence the buried face, and the two diagonals, declaring reciprocal relationship and dependance. The uneven horizontal line of the background offers stability to the verticals of the body (legs, hair, her right arm) and the inner diagonals of the body (described further on) corroborate the purpose of the figure,which is to depict meditation or a subject involved in the meditation process or both. Indeed, is the subject depicted involved in the act of meditating or is the depiction meditation itself ? The ambiguity remains still despite the title « Meditation » given by the artist himself. The only evidence is that the observer is allowed no interference.

Three, out of four allocated spatial pyramidal shapes (the base is open) of the overall anatomical construction of the human figure are detected. We have numbered them from one to four, for the sake of our demonstration. We notice, the first pyramidal shape (number one) presenting head and shoulders with its counterpart shape (number two) which presents hair, arms, legs and hands.The left (number three) pyramidal shape presents one arm, a shoulder and hair only; Its counterpart right shape (number four), presents sheer nudity with one arm and one knee. The hair is the common denominator of three shapes out of four, while the fourth one (number four) is the sole space where nudity does not involve the fair ground but is in contact with the dark background only, whereas, the third pyramidal shape (number three), presents nudity almost covered by the hair.

The second pyramidal shape (number two) presents nudity prevailing while, the first shape (number one), gives prevalence to the hair.

Oriented closed triangles of variable shape and angles, introduce an intimate betweenness relation with parallel slopes. The triangles are joined but distinct, although they do not intersect, showing a common meeting point (edge).

The three meeting edges of the triangles coincide precisely with the elbow of the seated figure.

The elbow projects a powerful force of attraction but of varying intensity than the omnipresent hair; Indeed, the hair exerts a visible attraction before the observer’s eye actually dissects the geometry, whilst the elbow exerts its attraction by being a recursive junction when deciphering the geometrical pattern. The elbow is circular and can be interpretated as a point. The distance between the point and other responsive points in the anatomy is worth considering : Its nearest counterpart is where the hair starts, prelude to the next junction point which seats on top of the head. The meeting fingers draw on the ground another point. Drawing lines between two of these points (top of the head, elbow and fingers junction) yields a triangle again.The hair makes the liaison between two triangles and the fair skin is the common denominator. The three triangles contain hollow spaces (shaded) such as the hollow space between the legs in one triangle, the hollow space between the ankles in another triangle, and the two hollow spaces (chest and shoulder).

A rectangular overall meta space, itself being a subspace of a vacuous space does contain the seated figure dwelling in the three combined triangles.

Inner running diagonals meeting one another within the figure, achieve to convey density to the figure that appears three dimensional, disputing our primary assumption that it simply sits against the dark background.The artist circumvents the use of torsion (common in sculpture and related preparatory drawings) in order to convey a third dimension to the human body. The overall impression is not sculptural but more of a flowing body made of small proportions.

Our perception is monitored within in a restrictive space which is itself part of a wider space, with a differing vacuity between the fair ground and the dark background. A given vacuity contains another vacuity which presents an organic form. Both vacuities depend on one another (the dark background prevailing on its counterpart) with the human figure building a bridge between background and ground. Furthermore, the feet positioned outside the shade of the figure, introduce another plane.

The elected geometry introduces a duality between the flowing wholeness of the anatomy and the vacuity of the spatial setting, with a main attraction being the off centered spherical head of the single protagonist. The folding of her body illustrates the philosophical belief that a whole contains and is enfolded in all, interacting with each living particle being enfolded in the infinite and boundless whole. The nude differs here from classic academic nudes, advocating a conceptual depiction of a body differing from the conventions of anatomical construction. The purpose is to structure a spatial figure rooted on the ground, showing a partial anatomy only discernible with a front view.

The figure itself is not geometrical but is contained in responsive geometric forms allowing a reading continuity. Further, the artist does not insist on rendering depth but on the displacement of the single figure positioned on a linear space with no vanishing point.

Indeed, the prior mentioned two diagonals intersected at a finite point lacking implied perspective. They fail to introduce a three-dimensional figure but carry their own weight, as they meet where the hair comes in contact with the knee. Precisely, the mechanism of the composition is based on the robustness of such contact which acts as the main arcane allowing the other parts of the body to find their spatial position. Hence, the artist balances the composition with correlative (connected) spaces either complementing or contrasting the previous portion of image or both thus, introducing harmony as well as a subtle motion.

The observation reveals the cultural choice of the artist to set an off centered figure folded on herself in the distribution of space. In fact, the artist redefines the center of the composition, by precisely displacing the figure. The artist performs the optical illusion that the figure is the center of the composition. The figure is indeed, the focus of interest (every plane brings the observer’s attention back to her) but, she is not positioned in the center, nor does she need to be. Indeed, to position her in the center would not make her more impactful.

The observer is facing her, in the standing position while she is seated. However, that does not grant any prevalence to the observer and the lack of motion is a deceiving perception, due to the observer’s fixed position being locked up within the figure by short diagonals.

At first glance, the eye takes in the hair (verticality) the bent arm (short diagonals) and the feet not in line with one another, therefore introducing depth here. The hair parted in the middle introduces a diagonal which claims its counterpart with the boundary diagonal of the hair and the hidden diagonal of the knee. The bent arm resting on the vertical leg and crossing the other leg, introduces intersecting planes with two meeting points : the knees touched by the hair (one knee is covered) and the hand touching the hair on the left ankle. The hair is the key junction between both hands and both knees and is multi-functional.

The elaborate construction is composed of pyramidal shapes erected by the main two diagonals diagnosed before, and the further closed triangles acting as repository of shapes. The intervention of inner diagonals is balanced with the interplay of shades and light (shadow versus non shadow regions). Such intricacy carries the obvious purpose to drag the observer up in verticality, both in a physical and spiritual sense.

Further, the meeting of horizontal and vertical lines enhances a discrepancy between roughly over 60% of the figure placed on the left, leaving a minority share to sheer nudity. That leads us to the following interrogation :

Besides the plausible spiritual interpretation which is not disputed here, is the choice purely arbitrary or does it state a proof of the robust mechanism in spatial configuration? What does it reveal about the connectivity of the differing parts such as the above mentioned three closed triangles ? What incidence does it carry on the legibility ?

Consider the allocation variance not as a discrepancy but as a very interesting device orienting the figure in four directions with one of the directions obviously prevailing on the other three.The eye adjusts itself and recomposes the center of the composition. The adjustment is crucial to understand the relevance of space perception and legibility. As to the legibility it is not lessened and the composition conveys skillful refinement with a graceful and delicate poise. Indeed, the enigmatic setting presents a lonely female nude on a bare fair ground seated against a brutal background (prominent visibility) that draws a free space contradicting the space occupancy of the figure. Her hidden face is buried in her knees and her main striking feature resides in the thick and heavy hair, set loose between her right leg and arm. The looseness of the hair counters the overall folded form, who dwells in a narrow space. Her body although naked, is both an open and closed shell that discloses nothing of her intimacy, except for the opulence of her hair.

Gentle strokes of light brush the top of her head making the head an eye magnet. The figure exists by her hair, providing warmth and a sense of humanity, hence, the importance granted to it.The hair speaks for her humanity and is the lead of an elaborate inner geometric construction. The figure is beyond physical reach in a volitional surrender that is propitious to deep meditation. The deprivation of a human face creates a distance between the observer and the figure.

The observer does not fit in, but her posture is an invite to an inaudible contemplation.

Delicateness confronts the rawness of the dark matter backing the anonymous form in a spatial vicinity, deprived of permeability between the background and the figure. The female figure is not sitting in a state of of indeterminacy. The figure Is, (perception of a being) but expresses neither tactile nor sensual touch despite the careful body depiction and the elaborate interplay of light and shade. Delicacy and nakedness do not imply frailness of any kind and the uneven shade of her body on the fair ground, confirms that she is not a virtual perception.

A closer observation enables to understand how the reading is conceived in a kinetic motion.

The artist monitors the reading in an ongoing loop heading up and down the body; more so, the reading goes left to right and vice versa. The observer is given the alternative between convergent paths meant to prevent the gaze to be diverted. Further, the gaze may simply choose the hair to lead the reading. However, the observer can speed up the reading or slow it down when the gaze meets a strategic point such as for instance, the elbow, the knee, the feet. Each of these points ignite a new pathway.

The reading circuit enables a spiral grasp of the form :

The left part of the body is shut mainly by the hair, versus the right open part reunited by the head and the bent arm making the junction as well as three (strategic orientation) shaded voids of varied visual impact: the vertical void between her legs stressing the verticality is interrupted by the diagonal of the head on her left knee. The diagonal drives the eye to the second shaded void between her head and her arm and then, to the third shaded void, smaller in size, nested on her left shoulder.

The two voids (shaded) one on top of the other, provide an entry to the observer to step in and then, to slide down the body to meet both the fingers of the hands and the feet themselves, which are not standing on the same line.

Then, either the eye goes back up sliding along the leg and the arm, or it heads up guided by the verticality of the hair, to end up on the head which shape is close to a perfect circle.

The right open part invites in the observer to rest on top of the spiraling motion of the shoulders and the strands of brown hair. In fact, the spiral starts with her left hand, up with the bent arm reaching the first shoulder then, captures the gentle motion of the hair.

The proportions are harmonious in spite of the unusual importance granted to the hair (climax of the painting). Further, the figure is leaning on her right side, which explains the reason why her left foot is slightly curled up, preventing the body to be off ground. The figure seems motionless yet, the shade around her differs from one side to the other, indicative that either the source of light is moving, or the body is, or that simply light follows the motion of the body, however slight.

The bluish tone under the delicate pink of the elbow speak for the extreme care to introduce and modulate soft tones : a touch of pink placed at the edge of the hair softly brushes the knee. A warm yellow tone divides her left leg in two areas. The harmonic combinations of warm and cold colors reveal a smooth handling of the brush fond of glazes, and a palette of roses, blues and yellows that bows to the rule of appearance in painting presenting warm colors first and cold colors behind.
The smooth modeling introduces gradual tones of color and is enhanced by the recursive use of light and shade drawing a distinctive boundary between the left part of her body (with the lustrous hair) contrasting with the right part of her body with her bent arm set with an assertive diagonal.

The source of light comes from above and points directly on the shoulders.

The source (artificial spotlight) is invisible confirming that the figure is not enlightened from inside but from outside. The examination reveals that the contrast between light and shade is particularly tuned (thin layers of varying degrees of tone) as it is made of responsive shades between the body, the dark background and the fair ground. The gradual shade(s)s on the arm, the thigh for instance, together with the ground reflecting shade on the same anatomical parts.

The bent arm both creates a dynamic and receives the shade projected by the fair ground.

The enlightened ground breaks its neutrality, to interact with the figure by projecting shade(s) on the entire body which nurtures the illusion (projection of the mind on the seated nude) that the observer is rotating around the figure who becomes the central axis of perception, although it is off centered.

The choice of the ground color becomes relevant as it matches the body color of the figure and creates utmost responsiveness in spite of the aloofness of the seated figure who remains anonymous.The anatomy of grace is responsive and relies precisely on the deliberate and meaningful aloofness.

Further, the anatomy of grace relies on the expression of geometric relation between enfoldment and infinity that contains invisible folds hence, projecting a field of evolutive geometry.

By Sylvie Samani