Monday, 26 July 2010

Tango Art

I have yet to see a representational tango drawing or painting that worked for me emotionally (though I do like some photographs, and I've seen some very well-drawn and amusing satirical cartoons; I thought they were good, just not really speaking to what I cared about).

I think that if I'm going to like a representational piece about dance, it has to be a good figure drawing. I'm not saying it has to be a conventional drawing, or a precise drawing, or an accurate drawing, or ploddingly representational to the exclusion of other meaning, but I do feel it should be a good figure drawing in the sense that the figure or figures should be believable in themselves and meaningfully placed in some analogue of space, and in some meaningful relation to each other. If you're going to draw a partner dance like tango, then I want you to be sharing or seeking some insight into what the relationship between the bodies when they dance actually is. If you don't know what you're looking at, then a person who does, is going to be able to tell that you don't, and is going to find the piece (well, is in my case at least) weak and inane and unsatisfying. I don't like fairies-in-air drawings.

Of course, nobody else will care. And why should they? This is personal; I daresay somebody's bought the piece that made me think this, in the RA Summer Exhibition.

I wouldn't have bought it. It struck me as an "oh look it must be magic" rather than "this is how it's magic" drawing; a communication of ignorance rather than insight, artistic or otherwise.

I'm not saying you have to do the dance yourself, I'm sure Degas didn't do ballet. But he understood and cared what the bodies were doing.

I know I have at least three professional or semi-professional artists among my regular or irregular readers, so feel free to discuss. Do you feel the same irritation, and if not, why not?


ghost said...

Not sure how I missed this the first time round. I think it's a similar problem to performance tango. To portray tango the way you want to requires the viewer to understand tango and is I think limited by their experience of the embrace. To people who haven't experienced a good embrace it tends to look rather dull. The obvious solution is to do what everyone does instead - then you don't need that experience.

The only way I've seen around this that I like is photographic close-ups, particularly focusing on the woman's face. Rebecca Portsmouth does this well, but I don't think she has any on her official site.

I get around it by simply portraying the woman in abstract, trying to express how she made me feel.

Elizabeth said...

I have worked on this a little in my printmaking (silkscreen) and ceramic work, trying mostly to capture the face, and the energy with a free brush line. But I agree that it can be difficult and sometimes hokey, just like performance tango. Now I just take the joy and feeling into my work, and the subject is just a catalyst.

msHedgehog said...

@Ghost, yes, check out Carole's photos too, she has great ones of all sorts of dance performances. @Elizabeth: that makes a lot of sense to me as an approach. I quite like the face idea; and with the one you've got on your website, the spatial relationship is done with the line that describes her nose.