Following on from the ‘paper shroud’ session, this week our model will be posing against piece of giant origami. This will create a backdrop of geometric shapes and dramatically lit planes. Inspiration for drawing the figure within such a structure may be taken from artists working in styles derived from cubism.
Picasso was one of the pioneers of cubism. In the early years, he constructed his images using small facets, or geometric planes, like those in origami. ‘Figure dans un fauteuil’ is one of his paintings in this style. Not only is the background broken up into geometric planes, but the figure is too. She appears mechanistic, and as if she is being engulfed by the shapes of the background, where you can only just make out an armchair. Despite this semi-abstraction, the tonal variation of the planes suggests the direction of the light and three-dimensionality.
Another early cubist painting is Jean Metzinger’s ‘Deux Nus’. The models are portrayed from multiple view-points and at successive intervals in time shown simultaneously on the canvas. It results in a fragmented image of interlocking planes, which looks almost like a view in a broken mirror. The figures, the rocks and trees are all treated in the same way, blurring the distinction between background and foreground with only the colour variation helping to decipher the scene. Despite this, Metzinger still manages to render the nudes in a convincing and elegant way.
Wyndham Lewis was one of the artists involved in the development of Vorticism in England, a movement which owed a debt to French cubism and Italian futurism. Like Picasso’s cubist painting, Lewis’s ‘Figure composition’ depicts fragmented space using sharp angles. Line thickness is varied in order to make things recede or project. The straight lines in the background and the sweeping curves that make up the figures come together to evoke the architectural and mechanistic rhythm of urban life, as they walk their bulldogs. In a similar way, a background of origami could be treated like a scaled-down architectural form.
These three artists demonstrate how the figure can be drawn against a background of geometric planes, in order to blend in or stand out to varying degrees.