Men & women are sexually attracted to round shapes — breasts, buttocks, hips, thighs, calves (on women); biceps, pectoral muscles, buttocks, thighs, calves (on men.) [That may explain the hyper-sexualization of those attributes in the porn industry, but I digress.]
I’ve been thinking about shapes a lot lately & looking around our collection (mostly representational) & considering the shapes that predominate. Like Will Barnet’s “Reclining Woman” (above) many of the works are dominated by round shapes (full circles, half moons, dipping & rolling curves, subtle esses, elliptical lines over-spilling their banks.) They all remind me of an artist I represented in the ’80’s (and whose work we own) James Coignard.
We had M. Coignard in for an exhibition–something of a challenge for us; his English, not so good; our French, not so good, but we managed. Before his arrival from France, we studied & divined his symbols & shapes & colors, but one thing we couldn’t find a ‘reason’ for was his use of the letter ‘s’. No amount of pre-Google research could turn up a valid explanation, either symbolically, ethnographically, Jungian archetypical or other proto-new age-y mish-mash of five dollar words came close to explaining why he might use this particular shape (stenciled, cursive, printed, drawn-out & present in almost every work of his.)
Here is Coignard now in front of us (he came with his mistress–she sat at a desk during the reception, smoking and paring her fingernails–the Gaul!) What better opportunity, “Monsieur Coignard, we are enthralled by your talent & the rich symbolic language you have developed to express your thoughts on the state of man, but one symbol, one shape has us stumped and that is the letter ‘s’. Please, would you share with us why you are so intrigued with it and what it means in your art?”
“Mais oui, it is a lovely shape,” he puffed, half-burned cigarette and an inch of ash dangling dangerously from his bottom lip, “c’est tout.”
Of course, we were stunned and abashed and slightly suspicious that it could be so simple, such a simple shape, an ess, that’s all, but we accepted his answer and ever after I have looked at art in a new way, less for what the artist may have hidden in a symbol, but more for what beauty could be found there in the shapes (and colors), the forms the shapes took & how the colors shaped them & take the art first at face value & leave the symbolic exploration for another day (fear not, we do divine & explore & dowse & explicate every little square inch of a canvas, a print, a watercolor, whatever medium) but first we let it work its visual magic on us & allow the artist to speak to us viscerally & get their hook into us & reel us in (not a fish tale, but true.)
P.S. We have owned a beautiful hand-pulled lithograph (it’s nearly 4′ x 5′) of Barnet’s “Reclining Woman” for more than 20 years & from home to home & halfway around the globe, it has followed us & always hangs with such grace & beauty above our bed in our deep blue bedroom, & gently & without fuss guides us to sleep each night. Barnet is a master of shape & form & color. (& he’ll be 100 next year!)