In my previous blog post, I mentioned Michael Craig-Martin’s interest as a child in the shape and form of American cars. From a very young age, Michael Craig-Martin had the ability to identify every make and model of an American car. I found this profound because as a child I also had this ability, but with British cars in the 80s and 90s. This foundational understanding and appreciation of form is clearly something that many artists unconsciously encounter from a young age.
This week l stumbled on a black and white BBC documentary about Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) and my appreciation of form was enhanced. In the documentary, Henry Moore discusses what he thinks is behind his work and motivations. He stated that he believes that “Appreciation of form, comes from an appreciation of sex”. He said that;
“If you want to interpret form from this point of view then everything is sex. Everyone’s appreciation of form is built on this appreciation of sex. I think that my art in my part of early training as a young sculptor comes from going to a mixed secondary school where I could look at all the girl’s legs. All from the age of 12 or 13 and I could tell you in the school which girl was which. If you’d only show me her figure from the knee downwards. The fullness of form. The tautness of form, all these things are connected with life and life is sex.”
I was fascinated when Moore talked about how he gets started when he enters his studio. In his studio, he has a tray of objects that he found on the seashore, in his garden and in ploughed fields. Picking up and examining one of these objects often inspires him and sparks a powerful passion to get started. The outward appearance of the stones, flints and other bits and pieces on the tray remind him of the form of a person or the contours of the landscape. A distinctive form begins to form in his mind. Moore works from this arousal into his sketchbook trying to determine and embody a particular idea.
Henry Moore explained that “A sculptor is a person who is interested in the shape of things, a poet in words, a musician by sounds.” It never occurred to me until then that maybe l should start collecting three-dimension objects. I must agree with him when he states that “All art is an abstraction to some degree.”
Henry Moore felt that reading the book by Neumann titled, The ‘Archetypal World of Henry Moore’ gave away too much about his work. So he stopped reading it. He believed that it is a mistake for a sculpture or a painter to speak or write very much about his work. Stating that it releases the tension he needs for his work.”
“By going into what its deep motives and reasons are, I think [it] might stop me from wanting to go on…One can give a tiny clue perhaps in talking about what you’re trying to do, so people don’t look for something you’re not trying to do. But all I mean is you can’t explain, in a few words, what you’re been trying to do for a whole lifetime…You shouldn’t try to use up words and get rid of a tension that should be used in your artwork.”
Henry Moore’s comments made my wild and untamed mind think about the suitcase in Pulp Fiction. There is an intriguing mystery when the actors John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson react to a light-emitting from a suitcase in the film. By holding back the mystique, the audience never finds out what was in the suitcase. The situation encourages a deeper level of curiosity. No matter what is in the suitcase, it wouldn’t be as powerful as the mystery of not knowing what was in the suitcase.
Our minds are free to make subjective assumptions as we view artworks but we will never know the truth. The more wide-ranging and varied the interpretations are the more successful the artwork becomes.