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Written by Tanya Jain
It was a stroke which so swiftly moved that it started giving a dimension which had a definition of its own. It was nothing but an act located in temporality, which so oriented itself that it now had meaning attached to it. What is it that has such a potential of being credible of a craft which is valued and critiqued upon? It is a ‘Gesture’! The artistic canvas is a blank arena and is as open and vast as one’s imagination dictates. There is anything and everything which can be produced and re-produced on it to give it a definite meaning. The picturesque scenery probably has some inbuilt image which can be well understood by any viewer. What about those images which have a visual element but their meaning needs an inquisitive eye to decipher? At times a simple hand gesture – say, of victory – can have multiple angles attached to it. It might appear what it is on canvas but it might appear differently in a theatrical or a dance performance. Classical forms of dance have a tradition of using hand gestures called ‘Mudras’ to extend meaning with the help of hand moments. The similar symbolic meaning can then be suggestive of the glorious win of one and the loss of another; a positive end or a destructive meaning. More than the physical appearance it is essential to bring to light the deferred meaning which is at times lost, or misinterpreted by many, and thus the overall objective of the craft gets lost.
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Mudra – Shikhara Hasta
Milan Kundera from his book entitled Immortality quotes – “A gesture cannot be regarded as the expression of an individual, as his creation (because no individual is capable of creating a fully original gesture, belonging to nobody else), nor can it even be regarded as that person’s instrument; on the contrary, it is gestures that use us as their instruments, as their bearers and incarnations.” An artist is a potential creator which can add colors to any outline. It is through the eyes of the viewer that the tone of the color is expected to be understood. For one without eyesight, the color black is black and even the colors red, blue, green etc. appear as black. But nonetheless he has a vision of understanding the black. But for the one with a normal visualizing power the horizon is open to introspect what has been depicted as it is and also in the frame within which he wishes to understand. “Painting isn’t just the visual thing that reaches your retina — it’s what is behind it and in it.” The usage of a gesture is a stroke both in visual and performing arts to deliver the message with the minimal usage of characters. It is the quantitative aspect which adds essence to the entire concept. Any piece of work, when is elaborately discussed gives clear hints of what lies within it. But when the similar opportunity is presented in a shrunken form,it becomes a task of extracting the essence that lies embedded within. Not just in paint, but even in print, this element of gesture plays its role through the ‘figure of speeches’. The explicit appreciation of beauty can be well said in a line when one says “She is like a rose”. The meaning is delivered but at times lengths of descriptive passages might fail to describe that what one was trying to attempt was to just appreciate how beautiful she is. “Curator of Asian art Denise Leidy uses gesture as the key to unlocking narratives in work of art.” She says “It’s what I see first and how I begin to understand almost everything I see.” For her it is an understanding of the painting or the sculpture without actually knowing the historical context behind it. She explains her viewpoint on gesture through ‘The Visitation’.
“The body is the first boundary we encounter as individuals. Hence the Exhibition Gesture Sign Art- Deaf Culture/Hearing Culture begins with the body, followed by the language of the body and its abstractions.” The curators Wolfgang Müller and An Paenhuysen have chosen the Moebius loop as a model which challenges our perception; it defies orientation and makes it impossible to differentiate between above and below, or inside and outside. Unknown, nameless art forms enter the stage by means of signs, gestures, sounds and interactions. Thus boundaries between dance, performance, music, language, literature and painting begin to shift.”
Peace Sign by Kamil Swiatek
The Visitation, ca. 1310, Attributed to Master Heinrich of Constance, German Made in Constance, Walnut, paint, gilding, rock–crystal cabochons 23 14 x 12 in
Gesture is a significant term in the field of art because it conveys different meanings for different artists and art lovers. But what single meaning it withholds is that it is the medium of producing meaning by bringing together any singular or plural elements. Different artists all over the globe are working on this theme but what is explicitly distinguished is the interpretation of the term. I took the route of a stroke in gesture which enables it to become the smallest meaning producing unit whether it is on canvas or on stage or in print. Joining the dots through the term a wholesome meaning is delivered, which strengthens the artist in particular and gives visual pleasure in general, fragmenting that which is already fragmented.