Navel gazing

 ‘art is not reporting. It is memory.’  Ivon Hitchens

Ivon Hitchens (British, 1893–1979), Algerian Woman No. 1. 1949 Richard Green Gallery

Ivon Hitchens(British, 1893–1979), Algerian Woman No. 1. 1949 Richard Green Gallery

Do you see  a landscape in this woman’s body?  The river blue lines of her legs and thighs roll along the canvas creating mountains and gullies.  She is an archipelago of land surrounded by the blues of the sea. Her body, all serenity and repose, curled in vibrance. Adobe colored legs, ocher fields reminiscent of wheat. Bold patches of color suggest the color fields of maps.  Your eye flows back and forth between the surrounding colors and the mass of her body. Hills, ravines and valleys. She anchors herself deep in the painting, rising from the earth, yet planted in it.

Ivon Hitchens, primary known as an English landscape painter, was deeply interested in the Japanese concept of beauty called “notan,” translated “lightness darkness.” Notan is concerned with the harmonious balance of light and dark as it relates to pattern. Hitchens frames the nude using this concept. Look at the area of blues surrounding the nude on the left and top, see how they are balanced with an equal area of reds and yellows around the bottom and right side of the figure. The equally balanced masses of cools and warms almost perfectly frame the reclining body.  This creates the the serene tone of the painting even amidst the passionate color oppositions. The anchor pattern.

Which brings me to a deeper musing on light and dark and their value as structural elements in life. We just experienced the vernal equinox which is the time when both light and darkness are equal, in perfect celestial balance.  We seem to desire this “balance,” searching for “work/ life balance” and to “strike” a balance. But what we may be speaking of is “control.” Passion and creating even, is an unbalancing force, by far more intriguing.  Yet I would favor “life balance” more if it looked like this painting. I’ll leave the beautiful myth of  “balance”  to be achieved by the heavens, and that only twice a year.



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