The line in relation to physiognomy and the sensuous expressionism

Bioptical Art - Liviu Iliescu

"Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin", thought Alice;
"but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!"
Lewis Carroll, Alice's adventures in Wonderland.
(quoted by E. H. Gombrich)

     From the begining, I must specify that the following paragraphs mainly refer to exercises aimed at transpasing psysiognomies. I have tryed to find the characteristic expression resulting from various illustrative lines of the eyes and mouth, seen at various moments. My drawings are a mixture of portrait and caricature. This explanation is necessary, since the title of this paper covers a wide domain, discussed by numerous specialists and art critics.
     I have tried to summarize my tests in a paper titled "Instruction, self-instruction and talent".
     Success in the artistic creation, including visual arts, implies a certain desire and call, complex features obscurely explained. Success is partly accounted for by talent. An artist should get general and specific instruction in schools or, as an apprentice of great masters. There are also exceptions - self-instruction by means of syntheses and echoes from adjacent cultural milieus. This is also the case of several experiments in visual arts made by me and described in the "Arta" magazine of the Union of Plastic Artists.
     To succeed, an artist should practice assiduously the forms of the surrounding world. If he has "talent', he may transform the acquired skill into art. Both the portrait and the sketch or caricature brought fame to a great many artists. To be sure, their success generally expresses a synthesis of instruction and self-instruction, but not only that... In painting, the representative expression of the portrait may sometimes be altered by details, by exaggerating certain elements of the physiognomy.
     The sketch or caricature results in artistic expression, especially if the artist grasps something within the character. Certain lines - the same as the lines of destiny in a palm - emerge and subtly wrinkle the face of the subject. Which are those minimal lines with highest effect, illustrating one's inner life? The utmost expression of the eyes generally occurs in different time periods than the utmost expression of the mouth (bioptical alternation). They may be synthesized after repeated experiments, by selection from the numerous variants preserved by memory, perceived from the movements of the same subject. One may speak therefore of a "kinetic" representation. Self-instruction might refer to a training in establishing the lines of utmost expressiveness by means of "neuron developing".
     To memorize a physiognomy, several variants and forms are necessary. Unstable memories are materialized in drawings. Training results in the most probable variant. This process is similar to the drawing up of a composite picture in criminology. The drawing in a single drawing of lines that occur in succession, at different time intervals may be paradoxically called "kinestatic transpositin" or "kinestatism". Objects are much more precisely preserved by memory than beings. The relationship between "house" and "a certain house" is much better defined in memory than the relationship between "man" and "a certain man". When viewing the surrounding world, the perceptive dominant is related t the angle of clear perception (about one degree), and the intention of observing beyond that angle requires pulsatory attention (to look forward and to direct one's attention also to the nuclear area).
     A small square (in a one degree angle) is perceived without moving the eyeball, while a big and very big square is perceived by moving the eye. The same thing happens when closing one's eyes and trying to recall the image of a small or big square. It seems that a "differential" perception, followed by an "integrating" one might occur. In the end we notice soon the perception of a big square or the recalling of a big square.
     In the case of the perception of a certain physiognomy (physiognomy in motion), there also appears the process of successive perceptions (the area of the eyes, mouth, forehead, etc.), during a more or less long lapse of time, while variants from different circumstances are recalled. The kinestatic characteristic, which leads to recognizing the reproduction of a physiognomy by several viewers, results from drawing especially those lines directed from the inside f the subject. Some of these lines gradually result in permanent wrinkles. Both bad and god characters may certainly present deluding lines. The extreme case is Oscar Wilde's "The picture of Dorian Gray". In the case of a kinestatic charactristic, the aim is not to analyse the character by means of the face lines, but to find - by optimum abstractization - the recognition lines, including those directed from inside, even in the case of a deluding character.
     I have tried to carry out experiments related to physiognomy in an area which seemed insufficiently explored: classical portrait, caricature, physiognomy with rough lines, abstractization passing beyond individualization (expressionism).
     I must emphasize certain considerations.
     I have studied the connection with the individualized inner side by means of several lines (I've followed not only the spiritual content, but also the natural one).
     I have succeeded in showing that they are elementary representations, confirming Leonardo Da Vinci's statements also for individualized cases. An example is the representation of the deportment of the whole figure, sometimes in relation with the neck - the body (an expression also individualized for a certain subject).
     I have not mean to ridicule the physiognomy or deform it in an exaggerated way (like the caricature); neither have I standardized or generalized expressions (as does the expressionism). These exercises made me aware of a "neuron developing".
     I may certainly be reproached with a diminution of the artistic effect by individualization. That effect is due only t the surprise of recognizing some well- known actors. [See the sketches portraits f some actors, dented by SP1, SP2, SP3, etc. They were the result of repeated attempts and have no pretense of spontaneously drawn lines].
     One way say that the artistic value of these portraits would disappear, when the generation who admired the theatrical performances of those actors is gone.
     This is true to a certain extent, but that would mean to deny the possibility of conveying t future generations the description of significant expressions of our contemporaries, using the means of plastic arts.
     Yet my experiments may be viewed from other standpoints.
It is well known that the training of artists requires much school instruction and especially individual studies. To learn how to reproduce the forms of the living world, of man especially, by means of shadows , lines and colours raccourci techniques, much time is necessary. Success largely depends not only on instruction, but also on the features meaning-up the so-called talent of the artist. We refer especially t the "photographic" rendering of the surrounding world, as composition and the personal style require general assimilation from culture.
     To carry on the experiments I've followed up (bioptical art, line potentiality), long-term self-instruction was necessary. I was concerned with acquiring the skill of photographic rendering of the surrounding world. Even before humans learned to write, they could reproduce forms by means of simple lines. The correspondence between line and world, the mystery of its potentiality will still exert their fascination. The use of lines in order to express more rational (coded) than affective trends reaches the limits of the unaesthetic (William Hogarth, Paul Klee). Yet, as is well known, the line provides great possibilities to communicate in the field of art.