Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Natural Shapes

However much I delight in reading from time to time d’Arcy W. Thompson’s “On Growth and Form” I believe he overstates the effects of physical forces on shapes that nature takes. Certainly the physical laws are constraining, making only some shapes possible but the very shapes, the body-plans, the designs are not originating within them. The origins have other source. Having the same, exactly the same materials and exactly the same external conditions should result in the same outcomes, but that is not the case. Far from it: nature produces endless varieties under the same physical limitations.
There are 616 kinds of radiolaria, all running away from any proximity of simplicity and all fancifully different, excessive, overdecorated, taunting anyone who ever wanted to find randomness in nature.
                                                    Ernst Haeckel illustrated 400 of them.

And below are some examples of diatoms as shown on photographs from Advanced Architectural Studies of Catalonia:
Some fifty years after Ernst Haeckel’s drawings another book of great and lasting influence was published in Germany, Karl Blossfeldt’s “Art Forms in Nature”. This time they were black and white close-up photographs of plants.
Perhaps because Blossfeldt was a sculptor his images show monumentality, solidity and some quality that might be described as proto-architecture or “ur-form”.

                          And three splendid portraits of vegetables by a British gardener Charles Jones:

Like two sides of human face, which never match exactly and yet form harmonious symmetry Blossfeldt's and Jones's close-up photographs show both great regularity as well as minute deviations from absolute symmetry or regularity. That quality makes natural shapes “natural”. Human eye trained from birth to distinguish real, natural shapes from artifice spots fakes instantly. To learn drawing is to bring onto paper all the observed descriptions of the natural shapes in view. At times when observation of natural forms is rejected in favor of some arbitrary style Apollo weeps.
Process of drawing encompasses many tasks but the very central one is that drawing is a concentrated, committed, passionate dedication to know the world. Without the close observation that drawing provides one is no more than a tourist in the temple: smiling approvingly, strolling about and taking in the sights but not seeking intimate engagement, just amusedly passing by on the way to the Final Bus.

1 comment:

  1. My God! Will these forms ever cease to inspire? I have seen many of these multiple times over and over again so pure, balanced they make my heart sing and feel so fresh. Makes me want to praise them in the studio while carefully and quietly reproducing them to be seen in clay on peoples' wrists, necks and buildings, walls, halls and landscapes.