From the beginning of his existence in this world, what was it that men wanted to do, or represent, through sculpture? It seems as if he tried to make a copy of his own body, perfect it, give it the shape he desired as a man incarnated in the physical world. However, this is only true in appearance. What sculptors wanted,for instance in ancient Greece, was to create shapes with perfect dimensions, especially with regard to the human body. For this purpose, those sculptures were based on spiritual ‘golden rules’ concerning the different parts of the human body and the relationships between them. But if we look further back in the past, we see other realities emerging throughout visual art; and this also counts for what has been going on in this field for the last 100 or 150 years.
Archaeological excavations unearthing remains of very ancient cultures, such as ancient India, the Mayas, or those of the African continent, have revealed sculptures of all sizes standing for human figures whose dimensions are quite different from those used in ancient Greece; and this is also visible in places like Easter Island where statues of “humanoid” heads, whose shape has nothing to do with Greek perfection, stand up. How can we understand this? At the beginning, did man not yet possess the necessary know-how and technique to produce more perfect shapes? Or are there other reasons that explain the great difference between the shapes represented over time? Not to mention completely abstract shapes invented and used for about a little more than a century, which seem to have abandoned any search for formal perfection or similarity of this kind, and which have made human, animal, or even vegetable appearance almost unrecognizable. Plants may have best escaped this trend of abstraction, or even deformation; even though this does not make the trend of abstraction any weaker or less defined.
The forms used in the ancient cultures above-mentioned did not have the same purpose as those created by the Greek sculptor. This means that the purpose of the sculpture had no (or little) direct connection with what was moulded, shaped or represented. Unlike painting, sculpture originally and obviously did not seem to have sought to produce a more or less exact or similar ‘realistic’ representation of the sculpted object; and this from the very beginning of its emergence in the world. Naturally, this can also happen with painting: the drawings found in rock paintings, for example, do not in any way resemble exactly what reality must have been at the time. And yet, despite the inaccuracy of these drawings in terms of shapes or proportions, they don’t give the observer the same feeling as an African statuette from one or two thousand years ago, for example.
As already pointed out, the difference comes from the fact that from the beginning of its appearance in this world, drawing aimed to give a more or less precise representation of reality, whether this reality was visible, or possibly of an invisible order (for example, in the case of non-incarnated spirits). Apart from abstract or symbolic shapes, drawing originally intended to represent in spite of everything reality; and in this sense, this art is totally different from sculpture, which, for its part, sought through the palpable shape to create an effect of a completely different nature. This effect is primarily the result of the three dimensional reality that sculpture uses, unlike drawing or painting. Being able to create in three dimensions gives sculpture a “magical” effect that painting or drawing does not have. Hearing a sound creates a special effect inside a human being; looking at a drawing or a painting creates another effect. Sound directly affects the emotional level, feeling, while drawing, even if it also affects this level, does so via the intellect, through vision, or the representation of the “image”. Sculpture, on the other hand, touches the emotional plane through the physical plane, and this link between the emotional plane and the physical plane has an effect that is, at first less rapid or seems less profound, but in the long run it is more lasting and more intense. The visible, sculpted shapes, over time carry on an energetic field of hight efficiency, even more efficient than what is made visible by painting or made audible by the effect of sound. It is this deep magical effect that forms the origin of this very particular goal linked to ancient sculpted shapes, in a time when human beings and artists still intuitively felt this relationship between shape and the three dimensional world.
What is left over in a negative sense, from this kind of knowledge, is for example the use of human forms sculpted by means of the magical practices of Voodoo. In a positive sense, the sculpted shape could, on the contrary, be used in ancient times to attract good harvest or, in one way or another, the grace of the Gods’ good luck. It is this magical effect that gives sculpture its full value and at the same time charges the sculptor with a true responsability. The modern artist is encouraged to make use of this power for the benefit of mankind.
(to be continued)