Sunday, December 09, 2007

A mysterious ambience.

In 1807, when Abolition was in the air, John Bourne painted “A Meeting of Connoisseurs”. This satirical painting captured well the academic tradition of drawing, in which the black male model is relatively rare, and the strangeness that European artists found in the Black male body. Bourne's particular view of the Life Class is shown as a deadly affair, as the stiff academicians come to terms with the unusual dimensions of the Black male form.

A hundred years later, the Black male presence was being acknowledged as a source of eroticism and beauty by the Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Edward Wolfe. Today, Grant is well known for his inter-racial gay sex drawings, Wolfe less known for his heroic sexual portrayal of South African Black miners. Slowly, the inclusion of the Black male form increased. John Singer Sargent created an art that honestly portrayed the flow of the Black male figure, especially in his minor watercolours.

And the Camden Town painter, Harold Gilman, drew the Black male figure as a sort of erotic idyll:

In the 1930s, a rather different view began to emerge, as the Black presence became more viewable, less a source of exotic fantasy. Glyn Philpot paid tribute in the 1930s to the Black male form

and here is an academic sketch by Derek Fowler from the 1940s:

This drawing’s attention to line and form shows an engagement with the figure such that he becomes a personal subject. In the drawings of Orokie, there is this quality too, for the figures that he represents seem to be an overflow of emotion, as if they have drawn out of him every drop of spirit, every drop of honey or water. It is this high- fidelity tuning towards humanity which gives Orokie’s drawings their particular sensibility, “a special ambience”.


African art lover said...

Superb. The Orokie drawing is the climax to the pictures, though the others are good. Love the tone.

gayuganda said...

I could hours spend, looking at that.

I do not have the words to describe what I see. I know it is beautiful.
What can I compare it to?

A moonless African night when one sees the shape and form, blending into the rest subtly. An african skin, betrayed by the flashing smile.
Rested. Relaxed, the vibrant skin tones one with the night. A denser darkness, sharp edges despite the darkness around.


No Orokie. Is not the debate, words and art. You win. None come up at the moment. But I am cranky and tired, yet driven to see them all!


Afriboy said...

Your comparison is a beautiful evocation in itself. Thanks for all your writing.