"Recently I was told of an elderly woman who refuses to eat fish because she doesn’t want to eat African refugees. To me the implications are not so much gruesome as realistic: the fact that we are eating fish that well may have eaten fellow human beings is a perverse demonstration of how closely and inescapably the Europeans are tied to African refugees."
~ Armin Greder
~ Armin Greder
For me, the two most striking illustrations in the wordless picture book Mediterraneo (The Mediterranean) by Armin Greder, my former illustration teacher,are these –
In this image at first the play of dark against light seems almost Escher. But when you look again and take in the image slowly, you realize this is a far more complex image, the sickly undertones of purple and ochre churn into a circle of warning culminating in the ghostly waiter serving the fish.
The play of highlights lead my eyes towards the white skinned patron with a face as impassive as the dead fish being served to him.
The waiter’s hands on the plate are deathly blue, they echo the shape of the fish and the few strokes of charcoal that have constructed his presence lead my eyes up to his face, he looks sub human;
and then suddenly you realize, no one in that restaurant is quite human at all! A horror story is about to unfold.
And then this image -
The highlighted faces of the refugees are crisscrossed with the dashes that make up their features.
The mast makes up a cross with the bow of the boat that carries its inhabitants towards their crucifixion.
How does the artist manage to say so much with his images? How does he know what to do?
"I finished the drawings for the fish story. The idea was so clear that all I had to do was start at the beginning and go along, virtually copying the images in my mind. It has never before happened to me that a story has presented itself in a blinding flash, finished, complete, ready to go. And I doubt that it will again."
Sometimes with a few, very few chosen people, after well over a 100 years worth of consistently exorcising demons on paper, these people simply know how; and when they draw, all that they want to express, all that they feel, all those deep and powerful stories that kept them awake night after torturous night, beautifully and serendipitously fall into place, like during those auspicious alignments of stars and planets that make marvelous things happen mysteriously, ever so occasionally and just often enough.
In real life however, you wouldn’t give a person who made such powerful images a second glance. The artist could be just another grouchy, unassuming man of a certain age with a big moustache who just happened to be sitting at a corner table of a wine bar you visited somewhere during your travels.
The author has very kindly given me some of his drawings and sketches to use in this post along with some words about the subject.
On Drawing the Human Form -
I keep asking myself what lies behind good drawing. It has to do with practice. But if the hand now is more agile and obeys better to what I want it to do, my orders to it must have improved too. This, I think, is a matter of looking beyond the mere shape of a leg or a torso and seeing their essence, seeing how they feel.
When I taught life drawing I would get the models to behave like they would in a waiting room (the students would complain She has moved! I would reply This is live drawing!); I would get them to stand up and ask the students to draw them seated; I would get them to walk around; I would have a woman as a model and ask the students to draw last week’s male model instead. It was all designed to get the students to look and see and to understand the nature of what was in front of them, rather than to merely measure angles and curves and lengths.
When I draw someone I mentally assume the pose in which I draw that figure (this is automatic, sometimes I am not even aware of it). I feel where the stress is and where things are floppy. I feel the aches of the cheap chick who walks clumsily, like a kind of mild polio victim, knees slightly bent because the downward angle her ankles allow her feet to assume is not enough to compensate for the exaggerated height of her heels.
When I look at people it is as if I was I passing my hands over them; I feel the soft weight of the buttocks of a young woman in front of me, quivering ever so slightly as she is walking, so different from the tight arse of the bodybuilding macho imbecil who is doing hundredandfifty pushups; the tits of a young girl with their smooth silky skin and their curves - slightly concave the upper one, more convex the lower; the tired bits of flesh held in place and given the shape of breasts by a salmon coloured bra of an old woman with tinted hair and excessive makeup. I fondle these anatomies, I palp and squeeze and stroke them, I even smell them, sometimes with pleasure, sometimes with a shudder. And that, in the end, is what I draw.
All images ©Armin Greder
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