In Praise of Hands


“I undertake this essay in praise of hands as if in fulfilment of a duty to a friend. Even as I begin to write, I see my own hands calling out to my mind and inciting it. Here, facing me, are these tireless companions who for so many years have served me well, one holding the paper steady, the other peopling the white page with hurried, dark, active little marks. Through his hands man establishes contact with the austerity of thought.”

H. Focillon

About the drawing

A drawing is a trace that an artist preserves on paper, it is defined, completed and unique therefore it does not allow any corrections. It cannot deceive the eye. A drawing is not serial, associative; it does not impose or suggest anything, it does not transfer or empower anything. It is never mediatory, amphoral or abstract, it is spontaneous, individual, concrete and sensual – like a touch, like the air caught in it. A drawing is a magical fluid: primal, alive and beating, and realistic, no matter how symbolic its language is. A drawing is naked/nude that is why it is overcome by generosity, passion and stillness and infected by every soul. It is a hedge, a whip that leads the dance and overcomes any copy or mimicry of images. It makes us return inside, to ourselves, and allows to be possessed/owned; to be returned to the body. Only a drawing is capable of introducing Consciousness and Experience in the language of visual art; there where it is originally stylistic, where there is what we call Style, stylishness. That means that a drawing positions, determines and limits, that it is a primal border between the realistic and the abstract, between the rational, the conscious and the things hiding in the sub consciousness, the irrational. It is never secondary or dependant, subordinate, it is only a place for procreation, only a writing guided by some other purpose and organism. It joins space, place, topos and creativity: poiesis and politeo; that return and evoke possibilities, relationships, roles. Strength, body and soul are no longer absent and concealed, they are here, in the present: in objects, in images drawn. The artist turns to himself, he seeks his lost whole; in the drawing he finds authorship, uniqueness, the power to intervene. Where there are no lies, no fraud, no appearance and no illusions. And despite all the mysteriousness, there is no symbolism.

Gradation I

We are faced with images that we see and read in two ways, in two meaningful primeval levels. Nevertheless this duplicity does not duplicate our view and experience, which is vital for every understanding of an artwork, on the contrary it joins and seizes the painting’s text – texture, surface –  with our own, in some joint, spiritual, visual art interference. Shapes, colours and the depicted event are an outer object of experience; their meaning can be found in the sub-logical structure, where we are taken by the perspective, although at first it might not be obvious and clear. Under the surface relationships reveal themselves, they help us unveil the effects of the surface, namely the effects of the imposed meaning. The viewer sees, reads /only/ the painting’s surface, which is reduced onto a piece of paper, onto a magical screen of images. The viewer’s understanding is immersed into the system of visual art language and wider: into the system of historical and art values.
How can we therefore enter the body of painting, Herman’s painting? How can we break through into his autonomy, into the drawing’s genuine language? Definitely by reading correctly and thus deciphering the drawing’s surface and the author’s message. Traditional observing goes only one way, it is literal and it only catches the appearance, the illusion of the painting’s curtain. Only symbolic reading, usually unknown to viewers, can reveal the drawing’s real sense, which does not correspond to the thinking that relies on the image’s obviousness. That is why we need to skip, push away the traditional understanding of the art of painting and the ways of viewing that were brought into our consciousness from outside like some a priori arrangement of visual art segments that every good painting should consist of. We need a subversion that can take us deeper into the elementariness of painting and into the discovery of mechanisms that are no longer based on prescribed and predetermined ways of painting, whether they are avant-garde, highly modernistic or postmodern.
The paintings of Herman Gvardjančič are veiled, foggy, only rarely he lets us see through the curtain. The painter makes us renounce the observing of the surface which is merely a base, a starting point for our penetration into the painting’s materiality. Figures and shapes on a paper base are in no way meaningless. What is depicted as a piebald, embryonal and fragmented writing is also portrayed by the painted image: nothing on the painting is stressed or organised into some final sense. Such lack of narration usually repels naive viewers. However as soon as our sight penetrates through the veil covering the mysterious message, the viewer enters a place which explains and reflects rudimentary experience, the conscious and subconscious. The shapes on Herman’s drawings are therefore really lenses, magnifiers and mirrors without reflection. The meaning and the role of the drawing is in introspection which is always dialogic and does not exist outside the author – viewer relationship. Within the edges of this artwork the basic relationship in the dialogue is formed, namely our own speech: a reflection of the painting and our own body.

Gradation II

Herman Gvardjančič puts the drawing in the foreground. In principle his drawings are simple and diverse, “uniform” and multiplied, unified, unique and different, fragmental and comprehensive, and “perfect”.  But never ever dispersed and banal. A drawing is a space between visual art writing, grammar, structure and code, which is studied by the purely scientific method called semiology, and between the whiteness of the canvas, where there is a special “metaphysics of whiteness” /blancheur/, a mythology of an empty but not absent space; a space yet untouched, filled with a final sense and upgraded; a place where everything is still possible, where spatial options are infinite.
A drawing is like handwriting (like a “stake”, like l’en-jeu) in various external interpretations, from almost geometric and very rigorous to extremely diverse and baroque. A drawing carries perspective and visual art construction, the painting’s geometry and its illusion, decoration and scenography. A drawing is like handwriting, like a “double scene” of artistic image and its reflex or reflection. It represents a danger of alienation and metonymy, a danger of idealisation and theory, a danger that enters into the drawing through the back door with an aim to kill its message.  However in a drawing there is also a possibility of pure surrender, a place for playing and ecrire automatique and for physical, sensual and spiritual seismographic records. It contains a depiction – art – like Identität or Verfremdung.

The whiteness of the canvass is “ma”, matter as a pure substance, as the womb’s place. The whiteness of the canvass is the place before birth, a lair, a place of settlement; a place of creation and protection; an open skin, mouth, nest; a preplace of every placing. Or as Derrida says: /Drawing/ is like a “diaeresis” /differance/, namely a movement that cannot be thought from the presence – absence contrast. Diaeresis is a systematic game of differences, a spreading that puts the elements in different relations. Spreading is an active and at the same time passive production of /visual art/ intervals, without which the contents would be meaningless and signs and expressions would not function.  This is also the “spacing” /devenirespace/ of visual art chain, the spacing that enables a drawing as a drawing. The whiteness of a soft paper is ?un?touchable, in it the artist is alone with himself, lonely but at the same time sympathetic towards the other; the other within himself, his Double, towards the divided in his own self.

Gradation III

Herman’s hand is gifted with freethinking, energetic physiognomy: like “a face” with no eyes and no voice that can see and speak… The subtleness of touch that, when touched by the hand, can see figures on paper imprinted into the infinitely tiny thickness of the paper. The design of different looks – fluid, loose, spiritual – active in inactivity, in allegory of whispered objects and relations… A barely perceptible puzzle of organs and organisms. We follow the palm of the hand, which presents visual and symbolic states … memories of our life. Like some sort of inheritance from the past to the present and from the present to the future: netwoks of nerves spread under the skin. A landscape with central depression, chapped, interrupted subtle writing. No useless gestures … like a kind of dream that draws possibilities and living beings in a game of moves that do not copy anything.
Elevated in the wind, spread and separated like branches. Subtle and multiplied surface of paper that tests the author’s and the subject’s pleasure … through the currents and weightless traces that are invisible to the eye but can be sensed in Herman’s every drawing. Density and volume are not optic phenomena, the artist gets to know them with his fingers, with his palms, with space that is not measured with sight but with one’s own hand and step. A touch fills all the mysteriousness of forces that appear in the mirror of a painting, in a light, shallow and transient drawing…
A kind of isolation in a wide sound syncretism and a rhythmical changing of several voices and rhythms. Hand and voice join together in a single Event, only One and unique. Magnetic undulation of lines, like insects and birds, “invention” of the world yet unknown. Concordance and progressing acceptance are joined together into the reciprocity of animate and inanimate. Flexibility, respect, the feeling of the unknown and inventive spirituality that flows into the inner ?un?rest…
However a hard line as well as a soft line and a warm elaborate tone overwhelms Herman’s dictionary like an undergone illusion, a sensual relief and a volume of noble weight in a race against Time … yes, the adventure of substance and design, cadence, graduation and subsiding in almost every drawing… Herman Gvardjančič is an artisan and an alchemist when it comes to discovering and inventing things: an infinite landscape of strange mysteries “robbed of mimicry”, always in its own game, in repetition of intuitive flashes through the shadows that never die (in us). The eye without the hand, the hand with the eye, with a  passing, shortened move, like a stain on paper … a stain that is actually a talking spirit and a soul. The artist – a magician who fulfils his dreams and takes advantage of all mistakes and deficiencies of his moves, so that in the end he accepts them as his own … helpless and almighty power. The stain – a mysterious creature that passes from the artist’s hand into the world, into the “twisted” face of a painting.
There are no bright and unsettled contrasts, only the basic object of depiction, with a precise drawing that creates a vision before us with its inner body and perspective. The hand that searches and invents and continuously tests its strength, weakness and possibilities and leaps… A sort of garment – a coat – with pleats that replace discomfort with comfort and misery with joy. Like absolute fullness which is at the same time also emptiness that seduces and fascinates us. The elasticity and limberness of the drawing and the enchantment of the hand (with the hand) is therefore the one that does not separate the body from the spirit in us: the outer space that leaves its trace everywhere … and its human and artistic im-print.