The homospatial process in the visual arts

The presentation of effective metaphors in literature and in masterpieces of sculpture and visual art results directly from the operation of the creative homospatial process – actively designing two or more discrete entities occupying the same space, a design leading to the articulation of new identities. Conceiving of discrete entities as occupying the same spatial location, superimposing and merging them, produces the powerful aesthetic metaphorical effect of mutual interaction in literature and the visual arts. [using one kind of visual object with another to suggest an analogic relationship between them].

National Gallery, London.  Used with permission

Saint Anne with the Virgin

Source: National Gallery, London. Used with permission

The art of Leonardo da Vinci

That this layering and merging of visual images, planes and places were factors in the thought and work of the great Leonardo da Vinci is deduced from his preliminary and final productions. His preliminary drawing for his painting “Saint Anne with the Virgin”, shows two adults superimposed and fused to the point that a two-headed body appears. In the final painting, the effect is maintained and only one child is included and added to the group, so that the three figures of Mary, Anne and Jesus appear as a single unit. Two of his well-known drawings, one of bodies of men in different overlapping and overlapping positions and the sketch for the cartoon for the mural “The Battle of Anghiari”, consist of a series of heads – that of a lion, a horse and a human, each merged with each other, which is preliminary to its metaphorical representations in the cartoon of war, symbolizing bestial madness.

Henry Moore’s sculpture

That such visual metaphors are derived from superpositions and fusions, that is, from the homospatial process, is strongly suggested by a series of personal testimonies from various types of artists. These testimonies are reliable because they consist of a concatenation of substantial accents from disparate sources, and not simply anecdotes, theoretical considerations and declarations.

Here is documentation directly from the English sculptor Henry Moore on such use of the homospatial process during work: “It is what the sculptor must do. He must continually strive to think and use form in all its spatial completeness. He gets the solid form, so to speak, inside his head. He thinks about it, no matter how small, as if he’s got it completely locked in the palm of his hand. It mentally visualizes a complex shape all around itself; he knows as he looks at one side what the other side looks like. [1].

This mental image, involving the multiple aspects of a form completely enclosed in a single spatial location – the figurative “hollow of his hand” – is a distinct example of the homospatial process. Unlike ordinary three-dimensional visualization in which one includes by experience the appearance of the sides of objects in addition to the frontal side, Moore indicates here a complicated perception. It refers specifically to the visualization of a complex shape all around itself and thus indicates the coming together of detailed and intricate features. And he specifies that each face is visualized, “while it is, at the same time, like its opposite”. Thus, it refers to its layering of detailed images on top of each other.

Visual Metaphors and the Art of Claes Oldenburg

Other artists of different types and periods have given indications of the homospatial process in the realization of an aesthetic masterpiece. A sculpted bust does not simply consist of successively executing the different surfaces and their details, successively creating the forehead, the cheeks, the chin, then the eyes, the nose and the mouth.

On the contrary, in the masterpiece sculpture, from the first sitting, the whole mass must be considered and constructed in its various circumferences; that is to say in each of its profiles. This formulation of considering the entire mass in each of its profiles is specifically indicated in Henry Moore’s visualization of the complex shape of everything around itself.

Chelsea Press, used with permission

‘Typewriter-Pie’ by Claes Oldenburg.

Source: Chelsea Press, used with permission

Highly effective sculptors see a complete image in the material as they work, an overlay or fusion of a mental image onto the specific piece of material. It is not the notion commonly accepted by critics and viewers of extracting a latent image from a characterless work, but a mental design actively bringing the specific characteristics of the work into a same spatial place with a figurative structure.

Pieces of particular materials are layered or fused in a sculptor’s mind with images of particular shapes and contents and lead to sculptural metaphors integrating material and theme. The sculptural piece “Typewriter-Pie” by American Claes Oldenburg, shows a fusion of an old typewriter with a pie shape.

The two entities are integrated into a visual metaphor which he designates as relating to an aircraft carrier [2]. As in these examples, the homospatial process is the crucial factor producing artistic metaphors in sculpture as well as in all types of visual and literary masterpieces.

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