November 2018

Falling Figure

Falling Figure
1994, graphite on paper, 8 5/8 x 11 1/4 in.

Falling Figure

For me one of the most important aspects of sketching is a way to explore new ideas. At times it is an activity in which I let my subconscious take over, allowing it to discover images on its own. Other times I approach the activity with the singular intent of directing the process and the end result. Most of the time however it is a combination and give-and-take of the two. That is the case with Falling Figure.

The sketch began as a human figure study. I started by blocking in only the head and torso with the figure gazing upward and the torso at a slight incline. As I refined those elements I recognized that their relationship possessed a kind of urgent instability and thought it would be interesting to exploit that feeling. To do so I decided to sketch the arms and legs in positions that were up and away from the torso thereby destabilizing the figure even more. This resulted in the figure exuding a sense of falling. Thrilled by the result I fine-tuned the position of the limbs and then concentrated on articulating the hand gestures to reinforce the urgency of the figure's plight.

One of my interests during the same period was to hide the identities of the figures by covering their heads and/or faces in different ways. One reason for using this device has been to make the figures more universal; to have them represent "every man" in an attempt to make the overall images more timeless. With this in mind I decided to cover the head in Falling Figure with a cloth wrapping. This hides the face while the ends of the cloth, which twine around the figure and float upward, serve to heighten the illusion of falling.

The Fall
1997, pastel and pencil on paper, 12 x 9 in.

The Fall, or The Time it Takes Falling Bodies to Light
2004, acrylic on canvas, 78 x 48 in.

Though the Falling Figure is a modest sketch it has been an important reference and precursor for three subsequent works - another 1994 drawing of the same composition, a 1997 drawing, The Fall, and a 2004 painting, The Fall, or The Time it Takes Falling Bodies to Light. Please note, in my January 2018 Monthly Highlight:The Fall I discuss the painting, including the metaphorical references I see specifically in that piece as well as the idea of falling figures in general.

- Brian Mains, 2018