Sunday, May 22, 2016

"The Swing" by Thea Proctor

Lately I've taught various lessons to children about spirals in nature (with results such as these stunning and dynamic relief prints by 6th graders.) For me as an artist this is in connection with  my recent work exploring ammonite fossils.

My daughter's dance teacher Loren Groenendaal is also interested in spirals in her work with expressive movement and she kindly lent me the book The Curves of Life by Theodore Andrea Cook. I am almost finished reading it now. It is an informative and intriguing read, first published in 1914 and now a classic reference on the subject of spirals in nature and art.

I'm on a bit of a kick looking at woodcuts by Australian printmakers, having posted yesterday works by Ethleen Palmer and Violet Teague and Geraldine Reed. Today I found myself looking at works by Thea Proctor and was completely struck by this image. There is something both playful and unnerving about it. The girl on the swing smiles contentedly, but the boy in blue behind her has a more perturbed look on his face. I assume from her pose that the woman in a red polka dot dress is pushing the girl on the swing, but it is an awkward stance with her face turned down toward the ground and her arms still bent as if she has yet to have fully pushed off. While there is some serenity to be found in the purple hues of the seated woman's dress and green background foliage, shapes of bright, primary colors outlined in black announce themselves like in one of the abstract composition of Piet Modrian. I find the overall message of the piece to be that a certain kind of joyous exhilaration is only found in somewhat perilous endeavors.

Then I see the spiral. It starts in the lower left-hand corner, climbs up the curved trunk of the tree, is sprung right by the leaves, caught and pulled down by the billowing clouds and three birds in flight in the upper righthand corner. It lands in the hat of the seated woman and dribbles from her crown to that of the babe in her lap and then to the child's red parasol. The curve of the seated woman's black shoes shoot it up to the similar black shoes of the polka-dot dressed woman, and the arch of her and the boy in blue's bodies launch it - wheee! - into the spinning, yellow folds of the girl on the swing's dress.

What is a spiral if not a beautiful consequence of movement and imperfection?

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