A PAINTER’S LIFE : HANDS
Hands communicate a lot. Almost more than a face, sometimes. Do you love your hands? Imagine yourself without them and I think you know what I mean. They are essential. They are your contact with the world. Outside of sight itself, hands are probably the most explorative and telling part of our human faculties. A painter would be bereft without them.
Over the years I have noticed hands in my work. A portrait of Babaji needed a hand. It needed to be a particular gesture. A very specific holding of the thumb and first two fingertips.
In some instances, I use my own hand for a model. It is right there. So I usually take a picture of the gesture I need and use that for a drawing guide. In this case for a painting I did of Babaji in Barcelona, I needed a very particular hand gesture of thumb and forefinger delicately touching.
The banner of this post is from Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece. One of the few depictions of the Resurrection in Renaissance art, the hands, though still with the nail wounds, are spread outward, triumphantly.
Some hands are unforgettable. Like the hands of the Buddha in the mudra positions when coming into the New Delhi Immigration Clearance area. I was in awe of them the first time I saw them taking up the full length of the wall above the immigration kiosks.
THE HANDS THAT HOLD THINGS
A period of my work was interested in the primitive qualities of hands. They are what distinguish us from other animals. We can hold stuff. Apes and monkeys can too, but humans can do it much better with the “opposable thumb” and independent fingers.
I painted this years ago of a trilobite being held in the hands like a communion wafer. I called it “Host.” I picked the most ancient thing to hold―a fossil. Millions of years old, only the Hand of God could have touched that thing in its infancy. I wanted to know what that felt like.
Hands holding tools were my interest for a while. This hand, holding a scepter, seemed like an active contrast to Babaji in full meditation. He is so still and silent, unaffected by any external activity. The hand is very active in its grip. The contrast seemed powerful to me.
This hand that holds a bouquet of flowers is from a famous Reclining Venus painting by the Venitian painter Titian. We are relaxed by the beauty of it. It is a hand at rest. Total peace can engulf us when we see this hand in its actual transmission of beauty.
I was very moved as a young man by the drawings of Albrecht Dürer. Among the drawings I had in a book of his prints and graphic works, this one stood out to me of Praying Hands. It is a quintessential depiction of this gesture.
This was useful years later when I painted Amma with praying hands. Studying this drawing gave me the confidence I could pull it off in this painting of the “Hugging Saint.”
HANDS WILL ALWAYS BE AROUND
Hands will always be around in my work, either directly or indirectly. A painter cannot escape a strong bond with his Hands. The Hand of God, of pure positive energy flowing through him, is made manifest through his hands. Hands are the sacred touch of his own Divinity upon the various manifestations in his art life.
They are the touch of the sacred. They are the ability to make manifest something beautiful for God. They are my servants of cosmic creativity.