A creative interpretation of a text. Image analysis. Analyzing through construction and reconstruction accompanied by a self-commentary.

The task is based on selected passages from a literary piece by Francis Ponge, a French poet and essayist, the master of phenomenological contemplation. The textual side of the task is merely an impulse for an experiment that aims at portraying a human being.

After a year of intensive work at the drawing atelier (based on sitter studies) the students of the Academy of Fine Arts know how to reproduce the appropriate proportions, the anatomical structure of the human body, which sometimes results in a too mechanical treatment of the topic.

The task involving Ponge?s text should invite students to question their habits and accept a challenge to tell (or create) their own story focused on the notion of a human being. The exercise provokes a unique concentration and requires an analytic approach coupled with free imagination (abandoning ready-made models in favour of free, unfettered creativity).

Francis Ponge
From the first Notes on Man

To describe the body is to say very little about man. Whatever the demands of the body may be, man is determined – or controlled – by something completely different than bodily needs (health, survival).

The face. What is a face of a person or an animal? The front side of the head. This is where the most crucial sensory organs are, including the mouth cavity. This is where emotions are publicized. There the majority of sensations finds its external form.

It is as difficult to imagine an animal?s body without the face as it is to imagine an animal's body without the head.

A face is – as they say – the window to the soul (the eyes). But the eyes are no windows at all. They are periscopes of sorts. Through them the light enters the body.

Man's appearance is not very likely to change substantially. (One can imagine some minute modifications: a complete atrophy of the big toes, a total disappearance of hair.) Therefore, one can describe man. In order to pass on to other things.

Insouciance. A man knows next to nothing about his body, he has never seen his entrails, he rarely sees his blood, the sheer sight of it makes him anxious. Nature only enables us to see the body's peripheries. What is there, underneath, the man thinks, looking at his skin. He is expected to draw some conclusions on this subject on the basis of books, drawings. Imagination, memory. He can only imagine himself via analogy, by observing his neighbours. He will never, though, know his own body. Nothing will be more distant to him.

The curiosity about these questions is punished with severe suffering. One should admit, however, that man is not that curious at all. Nothing is more surprising than this extraordinary human feature: man lives peacefully in the heart of a mystery, perfectly ignorant of the matters that touch him most piercingly and painfully.

Until now, man has been a social animal constrained only slightly more than others (bees, ants, termites). Or one should rather say – less...

He derived the idea of God out of himself. Now he should bring it back again to himself.

A pebble, a basket, an orange are easy subjects. Certainly, that is why they tempted me. Nobody ever has said anything on these subjects. It would suffice to say very little, anything at all. It sufficed to think about them: nothing is more difficult.

But man, do I hear talk of man from everywhere?

For many reasons man has become the focus of billions of libraries.

For the same reason that nobody has ever talked about the pebble, there was nobody who would not speak about man. There was no talk at all, if it did not pertain to man. Nobody, however, has ever tried – or it seems to me that way –v to draw a modest portrait of man. A portrait that is simple – and complete. This task tempts me.

To say everything in few sentences. Well, man! Man is a subject hard to elaborate on, difficult to be led by the nose, to be tossed in one's hand. It is difficult to circle the subject, to find the necessary distance. The greatest difficulty is finding the distance, adjusting and tuning the gaze.

It is difficult to capture man with our lenses.

What would a tree do if it wanted to express the nature of trees? It would produce foliage, which would not tell much to us. Have we ever put ourselves in this position?
Exercises prepared by:
Greta Samuel, 2nd year – 2010/11
Joanna Domanowska, 2nd year – 2010/11