“Remembering speechlessly, we seek the great forgotten language.”
A Search for the Hidden Connection between the Organic and the Geometric
As a sculptor or as an artist interested in perfectly representing or replicating the human form, it must be accepted that, as artist Nicholas Trabue suggests, “there are no true mathematics and geometry in the human form, no true parallel lines - no part of the surface of the body is flat or concave.” “All forms of the body are convex, outwardly rounded,” states one of Trabue’s instructors, Anthony Ryder, in his book, The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing. “The surface of the human body is entirely composed of convex forms, bulges, rounded surfaces, and feelings of fullness” - no mathematical context, no geometry.
On the other hand, the world of engineers, architects, product designers, urban designers - the manmade world and its venues - is almost entirely mathematical and geometric. “Geometric units like cement blocks, bricks, and two-by-fours, the outlines of this paper, and the regular horizontal/vertical orientation of this block of type are but a few of the daily examples of the mathematical and geometric influences in our lives,” says Ryder. Oddly, organic man not only exists but thrives in this environment saturated with right angles and parallel lines, in spite of the fact that our physical bodies contain none of the above.
The hidden connection between these seemingly diametrically opposed worlds began to reveal itself to Trabue when he began to immerse himself in the rather new mathematics and science of the 21st century - quantum mechanics, quantum physics, and the synchronicity of it all. As a result of those studies, Trabue began to discover threads of continuity between his observation and study of the organic, and the mathematical/geometric environment created by man. As he continued his studies, he became fascinated with the unity between his classical studies of human form and the emerging picture of organic man as he exists at a subatomic level. All those “convex forms and rounded surfaces” of the human form, Trabue discovered, are intricately interwoven and supported by mathematical and geometric truths which are only revealed at the subatomic level!
So perhaps, at a subconscious level, there is indeed a harmony and connection between the raw organic nature of the human form and the mathematical and geometric world man creates. Likewise, perhaps the disciplines of the artist and the mathematician are not as distant as they might first appear. As Plato surmised over two thousand years ago:
All mathematical forms have a primary subsistence in the soul; vital figures prior to such as are apparent; harmonic ratios prior to things harmonized; and invisible circles prior to the bodies that are moved in a circle. Nicholas Trabue has spent the last decade exploring the concept that on some ancient and mysterious level, there exists in the human mind an archaic relationship between mathematics and geometry and the human form. He has skillfully woven this jarring juxtaposition of mathematics and geometric forms against the organic human figure, uniting the graphic with the metaphysical. The blending of these two concepts, in some ineffable way, is accomplished by Trabue’s unique vision, deftly resolving the seemingly intractable dissonance between the organic and the mathematical.
Trabue feels, as does Sir Arthur Clark, that “. . . the nude remains the most complete example of the transmutation of matter into form.” Although the artist cannot construct a beautiful nude by mathematical or geometric rules, he cannot ignore them. Symmetrical conceptions of form are based on geometric shapes such as ovals, triangles, rectangles, squares and spheres; and though they do not exist in the body, they do seem to be inextricably linked. Trabue believes these mathematical origins must be implanted somewhere in the dim recesses of the mind or in the subconscious of the artist as he challenges to master the human form. “Ultimately, the artist is as dependent upon mathematical and geometric references as is an architect,” Trabue states.
Trabue continues, “the nude is not the subject of art, but a form of art.” To that end, he has dedicated himself to a rigorous regimen of studying the “art of the nude.” Trabue has relied heavily on the classical paradigm of Pythagoras which offers a link between sensation and order, and between an organic and geometric basis of beauty. Historically Pythagoras has been the philosopher’s stone of the school of aesthetics, and his influence continues to this day.
But the resolution between the purely “organic” nude and purely “geometric” design has resisted all attempts to erase or alter the “perfect” physical type developed in Greece between the years of 480-440 B.C., implanting the mind of Western man with a pattern of beauty and perfection spanning from the Renaissance until the present century. “One of the troublesome problems of drawing and painting is that one must try to suggest an immediately perceived totality by means of serially accumulated discrete operations,” says T. S. Jacobs, director of the Ecole Albert-Defois in France. Stated another way, the accretion of individual strokes, over time, must reveal the totality of the work... instantaneously.
Contrary to other expressions of art - music, theater or film - mediums in which the denouement of the piece is gradually revealed, by contrast, drawing and painting require the whole piece be presented in toto. As a result, the artist’s expression must succeed or fail with the immediate perception of the viewer. In his search to describe and label his art, Trabue coined the term “realistic pluralism.” The term is actually a highly accurate description of his work: “realistic” for his passion for the human form and his representational approach to it based on the Masters, and “pluralism” for the many disparate influences exhibited in his works. He juxtaposes classical realism with geometric forms, ancient writings, lost languages, relgious symbols, cave paintings, and the 21st century “lingua franca,” the binary code - all examples of some deep undercurrent of mathematics and form which exist almost at the essence of the soul. Trabue’s visual juxtapositions create a feeling that is oddly harmonious and soulful. Is this an accident or has his work hit a primal chord?
Trabue’s involvement with the art of the human figure began at age nine, when an accidental gunshot wound to the spine permanently confined him to a wheelchair, thus precluding other more physical boyhood pursuits. He started his figure studies two years later with noted artists Betty and Bill Dickerson. He continued under their tutelage until his late teens. He feels the Dickersons helped instill a foundation of sensibility and sensitivity that has permeated his art to the present day.
After graduating from university studies with degrees in Illustration and Graphic Design, Trabue traveled the United States doing portraits in venues as diverse as shopping malls, state fairs and art galleries. In the early 1970’s he traveled to Africa where he helped form Global Village Films, an advertising/ documentary film production company based in Nairobi and London. He worked with clients as diverse as the United Nations (worldwide media production and distribution of the first Earth Day), to Kodak International (introduction of the Kodak Instamatic camera to the third world), and to the National Christian Council of Kenya (Trabue directed a one-hour documentary on the council’s activities across East Africa). He has won print awards in Milan, Montreal and London.
Later, Trabue traveled extensively throughout East and Central Africa and Western Europe. In 1975, when he returned to the United States, he continued his artistic endeavors as an illustrator and as the creative director at several award-winning ad agencies, including his own Trabue & Associates. Trabue’s commissioned portraits and graphic illustrations number in the hundreds, and he has instructed classes in illustration and figure drawing at Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas, primarily during the years 1979-1982.
Trabue has been an eclectic figure in Midwest art circles for many years. Ultimately, in 1995, he extricated himself from the “advertising milieu” entirely and abandoned commercial pursuits. Trabue immersed himself in the study of philosophy and the nude figure, with a disciplined approach to learning the applications and techniques of the Old Masters. He has studied at the Academy of Realist Art, affiliated with the Seattle Academy of Fine Art, with such artists as Anthony Ryder and Dominique Creterra. Trabue has also studied with Martha Mayer Erlebacher, board member of the New York Academy of Art. Erlebacher has said of Trabue that “he paints like an angel . . . with a lurid past.”
“After I left advertising I found that I worked harder and longer than ever before on my paintings and drawings,” Trabue recalls. “I’ve always been serious about my work, but the immersion in my heretofore untapped wonder of the universe was staggering. I had to take much more time - from weeks to months, even years - to embody my work with the sensitivity which I was seeking.” Trabue continues, “I do not agree with the tenant of Modernism - that anything and everything one does is acceptable, and that the goal of painting is just to express oneself. Art must touch something more eternal.” Trabue agrees with artist Jacob Collins’ statement that “Modernism allows the artist to stop short and be lazy and accept whatever happens on the canvas.” The Modernist creed that “less is more” and that “a few gestural marks on a canvas are better than a lot of carefully observed strokes” fell empty on Trabue. As Trabue states, “when I began to realize that dealers, critics and collectors knew the difference between a half-hearted attempt and a passionate, soulful effort, I felt I was able to step up and become a better artist.”
Technically and fundamentally deft, and as an intellectually curious artist, Trabue creates a unique product which defies conventional description. Trabue has not compromised his artistic vision and will not produce for commercial consumption. However, he has finally gathered together this collection of paintings and drawings which he feels can show together as a unified exhibition of “realist pluralism.”
And now, convinced by critics that his work needs wider exposure, Trabue recently has agreed to explore the benefits of giclée printing. giclée prints are individually created, one at a time. Consequently, editions are very small. Printing a single giclée can take up to several hours under the supervision of a master printer, and before printing begins each proof must be approved by the artist. giclée prints are regarded as museum quality reproductions and have gained wide acceptance from an array of museums, galleries and collectors. For more examples of Trabue Giclées, please visit www.trabuegiclees.com.
Nicholas Trabue has agreed to produce a limited number of signed and dated artist proofs available in his hand-embellished and non- embellished formats, so that his unique work can be shared with those who appreciate his vision.
Art Historian and Publicist