Saturday, 1 March 2014

Go Ask Alice....

What is the difference between a figure and a figurine? Is the difference a question of scale exclusively, of size only? Not necessarily. Of course, what we call the figurine is as a rule, if not a law, much smaller in size than these other works we would call a figure or a figurative work in the visual arts. Yet, much figurative sculpture is small in scale without being classified, categorized as “figurine”. Figurative Renaissance bronzes for example are often miniature, scaled-down representations of bodies and human forms yet they are logically and rightfully understood and explained as would be full or even larger than life size sculptures. The very term “figurine” implies a diminution not only in size but also in inherent status compared with the figure, and the figurine occupies a lowlier position in the (still) existing hierarchy of three-dimensional images, in the domain of sculpture within the visual arts. If the difference is not one of scale, could it be one of material? Is ceramics as a material integral to the status and classification conferred on certain objects like figurines? Possibly. The figurine is largely if not exclusively a ceramics category, although much figurine is now produced industrially using plastics, which has replaced ceramics in other spheres as well, historically reserved for clay and its derivatives. Is the difference between a figure (what is also called a statue) and a figurine, only one of size and material? I would argue that although size and material are important factors in defining the genre, there are also, more importantly, conceptual and contextual differences at work. It seems important here to question and define the differences between a figure and a figurine since both play such an important and seminal role in defining an essential aspect of the contributions of ceramics as an autonomous, specific, independent and radical art form.
Paul Mathieu - Copyright © 2010 The Art Of The Future

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