Richard D. Finch - Artist Statement

Visual art has long been recognized for its historical, social, and cultural significance and relevance.  Our first works of art—e.g. Paleolithic Era cave paintings discovered at Lascaux (Dordogne), France, and dating from 15,000-10,000 b.c.—are images and symbols “interpreted as an attempt to gain magical control over the animals on which the Stone Age culture depended …” (Russell 2).  Other works of art have investigated and established ideals of beauty, pictured religious deities and iconography, provided social commentary and criticism, and otherwise communicated ideas both universal and particular to the human condition.

            My research and creative work in the visual arts reflect an understanding of these functions of art.  My works draw upon many traditional means and forms, and I attempt to extend these traditions as I develop my own voice and its fulfillment in the making of art.  The subjects for my artworks—the human figure and still life objects—connect with subjects that have served many artists, cultures, and historical periods, even from antiquity.

We see clearly the emergence of interpretive figurative artworks through the revelation of art historical precedents.  Conventional and systematic approaches to the depiction of human figures throughout early Egyptian culture, Roman art, Greek civilization, and medieval illuminated manuscripts were replaced by increasingly individualistic approaches from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Romantic periods and into the myriad of styles in the twentieth century (Goldstein).  Furthermore, the development of metaphoric and symbolic uses for still life objects is well documented, particularly in the works by the Dutch still life painters of the seventeenth century.  Although the use of still life subjects by these artists was at first pragmatic[1], artists such as Jan Vermeer and later, in the eighteenth century, Jean Baptiste Chardin began to depict everyday objects in ways that elevated their commonplace status to one of elegance and importance by infusing “a quiet dignity in domestic scenes” (Russell 334).  Contemporary uses of the human figure and still life objects vary widely and convey richly innovative expressions[2].

            My research and artistic agenda focus on the study of this rich history and the emergence of interpretive uses of the human figure and still life objects as subjects; the contemplation of my own relevant perceptions, observations, and life experiences; and intensive studio activities that culminate in visual works of art that express my views about these subjects, their interactions, and their references to larger and more universal ideas.  I employ drawing, painting (primarily watercolor), and printmaking as the principal media by which I explore and express ideas in two-dimensional form; the investigation, methodology, and development in my work rely strongly on serial imagery and sequential composition.



Works Cited

Bergström, Ingvar.  Dutch Still-Life Painting in the Seventeenth Century.  New York:  Hacker Art Books, 1983.

Goldstein, Nathan.  Figure Drawing:  The Structure, Anatomy, and Expressive Design of Human Form.  5th ed.  Upper Saddle River, N.J.:  Prentice Hall, 1999.

Russell, Stella Pandell.  Art in the World.  4th ed.  Fort Worth:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.

[1] Holland achieved independence in 1581, and the nation began to develop a distinctive national consciousness.  Artists in the seventeenth century shared this interest in the development of individuality and they began to describe in their works “all things that belonged to everyday life, a delight borne up by a happy feeling that ‘this is mine, all this is ours’.”  (Bergstrom 1)  At the same time, church officials in the reformed parts of Holland ceased to provide commissions to artists to decorate the churches.  “There was a strong antagonism towards any form of pictorial figurative decoration on the walls of the House of God,” and artists were obliged to build on previous, secular traditions and to find new subjects for their works. (Bergstrom 2)

[2] Examples include artworks by such established contemporary artists as Alberto Giacometti, who communicated his existentialist views of man by depicting human figures dominated by shifting, atmospheric environments and shallow spaces; Giorgio Morandi, who spent a lifetime investigating through painting and printmaking the visual and metaphorical possibilities of arrangements of bottles on table tops; Jim Dine, who in the last third of the twentieth century saw the human figure as the only meaningful subject available to him, but subsequently depicted bathrobes as stand-ins for his self-portrait; and Jack Beal, who depicted objects and figures for the symbolic potentials inherent in their juxtapositions.


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Richard D. Finch
College of Fine Arts
Illinois State University