Project 1.1: Gesture – the limits of the bodies reach

Two other artists with quite some different background are using body movement and gestures as a main part of their work. Both with a background in dance. Both artists deal in their own unique way with choreography, the design of sequential steps move movement of bodies. A term widely used beyon dance and ballet e.g in swimming, gymastics, fashion shows.

“Dancers should show expression through their body movement. They’re not actors.” – Shen Wei

Shen Wei (b. 1968) choreographer, painter and director from China and now New York based. He studied Chinese classical opera, modern dance and combined dance, music and visual elements in his movement based body of work that includes areas as dance, theater, painting, sound, and sculpture. (

Limited States, 2011. A dance performance juxtaposed and layered with video effects that dissolves specific states into motion, blurring indiscernible states, and even dissolve the entire figure into blackness. One wonders where the human physical figure ends and where animation and effect starts.

Connect Transfer, 2012 is a performative drawing through dancing , the touch of the hands on the ground leaving the marks. Reminds me of my experience during the exercise work with my more limited spatial extension with finger and arm only. I was wondering how spatial drawing could be done in 3D space, and Shen Wei’s work reminds me that movement in space and time can possibly only represent as an index on a flat surface. What this work also reminds me of figure skating, the more or less visible repetitive marks left on the ice surface, till the crew comes to wash these temporal marks away and provide a ‘clean’ surface to start again.



Shen Wei’s paintings are informed by dance and movement across the picture plane is visible. His most recent works seems to go larger scale and it brings me back to work by Julie Mehretu.

Tony Orrico (b. 1979) an artist, dance and as some are stating a human spirograph. He was previously a dancer for Shen Wei till he found his own way. ( He describes himself as a postmodern artist and dance and body awareness inform his practice. He had in the past a jaw problem and although he went to see doctors he mentions that his body awareness and exercises helped him to overcome the problem and that what further informed his practice. His long duration work shows how he expresses hi personal story through a visual articulation. For me key elements here are repetition, symmetry, duration, and intense physical body condition (Axton, 2015).

In his work Accelerated Image: Yvonne Rainer’s Hand Movie (1966), an appropriation of the work by Rainer of 1966, elements of symmetry and restricted movements are dominant. The music adds ballet like a sense of drama. I can truly relate this work to my exercise work on body gesture with the restriction of drawing with fingers only (no wrist), and the symmetry of drawing with two hands.

“I want to take a body, a piece of paper, and a task and just see how long it can go and what the visual effects of that are.” – Tony Orrico

His Penwald series is built on the artist’s own body frame, the spatial and temporal extension, and through repetition and spatial offsets conducted by his body highly symmetric shapes are created over time. This works dubbed him the name ‘human Spirograph’, as the final visual image reminds strongly of the mechanical creation through repetitive rotation of circular lines. He did the work twice, expected the first time to last for two hours, eventually finished after four hours. The second time it took very much the same time of four hours. What I find an interested in aspect is Orrico’s notion that the work is finished when he has to get up, take a break, to drink etc. (Axton, 2015). What makes the work a unique encounter of uninterrupted spatial and temporal exploration as a continuity. These works are less gestural in a sense of body expression as they are conceptual works built on clear choreography that the artist is executing. The question is what is limitation and what how they interact and what it makes to the artist as well as the spectator.

I came across another artist Heather Hansen (b. 1970), who does similiar to Orrico performative body drawings e.g. Emptied Gestures, 2013. The arist calls them ‘kinetic drawing’ a it translates motion into static marks. As Shen Wei and Orrico she works in dance as well as in sculpture and painting. The motion of the physical body frame is clearly visible in some of her paintings.


The artists I looked at have all background in dance and it seems that drawing or painting is one way to visualize motion and body movement. During my last UVC I wrote my assignment 5 essay on video installation and how video art is informed by painting alongside the ‘photofilmic’ notion of tableau vivant with one example of Bill Viola’s slow motion Greeting, 1995.

I feel somehow intrigued by the space in between static painting, moving images, motion, body movement. Is the indexicality of the body movement as the examples of Orrico or Shen Wei shows the only way to express and embed body movement into painting?

Curious to see the wider concept traces and indexicality versus a more conceptual choreagraphic work as Orrico’s Penwald series.

I am trying to see what is more relevant to my life and what I experience. I like how Orrico’ embraced his jaw issue and made through physical practices as a kind of mediatation the issue be less relevant to him. An aspect that currently looking at with limited scope in my daily 2min spatial gesture project.

Shen Wei’s Connect Transfer and my association with figure skating marks brings me to my art therapy practice and the way I install the environment: plywood panels, large sheets of paper (100x70cm) will be stuck to it and people paint slowly with their left hand with gouache paint on it, to cover the whole page, with no white edges. That means the paint exceeds the paper edges and leaves traces on the wood panels. Over time the panel is covered with colored marks from multiple painting and people as an index of what happened over a long period of time in that space, intersubjective and collectively. Could I take here some ideas from?



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