The most skilled paintings are ones that you can literally float into for a few moments. The drawback being that even the most seductive canvases cannot hold the imagination for long. I think that might be why we continue to return again and again to particular paintings, to recreate that suspension from this world to another reality created by a human life that is either alive and not present or long long gone.
What I particularly love about sculpture is how intense that process becomes, as if art taking a 3 dimensional form increases the velocity of the imagination jump. Throughout time there have been stories of people becoming obsessed with a work of sculpture, returning and returning to them haunted by real feelings of longing. I have had that happen with the works of Bernini in Rome. Like a moth to a flame, I stood around the rooms of the Villa Borghese, knowing that I had limited time to see all the galleries and not wanting to leave his creations behind. I bought postcards and books in an effort to arrest the sensation but really, nothing compared to the feeling of seeing the marble with my naked eyes.
There is a bust of Marie Antoinette by Louis-Simon Boizot in the Louvre that gives me a similar feeling. You can stand in front of her and really examine the mass and shape being what I can only imagine is a true depiction of her in life. Her face, framed by exquisite hair is incredibly human, forever unchanged but made almost sickly with the notion of what happens to that head only 12 years after the bust was commissioned.
Again, I don’t particularly care for cemeteries but I am oddly drawn to sculptural monuments and the names that are inscribed in marble under the eternally limp body of a female mourner.
Two contemporary sculptors stand out to me as possessing strong portals to alternative universes accessible only through the human imagination: Kevin Francis Gray (Irish, living in England) and Alexander Seton (Australian living in Sydney). A really excellent article on Seton can be found in the current issue of Modern Painters.