Cartographical Minds

The most complex of landscapes is the human face. It is not a perfect geometrically congruent entity, and its features can best be described as lines that form a complex pattern. In fact, the human face is a fascinating surface consisting of a manifold of structural patterns.

These patterns, or commonly called facial features, are so varied – to the degree that no face is identical to another. People might look alike, twins might appear “identical”, however resemblance cannot be equaled with being exactly the same. In nature, and so especially the human face, nothing is fully identical. This finds proof in that not even the human face’s two vertical halves are identical. Symmetry is a geometrical perfection that is unknown to it. Each of the two vertical halves that constitute a face, have different features and yet seem to be fully alike. Vision deceives the viewer and usually tells him, if differences are not too prominent, that true symmetry has been achieved in the human face. However, this is an illusion, skillfully plotted by nature.

This inert complexity is what renders a human face one of the most difficult motives to depict. Since its very beginnings, art has struggled desperately for an appropriate artistic reflection of the human face. With the centuries passing, art has proved its versatility and creativeness in this endeavor, moving closer and closer to true likeliness. At its invention, photography has been argued to be the most applicable medium to capturing this true likeliness. Yet, is true likeliness a one-to-one copy of the original? Or is it rather to infuse the copy with the essence of the original?

Klaus Fruchtnis in his “Cartographical Minds” series, has pushed this question to the extreme. What is scientifically termed “physiognomy”, the individual characteristics of a face, can in fact be seen as some sort of human topography. Each face is unique, such as the topography of a certain landscape. Fruchtnis has taken the portrait, the most common fashion of visually confining the face to a pictorial surface, and literally transformed it into a topographical map. However, he does not merely turn the photographs into maps, but creates complex landscapes of body and mind.

The contours of the faces, their physiognomy, forms the basis of these “body- and mindscapes”, with for instance the hair being turned into wide plains, the nose into a mountain range or the cheeks becoming a valley. The physiognomy thus becomes topography, the “bodyscape” so to speak. Furthermore, the artist seeks to understand his model and infuses an array of private information into the existing bodyscape, which he slightly alters to emphasize certain bits of information. A “mindscape” is thus added to the existing topography, depicting both the inside and the outside of the person. One can say, the artist makes the mind visible through a sophisticated combination of physiognomy and psychology. Fruchtnis thus achieves a complicated fusion of two separate, but intrinsically interlinked spheres of human existence. The mind and body form a unit, and the physiognomy of a person is a map of his personality. The “Cartographical Minds” series treats this connection in a visually stimulating and artistically inspired way, and within this, it strives for not much less than revealing the true essence of being human.

Frank Feltens © 2010