When asked how to describe the human figure, artist Noah Buchanan has said: “The human figure is an anatomical event that houses the spirit of the human condition.” His oil paintings perfectly illustrate what he means by this: an incredible display of the human body’s physical elegance and prowess, while also expressing what we cannot see. His art has been praised as among the best of his generation, a fusion of contemporary and classical themes with a Caravaggio-like command of anatomy.
Raised in Venice, California, Noah Buchanan bases his work in the academic tradition of the figure, working with themes of the mythic, symbolic and heroic. Typically presented in the nude, his subjects stir in us a sense of wonder and awe about what the body can do, explaining that he is most interested in “captures light and movement in a way that is inherently natural, but also capable of identifying with viewers on a metaphysical level.”
In the iconography of his art, elements like shadow and light are not just physical components but are also metaphors, as in his painting “Jacob’s Ladder” (2002) where it suggests the absence and presence of the divine. The piece is a part of a series created after the September 11 attacks in New York, where he wanted to find figurative narratives that could convey hope and affirm the value of life. Though not particularly religious, his introduction to baroque painting in his youth would eventually spark an interest in conveying the human spirit.
“I connect spiritually through the process of making art and I find the whole thing is very miraculous. Whether it’s drawing or painting, it feels like a spiritual ritual,” he says. “This practice of putting all the parts together to create a vessel for us, so that we can go through our lives, so we can struggle and fail and succeed, and move through all the dynamics of the human condition, really, is so spiritual for me. What we are doing is searching for meaning in our lives.”