HL Arts: Noah Buchanan and the Classical Definition of the Divine

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Noah Buchanan uses his extensive knowledge of anatomy to create figurative paintings that celebrate the fundamentals of the classical painting style. No muscle or bone is so small that it shouldn't be seen. His artistic view is to bring an artistic element to an "anatomical event."

From a young age, Buchanan knew he loved drawing. "For me it wasn't about making art, it was entertaining. Drawing was fun, it was like playing with toys." Noah's hobby was nurtured by his family and teachers who noticed his unique talent. In high school, he was encouraged to enter regional competitions, which he won, and continued to win.

Buchanan went on to study at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philly where right away, he became fascinated in human anatomy. Being introduced to drawing nude figures, as well as introductory anatomy classes in an artistic sense, was critical to his development as an artist. Once he started scratching the surface, he wanted to know as much as he could.

"I found myself studying beyond what we were expected to know in class, further than what the other students were doing. I wanted to know what each muscle was and its function. It can be difficult to connect this obsession with what I was doing with my art. That information was helping me develop my perspective and connection with the figure. It began to fork off on its own into a separate passion, focusing much on my attention on anatomy alone. I started learning about muscles so deep in the body, ones that would never show up on the surface. And I wanted to know about them. I wanted to observe dissections of cadavers."

Buchanan has since spent much of his artistic career combining these two passions, art and anatomy. This attention to the detail of our inner physical, anatomical selves is not just a demonstration of his skills, but a reference to historical humanistic painting.

Buchanan's spirituality comes across very strongly in his work which is shown in his use of light and color. He is heavily influenced by the Spanish Baroque movement, Velazquez being a particular favorite. He often references this great master when he is working in his studio, to his use of light and the delicate yet emotional way he handles each figure.

As someone who also studies Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Vermeer, it is no surprise that his work is meant to bring a modern awareness to the classical definition of the divine. With elevated knowledge of color and form, he is bringing the viewer beyond what is expected in a traditional figure painting.

"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. This anatomical event, 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."

Buchanan teaches at the University of Santa Cruz. Many of his students take his classes to learn what art schools stress as the "fundamentals" for how to draw the figure. However, Buchanan continues to stress the importance that these lessons should not be taken so lightly.

"I have a lot of students who say 'I'm so glad I got to take your class so I could get the foundation and understand the rules, so now I can break them. There is too much of an assumption that classical art training has no place in Modern Art and that to be an artist, you need to reject these ideas of traditional form. I enjoy the fact that most of the time, my viewers feel a level of intense spirituality from the work. It's conspicuous. I don't want to have to go out of my way to spell that out for anyone or tell them that's what I'm trying to do. I love that I don't have to say that and it shows in my work."

Noah Buchanan is represented by John Pence Gallery in San Francisco. You can check out his work by visiting his website http://noahbuchananart.com/ and instagram @noah.buchanan

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