Research: Goethean Observations: Gesture

What is the 'gesture' of a thing, of a landscape, of a person? How does once reveal it?

Iris Brook writes: "The first three stages of the Goethean method involve different activities and ways of thinking and these could be characterised as first using perception to see the form, second using imagination to perceive its mutability, and, third, inviting inspiration to reveal the gesture. The fourth stage uses intuition both to combine and go beyond the previous stages."

But what is it? Will we know it when we see it?

The following is an image of leaves taken from the common buttercup (Ranunculus acris), ordered from bottom of stem (lowest left) to top (bottom right).

"Beginning with the sprouting seed, we create, in imagination, a moving picture of the development of the plant through stem, branches, leaves, flower, fruit, and new seeds within the fruit. As we run this moving picture over and over, and, as Goethe suggests, both forward and backward, we begin to see its one flowing process: the movement of metamorphosis.

We have progressed from a mental image, a snapshot or a still life of the plant, to moving pictures from which we learned to glimpse the essence of movement itself. Each successive phase represents a higher 'distillation' of whatever phenomenon it is that we are observing. The images we perceive reflect an increasing lightness, in both senses of the word, and intensification. Now... we begin to perceive meaning in the images, to see them as what Goethe called 'gestures.' A gesture is a movement that expresses meaning."

Having read this, I considered my own understanding of the word in this context. I read it as being something akin to potential, but not the potential of a thing from where we are standing/observing now to that which may occur in the future, rather a continuous potential. Perhaps, to borrow from Joseph Beuys' phrase 'permanent conference' one might describe the gesture of a thing as its permanent potential or the force behind that permanent potential.

As I was thinking about this, I thought of William Hogarth and in particular his 'line of beauty'; an aesthetic theory which describes a serpentine line (an s-shaped curve or ogee) as signifying liveliness and activity (movement) which excites the attention of the viewer as contrasted with straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects.

Of course, the gesture of a thing is not a shape, but a movement, and it's this which for me, connects the two. I have seen diagrams of Hogarth's line, placed inside the body of a man, to show how an artist might give the body movement/expression and bring it alive on the page or canvas, and so, one might see the gesture of a thing as something akin to this line, something indeed aesthetic (pertaining to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality) as opposed to anaesthetic (insensitive).