In conversations recently I have noticed the word gesture can mean a multitude of things when talking about expression in Art. Traditionally from an Art Historical stand point; I remember the pose of a figure referenced as a gesture. Are they lying down, sitting up stiff, are the legs crossed and to the side? All these could be stated as a gesture of the pose. The Greeks used a classic pose called the Contrapposto. Commonly used in sculpture the weight of the body would be mainly on one leg so the body would be off axis. This was achieved either in the standing or lying poses.
A quick sixty-second drawing is called a gesture drawing or pose. Commonly used to “warm” up the artist before engaging in drawing, it can be quite useful. The drawings themselves can be evocative of emotion in the confident stokes. The artist is more concerned with capturing the expression of the body or face in a minimalist manner. Other times in recent conversation I have heard artists use the word gesture as stating the piece was executed in a gestural manner. Meaning that the painting was done in a painterly style with the brush strokes visible, and not necessarily recreating the object/figure but expressing them with a quick motion. Concerned more with the ambience created with the paint rather than referencing something tangible.
What this all is leading up to is my confusion with the latest use of the word that I have heard in conversations lately. It could just be my ignorance in the interpretation. But I have heard people refer to a mark or a reference to an unrecognizable object as a “gesture”. Recently I overheard someone asking an artist if an illusion to an object was something in particular, and the artist said “No, it is just a gesture”. Understandably considering the “Webster” definition of a gesture, I can see where painting something to reference nothing in particular but just a feeling makes sense. I can plead ignorance, I have not heard of the term used that way until recently. In retrospect of writing this I can see how it makes sense that the artist wants to “express an idea or meaning” with a mark or reference to something intangible.
gesture |ˈjes ch ər|
a movement of part of the body, esp. a hand or the head, to express an idea or meaning : Alex made a gesture of apology | so much is conveyed by gesture.
• an action performed to convey one's feelings or intentions : Maggie was touched by the kind gesture.
• an action performed for show in the knowledge that it will have no effect : I hope the amendment will not be just a gesture.
verb [ intrans. ]
make a gesture : she gestured meaningfully with the pistol.
• [ trans. ] express (something) with a gesture or gestures : he gestured his dissent at this.
• [ trans. or infinitive ] direct or invite (someone) to move somewhere specified : he gestured her to a chair.