Non finito

Michelangelo – Atlas Slave

“Non finito” is an Italian term for “not finished”. It is mainly used in sculpture, but can also be applied to any other form of work.

Especially Michelangelo and Auguste Rodin are known for their non finito sculptures. They leave parts of the work completely or slightly unfinished while they work out others like they normally would. Thus, they create great expressiveness.

And we ask us: “Why did he work out this part and emphasize it so clearly? Why was this important to him?”

A comparable method is used in photography or film, when details are taken in sharp focus and other parts are blurred (bokeh).

In contrast to completely finished sculptures (or other works), the artist allows us to experience a part of their creative process. We see how Michelangelo dug into the stone with his tools. We feel the presence of artist, the process, the labor. That makes the work more accessible, reduces the viewer’s distance and creates trust.

The artist also introduces a new dimension to his work: time. We do not get the “finished work” as a perfectly described moment but a work in its different phases of creation. The work becomes a timeline of his own development.

I introduced this concept to my work too. A few years ago I started to leave parts of the canvas unfinished. They maybe got one thin wash of paint while I built up dozens layers of paint in other parts of the work. Example:

SEASCAPE 2021-01-01
SEASCAPE 2021-01-01