By definition, figurative art is defined as art representing objects or figures from the "real world". Transfigurativism could refer to just about everything else which, indeed, has form, but never can and never will be found in the corporeal world as such. In its broader aspect, I suppose, this might include any variety of fantasy art. But as I've already intimated, there's a hierarchy involved. This does not, however, in any way, refer to the quality of the art so described. There is an immense amount of fantasy work out there which is wonderfully crafted and beautiful to behold. But then, the figures it represents can be recognized along fairly conventional lines w/ standard varieties of perception and mental references. Drawings of unicorns, dragons, angels, for example, are fairly easy to recognize. They represent items from the collective mythos, as do the robotic humans, demonic constructs, faerie folk and three-headed dogs.
Transfigurativism in its highest state, however, is something else. That is, not only does the trans-figure represent something incorporeal, but it represents something that has never been seen before - that is, something which even falls outside of the mythological range. It has, in fact, never been visualized till the artist drew it out of the aether, and it will never be seen anywhere else again unless someone tries to replicate it. In ways, there are many similarities to visionary art, but unlike that genre, there is never a "moral" to the story, neither illustrated nor implied. Once again, in its highest state, there is never a "story" to begin with.
Transfigurative art is also closely related to varieties of Abstract art and Surrealism, and in many ways the disciplines converge. They diverge when the word "imagination" becomes the descriptive term, because the transfigurative image is not "imagined", nor can it be "imagined". It is simply the object that is, and is wholly self-referential. It defines reality on its own terms. and this "reality" is not a matter of dispute.
Of course, you're going ask me, well, if all the above is true, then where does a trans-figure come from? It comes from synchronistic accidents, trance-states, "automatic" states and any state which enables the artist to receive, retrieve or draw upon unconscious material. The trans-figure is an emergent, an original impulse, and the first and last of its kind. In a strange way, more or less, it seems as if it is drawn out of nowhere, but at the same time is wholly and authentically itself. It is often a weird, other-worldly image... alien and "other", but, in its own way faintly recognizable on a collective subliminal level... for example, it is similar to the bio-morphic ghost images that appear to unfold behind your eyes as you fall asleep, but not the recognizable images that appear in your dreams. If a trans-figure is successful, it can be felt, and felt to exist within its own trans-dimension, but, fundamentally it is not an "idea". By "felt", however, I'm not referring to emotional states in the ordinary sense. Trans-figures seem to transcend recognizable human emotional states as there is no reference to material that might cause, describe, or express an archetypal emotive reaction or response.
Incidentally, the image above is the last panel of the triptych described in the "Alchemy 1:01" post. It is a difficult process to describe; how this and its 2 sister images emerged, except to say that they did, in fact, emerge, and my role as an artist was merely to document what I was observing on a subliminal level. It's as if the original object - the mysterious bone - was, all the while, saying to me: "look at me... no, really look at me". If this all sounds rather "airy-fairy", then so be it. My guess is that many serious artists have been "called" to the craft, so to speak, for similar reasons, though, perhaps, it's not an issue they care to discuss. "Drawing from life" then, is a relative expression... there is "life", and then again, there is "life".
There is also the matter of the "muse" which might further define the transfigurative process.. But that subject will be addressed in a later post.
See Alchemy of a Found Object