While on vacation, I decided to go a visit a few Galleries in Johannesburg a long time friend of mine who was a music producer arranged a few meetings at Everard Read/Circa; Gallery Lizamore, No-End Art Space, and MOMO all in the Johannesburg arts districts of Linden and Parkwood.
I was surprised, [but not really] to hear that the “Photomarket” is difficult at this moment in time. It does not surprise me as these institutions are primarily a for profit market based enterprise, it is important that works sell, and that there is a market for it. I do not want to get caught up on paying for a space. This happens to so many students, and myself included in my BFA years, only to be let down in the end. I am really trying to get a show where I do not have to pay for the space, because this way the gallery shows some form of interest or feels that there may be an opportunity to sell some works.
So Lorraine and myself approached the curators, I did prepare a portfolio, business cards and information about myself. I got no interest at Lizamore, however the curator was interested in my abstract piece more than she was interested in my FMP series: “Fences” At Everard Reed/Circa, I did get some interest, and the possibility of getting a show on their top floor of the gallery, and the same with No-End Art space, which is a small space in a nice art district that curates independent shows.
The Gallery is very small, even so they are all booked up through next year, I will send a proposal, and the Gallery curator said: “Sometimes things Change.”
I did attempt to con-tact those curators upon my return back to Los Angeles and I am still awaiting a reply. Not that I expected anything better, one always hopes for that miracle email, but as yet it has not happened. It is close to the end of the year and these spaces are booked up to two years ahead, so I need to figure a way to get in to a space to exhibit my work.
This week I presented my Petcha Kucha and met with Dr. Wendy for my 1-2-1. Feedback is positive. Wendy recommended that I make it personal, which I think is a good idea, because most work is personal, and as to is my aim for the MA to come out with a body of work that is my own, as opposed to working on other peoples projects. I think this will be a good move forward, a kind of practice to wards that aim. It will test the old adage, practice makes perfect.
Of course this entails opening ones self up, and open to criticism. So this insecurity creeps up, it is yet another “Fence” that needs to be crossed. I paraphrase Gertude Stein who said that as a writer, if one cannot write the truth, why do it? And, she is correct, however, it’s easy to understand the advice, however, the application of it is a different matter and I find a fence, and resistance, because its difficult and scary.
I have always loved quotes. They are truths that help me get through difficult time. Cognitively, I get them, however the application of them is a fence I have to cross. This module will be about crossing fences, difficulties, fears and challenges that I have battled my entire life with the subjects of film, photography, and art.
This week, I did some research on fences, online. An old film came up during my search, by Luis Bunuel, called Exterminating Angel. A Black and White film that was written and directed by Bunuel back in 1962. I have always appreciated the Avant-Garde/Surreal art, films and literature, so this type of film appeals to me greatly, and wanted to see if there were any ideas I could glean for my own work.
Basic Plot: A group of aristocrats attend a dinner, at the end of the dinner instead of going home as normal guests would, they start taking off their ties, jackets, furs and clothes, and make themselves comfortable to retire for the night. They find themselves unable to leave the living room, as if there is some kind of invisible “Fence” preventing them leaving. This mind-fence imbibed everyone, and no-one could leave. Eventually, one aristocrats figures a way to get by everyone having to re-enact the events when they came in, and eventually they all mange to get out of the mansion a week later.
What I liked about the film most was the fact that Bunuel introduced the surrealism slowly and right from the beginning. The servants had to suddenly leave, for no reason, events became stranger and stranger, all with-in a “normal” type narrative. By the time a dis-embodied hand crosses the carpet, it is almost normal and expected. It was not an ‘art’ film for art sake, with weird pretentious events and happenings, occurring for the sake of weird. Everything happened weirdly within a well crafted narrative, so I could enjoy the film as a “normal” film, with surreal events and occurrences, happening that did not jar me out of the film story and plot.
This is something I would like to achieve with my series for my FMP, my constructed images will be surreal and avant-garde but would like it to be accepted as the status quo. I found the piece to be a good lesson in “artisitc” restraint. Also discovered a new composer I had never heard of until this film – Pietro Domenici Paradisi https://youtu.be/vihM0HbuiPI
I watched the case-study of Dana Lixenburg. Her project: Imperial Heights. I find it interesting that she new exactly how she going to photographer her subjects, and using a large format 4×5 field camera. Although been done before by Richard Avedon and Dorothea Lange both of which used large format, what I liked was that she was focussed in a small area of Los Angeles. The fact that it started off as a simple magazine commission then blossomed out into exhibitions and a web piece is every artists dream. Unfortunately I do do not have decades of gently unfolding time for this to happen, so I have taken steps to try and get into a gallery for part of my publication. I did like the way the images were shown in the galleries, in a mixture of line and grid, as well as incorporating different sizes. This opposed to exhibitions I have seen where they are all one size and in a single line. hopefully I would like to exhibit this way if I get a gallery exhibition.
Personally I do not like representational and objective photography, this is a trap for the modernists, so my work will focus on the abstract. I have been working on images since the beginning of the MA, and in the last module I went completely abstract, I may throttle back a little for my FMP, and will most probably do them in B+W, and because the images will be constructed, I will be using a myriad of camera’s ranging from 35mm, widely, stereo and 6×6. The reason being that these formats behave in different ways, and I will be compositing images from these cameras to make my final image. I embrace the digital age, so I will incorporate digital and well as analogue in my FMP, and attempt to bring these disparaties together into co-hesive whole, through th abstract image. I will hold it to-gether critically through a theme, as opposed to a singular format.
This being the final week before submitting, I have been looking at the work of some more contemporary photographic artists. I looked at the work of German Painter Gerhardt Richter. He makes the most aesthetically pleasing paintings by applying layers of paint, then scraping the layers off to reveal the colors beneath. I am familiar with his work as well as his photography which in the mid-1980s began painting on his photographs.
In one of his images: Fig.1 Overpainted photograph, Richter drags enamel paint across an image. When I look at the work, although interesting, feel that it’s some of the old “attempts at being different for different sake.” I wonder now where the concept is anchored? This is why I appreciate the work of Jeff Wall. His work is anchored in poetry.
Another contemporary photographer whose work I am not familiar with surfaced through research: Alison Rossiter. She works with very old expired paper, some as early as the 1920s and makes abstract prints. I have recently been experimenting with very old film, as early as 1920, but have not exposed and developed it yet. I am still doing research on older chemicals before I do it. This film from that far back is very expensive ranging between $50 to $150 dollars a roll. So I have to be more experienced with older emulsions because it is very brittle, very curled, major loss of sensitivity and other ‘technical issues’ that need be solved.
I have worked with some film from the 1950s and managed to get an image. I do like the look of these old emulsions and will be doing some more work with old film and may also extend this to old photographic paper in the next module for my final major project, as I pursue the messages of the abstract.
Fig.1 Books at Manic. (2019). Richter Overpainted Photos Comprehensive. [online] Available at: https://www.manic.com.au/richter-overpainted-photos-comprehensive.html [Accessed 25 Apr. 2019]
Reflecting back over the course, this module has finally given me the means to work in my own practice that allows me to make work other than representational images. I have managed to move from representational photography to the abstract with an aim and a reason for doing abstract work.
In the past, I did abstract work because I enjoyed it. I have since come to learn that enjoyment of it is not enough, that one has to be critical about one’s practice and informed. It may be on some level if I am making artwork for myself that I will never show to anyone, however, as I am aiming for the museum and the gallery domains and this means of consumption requires primarily that I understand my own work, that I can communicate to consumers and readers of the work so that they can understand it, and that I am making images for more reasons than just the pure aesthetic of it.
This module was very difficult for me, the ideas and concepts were in my mind but I felt linguistically paralyzed. It is the strangest feeling of not being able to communicate a feeling, however, communication an abstract is not easy. The most important things I learned in this module are: image construction, image farming, and hunting and how symbols are communicated. Just as a symbol has to be culturally learned, so does an abstract image. Red means stop, had to be learned and taught in order for it to become culturally accepted as a color of danger and the color that connotes stop at a traffic light. This is why individual take driving education, in order to learn what symbols mean. Icons are a little different. The image shows enough information for a person to know that the image of a deer crossing a road means that there is wild-life present and caution must be exercised, however, and amber light on a traffic light, has to be taught that it mean caution.
Being able to communicate abstract images by means of connotation and poetry so far has been a good way to do it. This was a direct result of Jeff Wall.
This week, I have been very busy working on my images and getting them ready for the CRoP submission. I am attempting to present it as a journey from where I have come, to where I am at present.
An image like the one above Fig.1 is representational and denotes two pieces of barbed wire being joined. Mentally for me it the unification of knowledge and experience that I wanted to show. Now that I am moving on to abstraction, I choose to show it in another way Fig.3 I feel that this image is closer to what I have in mind. I also intertextualised it from Michael Angelo (1510) The Creation of Adam Fig.2
art.com. (2019). The Creation of Adam, c.1510 (detail) Stretched Canvas Print by Michelangelo Buonarroti | Art.com. [online] Available at: https://www.art.com/products/p31141518883-sa-i808736/michelangelo-buonarroti-the-creation-of-adam-c-1510-detail.htm [Accessed 27 Apr. 2019].
My interest lies in the area of galleries and museums primarily. My background is in cinema, and basically photography might be an extension of my current profession in one way or another, where the work is made then exhibited in the theatre or on TV/Cable/Online.
The main difference between the two mediums is that film is a very crew and cast dependent medium. A film cannot be made on your own, unless an art film. This is the reason I am becoming more attracted to the photographic medium because it there is a direct relationship between myself and the camera. Working in this way is far more enjoyable for me than having to rely on a crew when anything needs to be done.
Also, the public arena for exhibiting films seems to be on the decline, cinemas are closing at a rapid rate, as the consumer watches more and more content on the computer and home video systems. With the gallery and the museum circuit the exhibition spaces are on the rise, with new buildings being constructed older museums like LACMA, is soon going to be completely rebuilt. The new SFMOMA id a very popular museum visited my many individuals throughout the year.
I like public showing of my work, and think that the museum and gallery circuit will have a much longer survival rate than the cinema. I have to take this into consideration. Plus, photography is more of a personal art-form like writing and painting. I do not need anyone besides myself to make art.
Man Ray says it best: “Inwardly, I resented the idea of doing any work, even with only one other person. In the pursuit of pleasure, I was willing to collaborate with one other person.”
Very happy to have completed this task on time. I feel that it will help with my critical review of practice.
Paul commented on it critically. He enjoyed it and felt that it set forth confidence and clarity. That the flow of the video would be better if my intent was followed by a critical review of my own practice then followed by other practitioners who informed my work.
I did appreciate the comments from some peers, however, felt that they were not critical (and neither was I) What was learned from this is that niceties and accolades (unlike criticism) do not help to improve my presentation. Whereas Pauls’ criticism made me directly aware of what needed to be done to improve the presentation this in turn will help me with the writing and shaping of my Critical Review of Practice.
This week have to consider the works of Daniel Gustav Kramer how it evolved over time and how his work is contextualized. How my own practice can be evaluated and critically reflected on.
Trilogy, (Woodland,Underwater and Mountain) was inspired by another practitioner Giordi Morandi, who was a landscape painter, whose work was similarly void of human occupation and not geographically positioned.
Gustav’s Trilogy, was also built around some common themes: namely nature uncontaminated. The series ranges from the depths of ocean floor, through forest to mountain peaks. All of which are uninhabited and unpolluted by the human species and was produced and developed over many years from 2003 to 2013. His worked developed as time went on. He started in the deserted forest, then moved to the ocean depths, then to the mountains. All three locations have the same theme: isolation, timelessness and non specific locations.
From a historical standpoint, both Morandi and Cramers work is unknown to us. By looking at both these artists work, there is nothing to reference time. I do find the ‘black hole’ interesting [Fig.1.] It could index death or the unknown. Cramer stops here, afraid to go forward. Malevich stopped at black square. Blake and Gödel looked into that realm, they went past the threshold mathematically and poetically. In my own practice, I am also at this ‘gate.’ For me there is no blackness or darkness beyond. I have ‘seen’ into that realm with my intuition, therefore I use the fence as the barrier as opposed to a wall a black hole or a black plane as is the case with Malevich and Cramer. For me there is a whole other world beyond that blackness. Like with the fence, one can see through it, one can have an idea of what’s beyond. One has no idea what’s beyond the black hole of Cramers image Fig.1. below other than faint tree trunks and foliage, but beyond that, darkness and the unknown still prevails.
In the work of William Eggelston for example, there are many human made artifacts with which to reference time and place. For example the image below (Fig.2) has a 1969 Ford Torino on the right, this can reference historically when the photo was made, in addition the license plate can let us know what state the car is from, as well as what year those plates were made. There are many other visual clues in the image as well, that can easily point time and place. Especially by someone who owns the store, or lives in that town.
In Cramers Trilogy there is no human contamination. The sense of time is erased and geographical location is also difficult if not impossible to pinpoint.
In terms of my own practice, I can see some parallels, between Cramers work and my own. Firstly that my abstractions have developed over time as well, however it moved from the objective to the abstract, whereas Cramers moved from Underwater to Mountain. In my practice abstraction is the image itself, with Cramer his abstractum is achieved by what is left out of the image, or beyond the frame. In my work, human intervention is there, but is minimal and indexed by a single strand of barbed wire fencing joined by someone?
This gives some clue to human activity and denotes that boundary between human and nature, body and mind, objective representation and non-objective abstraction. It is amazing just how powerful a single strand of wire can be be. It keeps out human and animal.
Interview with Harry Callahan. An artist whose work I like because he can “dance” between representational and abstract images. One of the few practitioners to be successful at it. Harry was a protege of Ansel Adams and Stieglitz. He was informed by Ansel’s work, but came to his own realization that he could photograph a footprint in the sand and achieve sand dunes; he did not have to go to Yellowstone to get an image. This ability to work anywhere has always been of interest to me.
This is something I have always aspired to, which has recently come to fruition. Much like the painter at the studio, the writer at the typewriter. Works that can be done on a very small foot print and close to home.
Callahan felt that rich experiences with meaning nourished his practice and photography. Callahan’s intent was simple: “I just wanted to make a picture.” When he got tired of photographing landscapes, he moved to the city, when he got tired of the city he moved onto abstracts. This is something I really admire about him and use it in my own practice.