Week-10-Contextual Research.

My work is finally positioning itself in the abstract, something I have been working toward since the beginning of the MA. On this module, image contsruction is what finally allowed me to move in a direction that I am really enjoying and feel is my own.  It allows me to “construct” or better still create an image that is more than just snapping the shutter at a decisive moment. I feel part of the image making process, much like painting,  but without actually painting.

Looking at the work of Man Ray, Maholy Nagy, Barbera Kasten. led me to believe that more can be done in the image making process, but it was still not quite enough for me, I was looking for more than just placing glass or objects in front of the camera and playing with the light as it passes through the different mediums or casting shadows in from of images in a studio environment.

Artists like Man Ray, a polymath of sorts, who made Ray-O-graphs, like the one below. “Untitled.” Also peeked my interest. He said: “I deliberately dodged all the rules, I mixed the most insane products together, I used film way past its use date, I committed heinous crimes against chemistry and photography, and you can’t see any of it”.

I my own practice, I am also experimenting with mixing together all types of mediums. Film, digital, paint, pencil, paper and experimenting with Lightroom and Photoshop, so forcing the extremities in front of and behind the camera and bringing it altogether in a cohesive whole in the post process. I have also noticed that my work now contains no temporal  or positional reference. They could be any place, anytime. I learned this from Daniel Gustav Cramer in his series Trilogy, where all historical and geographical references are removed. It is interesting to me to see by simply removing time and place from the cognitive process, it gives the reader something else to contemplate and to latch onto, in my work I would like my readers to lock in to their emotions  ‘what does this image say to you?’  for them to develop trust in their own senses. When Sukula says: ‘The photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning.’  I wonder of he is taking into the account the audience.

As far as the economical consumption of my work,  it would be best consumed in a gallery or museum, where consumers and readers go precisely to become informed or transformed through works of art. It has been my experience, when attending these spaces, where some part of it was allocated to photography,  amongst the great painters of today and yesterday, I found the readers, reading the images quickly and moving onto the next. In galleries where works or Gerhardt Richter and Mark Rothko’s hung, I saw readers sitting down and looking at the images for very long periods of time, there is a punctum that painting has that photography lacks.  It could well be the size of the Richters’ I do not know. It would be interesting to see a Richter alongside a Gursky to see how long the consumer would spend reading both images, both being massive works of art. Could it be possible that size does matter? Maybe Kraus is correct when she says: ‘The photograph is a type of icon, or visual likeness, which bears and indexical relationship to it’s object.’

Fig.1.©Pierre Chemaly (2019)
Fig.2. Man Ray. 1922.

Man Ray  painted, made art films and photographed.  His Ray-O-Graphs interest me, however this process took the camera out of the equation, much like painting does. Even though I love both painting and photograms I am not interested in losing the machine. To me it’s part of the image making process, and if used correctly, can contribute to the image making process.

In the work of Kasten and Nagy, the camera remains part of the image making process. In others words: no camera, no image.  At present I am using 35mm, digital cropped and full sensor (Canon7D+5D) as well as 6×6/7  However, I am very interested in making large images eventually, like the works of Jeff Wall [a]  and Andreas Gursky. They both use large format cameras. Gursky a 5X7 and Wall a 4×5. [Fig.3] even though I am not using it in my image constructions at present, this is something I am considering and have two packed away for when the time comes.


Wall describes his approach as:  “cinematography” or “near-documentary,” [b] I like that and will appropriate it to some degree, describing my approach as:  “photography that ‘approaches’ painting.” In this way, I create with two mediums distilled into one.  A mini collective, albeit 2.

Fig.4. © Pierre Chemaly (2019)

What does approach mean and what is it’s value for me as a practitioner?  The mathematician Gödel proved that 2+2=4 with tendency. This is known as Gödels theorem of incompleteness.[c] In other words, it’s not a law, nor an absolute. 2+2 approaches 4 and that’s the closest it will ever get.  Within this gap, between approach and the absolute – lies infinity. William Blake the poet said it another way. “To see the world within a grain of sand.” In other words, within a grain of sand lies the universe. Interestingly enough, the word universe has no plural, because it contains everything! [d]

I consider image making a spiritual act, always have, however, it was only about two years ago, that I was included into that ceremony. I ‘accidentally’ dropped my camera, caught it before hitting the ground and tripped the shutter. It produced an amazing ‘accidental’ image. From that day on, I looked at the machine in a whole new way, I let it do it’s thing and no longer fight it. What ever images it makes, I use and incorporate into the work.

“The spiritual life, to which art belongs and of which she is one of the mightiest elements, is a complicated but definite and easily definable movement forwards and upwards.” [e]

As I proceed with the MA, instead of working from an individual point of view, I have seen into the collective and tap into that.  Within that grain, the gap between the approach and the absolute, the amount of work that can be produced is infinite.



Fig. 1. Pierre Chemaly. (2019)  Bright Land.

Fig. 2. http://By Man Ray – Christie’s, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47153904

Fig. 3. Jeff Wall at work. (2015).  PHOTO: JESSE CHEHAK FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE

Fig. 4. Pierre Chemaly. (2019) When Daylight Comes.

[a] https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall/jeff-wall-room-guide/jeff-wall-room-guide-room-1

[b] https://www.wsj.com/articles/jeff-walls-unique-photographic-vision-1441375796

[c]  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/index.html#FirIncTheCom

[d]  https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/8657/universe-or-universes

[e] Kandinsky, Wassily. (1946). Concerning the Spirituality in Art.  New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Krauss, Rosalind. “Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America.” October, vol. 3, 1977, pp. 68–81. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/778437.

Sekula, Allan (1982) ‘On the Invention of Photographic Meaning’ in Burgin, Victor (ed.) Thinking Photography London: Palgrave Macmillan