Tag Archives: materiality

A visit to Messums Gallery

Yesterday, Kate 513940 and I visited the Messums Gallery in Tisbury. I have been aware for a while that this gallery was showing some interesting work, particularly to do with light and installations, and have been meaning to go for some time, but it was the lure of their current show IMAGE that finally inspired us to make the effort. And it was totally worth it. The space is huge, and divided into two main areas – the barn and the gallery, and the work is laid out beautifully. The light in the gallery is excellent, while that of the barn is darker and more evocative.

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The IMAGE exhibition, their second, focused on ‘ individuality and uniqueness in the photographic medium. As a reaction to what could be described as an over saturation of the digital in contemporary society, a move toward originality and authenticity being increasingly prized elements of the way we make and consume art is prevalent.’ It could not have been more perfect a subject for me! The photographer artists on show were Julia Cockburn Alma Haser, Liz Nielsen, Tif Hunter and Tom Butler, and for contrast  Pentti Sammallahti. Alongside, but in the large barn was a series and an installation by Martina Mati. All the works by the first five were unique, as in single objects which had been manipulated in some way which was not exactly replicable. I am already familiar with the work of Cockburn and Haser, which I love, but I was intrigued by Tom Butler’s series of altered Victorian calling cards. They were small (no bigger than 3×4″ish) and each one had been altered using gouache paint, either as blocks of colour to hide much of the print, or as complex abstract shapes which were laid over them. They were quite exquisite.

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There were five or six Cockburns, at least one of which I had seen previously at The Photographers’ Gallery. However, it was interesting to see how her work is progressing as she has begun to include looser responses to the found images she uses, among the heavily embroidered work. This article is helpful on her motivations, and I might well put her forthcoming book Stickybeaks on my Christmas list.

Aside from these the highlights of the visit were the Martina Amati installation, which consisted of two underwater films, one on the wall and the other on the ceiling, in the darkened barn, a huge space which was itself part of the work. The effect was both beautiful and quite mesmerising and spoke eloquently of the peculiarly mindful nature of free diving. I loved it, which was great as the stills were rather dark for the wall they occupied and did not give the same sense of immersion and wonder that the installation produced. I am not usually a particular fan of moving image, but these may have to make me change my mind. They were backed up by a film documentary on free diving which looked fascinating, and I must try to find it on the Web.

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The other work that really caught my attention was a six panel linocut print in the café by Diane Fogwell, which was exquisite – incredibly layered and with a strong Oriental vibe, although it was clearly a British scene. The detail was amazing.

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Take aways

  •  I will definitely be back. Specifically, they regularly put on shows involving light installations, which I realise always draw me, and which I need to explore further as a concept in my own work. Assignment 1 seems a long time ago.
  •  it is ok to include variations on a theme for a series. I had been worrying that my A5 might be a bit samy, but it should be fine to produce more work along the same lines as I am already doing.
  • there is a Bruce Munro exhibition coming up in December, which I want to attend. He had a large show on in Alice Springs, when I was there a couple of years ago, but we didn’t have time to see it, whcih i regretted at the time. This will be a new opportunity to see his work.

Finally, Kate and I returned to her house and spent a happy hour making Citrasolv art from old National Geographics. It is always fascinating to see how they develop, and I particularly enjoy the random nature of the results. A couple are shown below.

 

References

IMAGE

Truth and fantasy in the work of Julie Cockburn

Looking at materiality in current London exhibitions

At the weekend, I was up in London to see my son’s preview show for the Edinburgh fringe and took the opportunity to visit a couple of exhibitions at the same time. The first was at the Photographers’ Gallery and was the New Talent 19 exhibit on the top floor. I was interested to see what sort of work appeals to the artistic gatekeepers this year. Eight photographers had been selected from an initial entry of over 1000, and the criteria for entry were very wide and inclusive. Basically, if you hadn’t had a significant solo exhibition already, you could enter, and it was free to do so. The work on show had a great deal of variety, but at least four of the photographers were working well outside the traditional boundaries of what one might call straight photography. Naturally, these were the ones that interested me.

Alberto Feijóo is interested in the whole photographic medium, from collector to producer, but is particularly fascinated by the biography of objects and 3D representations. By 3D, I mean constructed maquettes and handmade sculptures alongside complex collages (which are not that easy to deconstruct, mentally). His explanation and some images for his series Free Acid can be found in a pdf, here. I was most struck by the maquette, which produced a very different viewpoint of the work, and which is an idea I may come back to later.

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Chiara Avagliano produced a series called Val Paradiso and combined ‘photography, poetics, text and objects’ which referenced life in a magical valley in northern Italy which was similar to where she had lived as a child. The series looked at make-believe and children’s magical-realistic approach to the world and how memories are made which might not be truly real, but which encapsulate the experience of childhood. I thought it was great, and particularly the sculptures of the lake and building, as shown below. There was a resonance back to her childhood that one could clearly feel.

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Giovanna Petrocchi is another lens-based multimedia artist. A winner of the Lensculture Emerging Talent Award in 2017, her work combines collage, found images and 3D printed objects to look at virtual reality and ancient cross cultural cultures and symbols. It is difficult to explain coherently, and her website gives much better information, so it is best to look there. However, of the three series on show, this work Modular Artefacts, Mammoth Remains, and Private Collection, only the last is listed in her online catalogue of work.

Last, but very much not least was my own favourite, Seungwon Jung’s Memories Full of Forgetting. Her minimalist images of landscapes, which were printed on fabric and then partially deconstructed and reworked were both absolutely beautiful and technically breathtaking. The empty spaces in her work are just as important as the printed areas, both as an expression of fading memories and as sculptural elements which add enormously to the visual effect. Simple patterns were carefully draped to include two flat areas and a panel of partially deconstructed fabric which had a gloriously sumptuous glitch effect. There was much to think about with regard to my own explorations of fading memories and empty spaces in images.

The other four entries were more traditional documentary style and of less interest to my current work, so I shall leave them for now. Overall, the move away from vanilla photography compared to a few years ago is marked, and many of these works were truly multi-media, combining sculpture, collage, sound and writing with photography to give a much deeper sensory experience.

After this, I went to St James to view the MA exhibition of a student from Falmouth University, Megan Ringrose. She had somehow managed to secure a pop-up exhibition space in Masons’ Yard, right next to the White Cube (which was showing some HUGE Jeff Wall images). Megan was there and was able to show me round herself, which was a bonus. Her background is in fashion photography and she told me that the MA had been pivotal in her personal work moving away from the studio and towards highly abstract pieces, based on Flusser’s idea on experimental photography, which were outlined by Lenot (2017).

Megan has taken brightly coloured pieces of paper and folded them in complex shapes, adding cyanotypes at each step of the process. When unfolded on completion, the images combine shadows and lighter areas in a complex geometric interplay which invites the viewer to contemplate. She is interested both in the concept of cameraless image and also duration, as the process is slow and paced, very unlike than her commercial work. It was fascinating to talk to her, as we not only had several acquaintances in common, but we also shared an obsession with materiality and had read many of the same theorists. I will definitely be looking out for her in future.

Overall, the day was very interesting, with lots of think about in relation to my own practice and I came away with my head brimming full of half formed ideas about my next assignment.

References

Feijóo, A. (2019) Free Acid: a work in progress. [online] At: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/26dd9f_e4e9b15cfd0848e59f0fe8983594eb9c.pdf (Accessed on 29 July 2019)

Lenot, M. (2017) “Flusser and Photographers, Photographers and Flusser.” Flusser Studies , 24. At:http://www.flusserstudies.net/sites/www.flusserstudies.net/files/media/attachments/marc-lenot-flusser-photographers-photographers-flusser.pdf (Accessed on 29 July 2019)

Assignment 2 – feedback and reflection

I had my video tutorial on Friday for assignment 2, and overall it seemed to be ok. Here is the feedback, along with my response to it.

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It is always interesting to read feedback which was written prior to a tutorial, after we have talked, as frequently it seems we are not getting the same impressions of the conversation. I came away from the video tutorial feeling that I needed to step away from experimental work and to start thinking about building meaning into my assignments, but this doesn’t seem to be what my tutor was suggesting at all. She urges me to continue experimenting and researching photographers and artists who look at materiality and to explore how ‘making’ and rephotography can add extra meaning to digital culture. She also again suggested I consider how scalability could be applied to my work, and how different surfaces would affect the results. As it happens I am interested in surfaces at present, and particularly using transparent acetates to print on, which are then given different backings.

Alongside the two photographers she suggested, Alix Marie and Dafna Talmor, we also talked about looking at the work of Alexandra Lethbridge, Max Houghton, Stephen Gill’s Best Before End, Ester Teichmann and Ellen Carey, so I include a quick tour around their oeuvres here as a marker for the future.

Alexandra Lethbridge – In this interview, she talks about how important the layers and translucent elements of the work are to her, and that they dictated how the book for The Meteorite Hunters was made (handbound Japanese style). I was interested to learn that much of her collaged work is physically layered, not digital, (and that this gives it a level of integrity which digital layers lacks – my thoughts). Her work is also appealing because she uses different images together to make a more informative and rounded study of her subject.

Alix Marie – Marie’s work is semi-sculptural and she frequently uses her own body as the canvas. She cuts, crumples and folds images for display, and also plays with the size. One of the most startling pieces shows elements of her body, at greatly increased scale, draped over a pole like pieces of washing. She is interested in the Gaze, scopophilia, and how the photograph can become sculpture.

Dafna Talmor – Talmor takes negatives from her own collection of family images, and cuts and resplices them to make new, impossible landscapes that are somehow more than the originals.  They are representations of memory and idealistic recall.

Max Houghton – I haven’t been able to find a website for her, and was unaware that she makes work as well as lecturing, so this is something to look into later.

Stephen Gill – There’s a helpful YouTube video here where Gill describes what he is doing in Best Before End, and how he is trying to embed the subject within the image via the back door, which is a very useful description. He talks about collaborating with a place, and ceding some control of the process to the location. The element of chance is important.

Esther Teichmann – I have looked at her work before here, and what I said in that post still applies, about the fascination of layering up ideas through a series of work so that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

Ellen Carey – I can’t recall who suggested I look at Ellen Carey’s work, but I am glad that they did. She bills herself as an experimental photographer, and tries all sorts of techniques, often on analogue images and Polaroids, with a strong bent towards the process. Her series Photography Degree Zero looks at similar themes to my recent A2 work, but the results are totally different. Interestingly, and before I found her work, fellow student Kate and I were experimenting with taking Polaroids apart and then reintegrating them digitally, with some fascinating results, and I will most probably be continuing with these experiments going forward. Here are a few of the recent ones, which like my A2 images, in which the subject of the image is the process, not the photographed picture, and in which re-photographing plays an important role.

This has been very useful, as it has crystallised a few concepts that have been circling around in my head, such as the process of making as a subject, multiple views of a subject to build a more layered story, impossible landscapes and the use of translucency and gaps to add meaning.

Now, onwards to Assignment 3, which is an essay.

Assignment 2 – Deconstructing the Digital Image: a Materialist approach

An object is frequently not seen, from not knowing how to see it, rather than any defect in the organ of vision. (Babbage, 1830)[1]

This assignment follows on from my previous one, in that it also considers the material nature of the photograph, but in this case the digital image. The concept of materiality with regard to photography is now well-embedded in academic culture, but on the whole it tends to focus on analogue photographs, with their physical characteristics of paper and ink. Rachel Smith’s fascinating OCA Symposium lecture [2] discusses the ‘object’ nature of the analogue image in detail, including its surface, location, the processes involved and its history. She considers Geoffrey Batchen’s idea that the photograph consists of both a subject and an object, and that generally people look past the object to the subject without really seeing it. ‘In order to see what a photograph is of, we need to supress our consciousness of what it is.’ (Batchen, 1997:2)[3] The notion of materiality refutes that concept and argues that the object itself carries contextualisation and meaning which adds to the viewing experience. I have written a separate post about this and some photographers who consider this in their work here [4].

It has also been argued that the rise in interest in materiality has come as a result of the the so-called ‘death of the analogue’, with the appearance of the digital image and its apparent lack of material characteristics. Smith argues that time has the same degrading effect on the digital image as occurs with an analogue photograph, through glitches, altering metadata and missing pixels instead of scratches, dustmarks, etc. and that one can think of the digital image as material despite its lack of physicality. Joanna Sassoon posits that the photograph can be considered as a multilayered laminated object in which meaning is derived from a symbiotic relationship between materiality, content and context. (Sassoon, 2004:189) [5] either separately or together, but that the digital image lacks the material aspect. Smith, on the other hand argues that the vehicle for the image (the phone, laptop, screen) should necessarily be viewed as part of its materiality. The phone screen is the same as a sheet of photopaper in its function, i.e. that of carrying the image.

While Barthes talks about a photograph’s inseperable relationship to its subject in Camera Lucida (Barthes, 1980;13)[6],  Fontcuberta (2014:62)[7] posits that either the image itself might be the subject of interest, or the object. For example, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s current exhibition in its new Photography galleries offers a very different experience from a regular gallery, with the objects being as important as the images they hold. Fontcuberta encourages us to choose which variables of a digital image we want to alter in order to break the conventionality of the analogue photograph.

Taking this concept of looking at the materiality and layers that make up a digital image, A Derridian deconstructive approach seemed appropriate. Derrida theorised that in order to fully understand anything, one needs to take it apart (deconstruct it) and to examine its constituents. This is the best known part of his theory, but he also adds that the final part of the exploration is to reconstruct the object again. (Derrida, 1983)[8]

In order to present this series as a blog post, I have had to re-photograph the images. Like my two previous assignment, this work is something that is inherently physical in nature and it does not have the same effect when viewed on a screen, either in still or video format. In order to fully understand it, one has to be able to move it around, and raise and lower some of the images. The digital transparencies can be viewed from either side, and their relationship to the images above and below is part of the work. I have therefore included another post on the effects of re-photographing on a piece of original work [9]  and how it can change the meaning of it in ways which may add to, detract from or completely alter that meaning. This is further accompanied by a post on the photographers whose work as influenced my series  [10]and another on how digital images are encoded and decoded. [11]

This physicality has also influenced my choice of presentation. I see this piece as a work in progress, to which I may add other interpretations as I think of them, and that the final assessment presentation will most probably be quite different. At present, it takes the form of a ringbound A5 notebook, to allow the viewer to flip over the pages vertically and reveal the next image. Some images are double sided, some are transparent and others need to be viewed collectively as well as individually. I felt that this format was the simplest way of enabling the viewer to play with the work and to consider the reality of the variations on a theme it includes. As yet, I am unsure how the final version for assessment might look, but it could potentially be similar to a book of wallpaper samples, with a solid spine and looser pages.

Artist’s statement

For this series, I have used a conceptual approach around Derridian deconstruction and the notion of a photograph being both an image and an object to dissect the nature of a digital image into its various elements, each of which has its own reality and potential meaning, both separately and together. I have attempted to ignore the subject and concentrate on the object, but a virtual object – the digital image – rather than a real-life one, and the subject is irrelevant: merely a vehicle to visualise the processes.

Digital images are by their nature virtual. In this work, that virtual reality has to be reconstituted into something solid, that one can hold. By making this a physical book of images, I have tried to blur the lines between the digital/virtual and reality, to consider how they differ and are the same. This book has then been re-photographed, which takes it back into the digital realm.

Assignment images (some of which have been photographed more than once, alone and in combination with another.)

Video version

https://vimeo.com/user44649777

References

  1. Babbage, C. (1830). “Reflections on the Decline of Science in England: And on Some of Its Causes, by Charles Babbage (1830). To which is Added On the Alleged Decline of Science in England, by a Foreigner (Gerard Moll) with a Foreword by Michael Faraday (1831).”, p.210 [online] At: https://archive.org/details/reflectionsonde00mollgoog/page/n234. (Accessed on 9 March 2019)
  2. Open College of the Arts (2016) The Materiality of Images: Rachel Smith lecture. [online video] At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQzobcFrY9Y (Accessed on 9 March 2019)
  3. Batchen, Geoffrey (1997) Burning with Desire: the Conception of Photography. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  4. Woodward, H. (2019) Photography and New Materiality. [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/photography-and-new-materiality/
  5. Sassoon, J., (2004). Photographic materiality in the age of digital reproduction. In: Photographs objects histories: On the materiality of images, pp.186-202.
  6. Barthes, R. (1980) Camera Lucida. New York: Hill & Wang
  7. Fontcuberta, Joan (2014) Pandora’s Camera. Mackbooks.
  8. Derrida, J. (1983) ‘Letter to a Japanese Friend’ In: Wood, D. & Bernasconi, R. (eds.) Derrida and Différance. Warwick: Parousia Press 1985, p. 1-5. [online] At: https://grattoncourses.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/letter_to_a_japanese.pdf (Accessed on 9 March 2019)
  9. Woodward, H. (2019) What Happens when One Rephotographs an object? [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/what-happens-when-one-rephotographs-an-object/
  10. Woodward, H. (2019) Assignment 2 – Contextual Background. [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/assignment-2-contextual-background/
  11. Woodward, H. (2019) Unencoding the digital image. [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/unencoding-the-digital-image/

 

Assignment 2 – Contextual Background

N.B. This post should be read in conjunction with the companion one linked here:

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/photography-and-new-materiality/

This assignment has morphed through several different ideas since I began the research for it. Originally, I had planned to do it on some old correspondence that my great-grandfather had with the operetta composers Gilbert & Sullivan. After reading the course and reference materials though, my mind was teeming with new ideas, particularly on the subject of internet privacy and specifically, how much Instagram knows about us – or can surmise about us – given our interests and the pages and images we like.  This led to further research on algorithms and how the internet stores our data, and the ‘Aha moment’ came when I printed out the digital code for a 7×7 pixel square and was astounded at the size of both. The image and the associated data now forms the first image of my assignment book.

This led to some experiments using photographs and digital image code, two of which are shown below.

At this point, it became clear that I wanted to explore the relationship between the digital image and the code that forms it. Using the program onlineimagetools,com I printed the entire code for a single 6×4″ photograph to PDF, and it came to over 1100 pages of Word, using a 3 point font. Such a huge amount of information for one image! And with so much potential for alterations, visible and invisible. This underlying matrix of coded information, particularly at the micro level, became the basis of the assignment.

Following on from assignment 1, which was influenced by the work of Kensuke Koike, Joe Rudko and Pippa Drylaga, I have continued to watch out for photographers who use the materiality of the photograph to make their points. In the previous assignment, I used found photographs, but this one called for digital images, and I have used my own photograph this time. Just the one, as my exploration is about the constituents of the digital image rather than the end result.

There are several modern photographers whose work in the this field particularly underlies the project and I would like to consider three in particular in this post. Others are discussed in my companion post on New Materialism here.

Thomas Ruff

I have written about Ruff’s work before, here and here. The aspect that particularly intrigues me is his way of looking at the nature and constituents of an image and then plays with them by altering just one aspect. He has moved a very long way from his original, very typographical work, although he still revisits it from time to time. In jpegs, for example, he examines the geometric nature of the pixel and reduces the numbers to re-see the images as if to form a more limited point of view (similar to how the first digital images appeared). At the same time, he hugely increases the size of the photographs, so that from a distance, they look to include all the original information, while close-up each individual pixel square is clearly visible. On another tack, in substratum, he overlays multiple copies of an image onto each other and then plays with them in Photoshop to the point where the original meaning of the image is completely lost, just leaving an impression of the work, not its reality. (I have been doing my own versions of these, but at a lesser, more realistic level, with my mandala images, some of which I discussed here and here. In these, I retain some of the detail of the original but reworked and simpified to make a pattern which echoes the main points of the original, while producing something totally new, and hopefully interesting in its own right).

Wolfgang Tillmans

Tillmans is another photographer whose work I have looked at before. Although the range of his interests is vast, he also has a fondness for exploring the nature of the photography and specifically the relationship between subject and object. This excellent article in Dazed Magazine (Dazed (2017) refers to his ongoing interest in mistakes, darkroom accidents and interventions, which he has then explored more fully in series such as Blushes (2000) and Freischwimmer (2003), as well as the ones I mention in another post. I am fascinated by his ability to take an idea and then stretch it out to form something completely new, but which still clearly references the original.

(Speaking of darkroom accidents, and still very much on the subject of this assignment, I was in the darkroom yesterday, with the intention of printing the first image below. I had originally planned it as a digital negative, but had printed it on the wrong side of the transfer film and rather liked the results. Unfortunately, when drying the print, I put the negative alongside it for comparison, and it stuck to the print. Perhaps I should call the second image Double Digit Accident (After Tillmans).)

Ellen Jantzen

On a different tack, I cam across the work of Ellen Jantzen via Instagram. I love her ongoing Unexpected Geology series, in which she imports small rocks into much larger landscapes to play with their relative sizes, Coming Into Focus (2016-17), where she lifts parts of the image away from the rest to give the impression of a landscape slowly coming into focus as a whole, when initially one only saw specific elements, and Losing Reality; Reality of Loss (2011), in which shadowy figures inhabit the landscape almost invisibly. I could go on, as most of her work appeals to me. Earlier last year, I made some images using similar techniques and a couple are shown below.

In a related vein, I have an ongoing experimental series which I have called Barcodes of Nature, which uses some of the same techniques to try to capture the colour palette of a place from a single line of pixels in the image. There is more about this in my blog post here Other photographers whose work examines similar themes are:

  • David Szauder – his Failed Memories series uses ‘glitch art’ to consider how our memories of events fragment over time
  • Joan Fontcuberta – in Datascapes: Orogenisis/Googlegrams he takes the ideas in the opposite direction and constructs images from multiple other internet images, which have a similar other-worldly vibe, but are based on some of the multitude of online data.
  • Catherine Yass – uses digital manipulations alongside both digital and analogue layering to look at how we perceive time and space. She is also a fan of the lightbox and digital negative, which are both becoming a feature of my own work.
  • Samuel J Fordham – uses physical and digital manipulations to think about memories. I love the image which made the IPE 161 shortlist in particular. It looks simple enough, but the digitally altered pieces don’t correspond with the missing pieces in the main image, producing a nagging feeling of discord.

I could go on at length, but it is worth considering the works of Anastasia SamoyovaBarbara Kasten,  Adrienne Hughes, and Anna Yeroshenko,  to name but a few.

Finally, and in a different direction, the different ways in which pixels have been interpreted has been a subject I have explored before, here (NSFW) and here, and which was influenced by this research. It seems that I keep coming back to the same themes – of materialism and manipulation of ideas and both digital and physical images from a conceptual viewpoint. Maybe I am finding a Voice, at last.

References

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/thomas-ruff-tripe/

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/thomas-ruff-size-is-everything/

https://davidcampany.com/thomas-ruff-the-aesthetics-of-the-pixel/

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/exhibition/thomas-ruff/thomas-ruff-substratum

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/more-on-photo-manipulation/

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/some-more-mandalas/

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/wolfgang-tillmans-at-the-tate-modern/

http://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/article/34353/1/your-ultimate-guide-to-wolfgang-tillmans

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/photography-and-new-materiality/

https://hollyocacontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/research-on-embroidered-photography/

http://www.annayeroshenko.com/hidden-dimension.html

https://www.adrienehughes.com/alaska

http://barbarakasten.net/

https://www.anasamoylova.com/

https://www.rps-international.org/about/ipe-161-shortlist/

https://www.alisonjacquesgallery.com/exhibitions/74/overview/

http://www.davidarielszauder.com/#/failed/

https://www.ellenjantzen.com/unexpected-geology-2018

https://www.ellenjantzen.com/coming-into-focus-2016-2017

https://www.lensculture.com/projects/6349-losing-reality-reality-of-loss

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/wolfgang-tillmans-at-the-tate-modern/

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/06/30/quick-note-on-another-iteration-of-the-mandala-work/

Thomas Ruff – Tripe

I was in London with my son yesterday, and feeling uninspired by what was on at most of our regular exhibition haunts, we decided to head over to the Natural History Museum for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year show. On route through the South Ken underpass, we noticed that the new V&A photography galleries are open and immediately changed the plan to visit those. To our great surprise, the first thing we saw when we entered the gallery was a new series by Thomas Ruff, called Tripe. A very uninspiring title to a Brit, for whom the word tripe conjures up WW2 austerity and hideous floppy white offal at the more adventurous butchery establishments in France and Spain. Yeuch! But I digress.

Linnaeus Tripe turns out to have been one of the first Victorian surveyors to travel to India and Myanmar with a quality camera in the 1850s, and his intentions were artistic as well as functional. Ruff came across his work when asked to do a project for the new gallery and decided to use the paper negatives as the basis of some new work. He was intrigued by the quality of the paper negatives after 160 years, with all the effects that time and atmospheric conditions have wrought on them, so took phone pictures of some and returned to Dusseldorf to work with them. I should point out at this stage that Tripe had embellished the negatives with painted clouds and other interventions and so the originals are hybrids between photography and painting.

Ruff then used Photoshop technology to turn the images into positives and alter them to give an impression of how the originals looked. He also blew up the images so that one can see the texture of the paper as part of the new work. The results are large images which rest somewhere between photography and brush arts, and they have a peculiar ethereal quality which is at odds with their size. One of them is shown below.

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Ruff’s work always blows me away because it looks at the photograph in a totally different way from most artists. His focus is on their material nature and how this can be altered  and resized to bring attention to this side of the object. While Ruff was fascinated by the unusual paper negatives, his reinterpretation of them both brings out the detail in the originals and puts his own mark on them too.

There is no accompanying catalogue in book form, but I purchased a broadsheet ezine on the work for the princely sum of £5, which will be added to my shelf of artist’s books. And, without going into any detail, the rest of the images on show were an interesting mix of old and new. Well worth a visit, and it looks like they will be changing what is on quite regularly.

 

Yet another twist in the journey

It seems to be part of the process of working through a module for me to spend ages finalising a choice for Assignment 1. I had the same problem with I&P and C&N.  However, at least in this module the process of getting to a final result is part of the assignment, and there does appear to be a sense of a journey undertaken with what I’ve achieved so far. My early work involved a variety of Photoshop collage experiments as part of Exercises 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3. Of the many images I made, the one I liked most was this one of the colours of Cambodia, which introduced the idea of using patchwork techniques with images.

Cambodia collage 2

Holly Woodward, 2018. Cambodian sunsets

The actual assignment prep began with the barcode idea, which I think still has room for exploration, but I shelved it in favour of playing with cutting up old family photos to see how they could be reworked to form something new using techniques I know from patchwork and quilting. This grew into a piece on fading memories, where I was looking at how little of an image was necessary for the viewer to understand it.

IMG_5715-EditI then started to cut up images into patchwork shapes with names that have a meaning for my family, but was frustrated about the size and lack of preciseness in the cutting which I felt detracted from the completed squares. To try to sort out the problem, the next series was a set of die cut overlays and marquetry effects using parts of two different images together (shown in the same post as above). I then reverted to a previous idea of cutting images into tiny squares and reassembling them with pieces either altered or missing, and showing the missing pieces as a separate, but connected group.

P1680586

At that point, my frustration with my cutting skills got the better of me, and I invested in a computerised cutting machine, a Silhouette Cameo 3, and I have had a wonderful couple of weeks cutting up all sorts of shapes, with just a few on display here. (If you open them up, the detail is more visible).  More can be seen on my Instagram account.

 

Through this process, it has gradually dawned on me that I am exploring the idea of fading memories through family photographs AND the photograph as object, and considering questions about indexicality in images. On that basis, and in view of the need to also produce some work for the Thames Valley exhibition, all other ideas are now being shelved and I’ve settled on  the concept of 3D sculptural pieces using the same family photos. I’ve been making circle and spiral pieces using both physical and Photoshop layers,

 

but a serendipitous discussion with glass artist Jane Corbett got me wondering if I could  make the images 3D as well. Using an acrylic box, some transparent elasticated thread a Scotch tape, I found it works! Here are a couple of the test piece from different angles.

I need to decide which images to use and work out exactly how to photograph the end results for a variety of images, but in principle the concept works as I want it to and will also be appropriate to the Thames Valley exhibition theme of Time. So, today is full steam ahead on choosing images and deciding how best to show them. I also want to consider whether titles might be helpful or not. As an example, this one would probably be called ‘Milking the cows at Uncle Bob’s Farm’.

Finally, I mentioned this idea to fellow student Kate and her observations were that the front image reminded her of a rose, and that she rather liked the idea of the space-time continuum being held together with string and Scotch tape. So I also need to consider how delicate the fastening should be inside the boxes.

That’s the practical stuff. Now for the background contextualisation.