I constantly collect images that interest me, then several times a year I go through them, sort them into rough groups, stick them in my workbook and write notes on why I chose them underneath. From there I’m able to pull out possible areas of interest, recurring themes or ideas I hadn’t recognised before. I try not to self-censor and I keep anything that catches my eye even if I worry that it’s a bit far from ‘art’ or my practice as such. Fashion, pop culture etc can all have useful take-outs.
I’ve been creating some new images and video especially for a show called Art Ache that is happening this Thursday. They are in some respect companion pieces to Albedo, but a little different. The Art Ache show aims to allow people who are interested in contemporary art to be able to afford pieces they enjoy. These include a series of prints, one from each artist, that are part of an ongoing series
Art Ache event page
Art Ache website
Here is a my kitty helping with the shoot in my make-shift home studio. I can’t create large video pieces here, but smaller photoshoots are surprisingly effective.
Working with moving image produces it’s own specific range of display challenges. As well as thinking about the method of display you also have to consider the installation in the space and the experience of encounter. I have a number of moving images that I can include in my installation in January and I’m thinking around which ones to use, which ones to edit out, how they should be encountered, what size they should be. I’m working with an AV company to come up with the best method for the work, the best method for the space and the best method for my budget! I looked into technology that was way beyond what I can afford right now (like fog screen technology) but it’s good to have that in my arsenal for when I have works that might suit those display techniques and I have budget to make it happen.
I’ve spent some time researching methods of display using projection and LCD displays as these are the 2 most likely display methods I would use. I have also built a 1/20 scale model of the gallery space with removable internal walls so I can have a look at the size of LCD monitors in the space, positioning of projectors, which images could go where. This has been incredibly useful for me as well as for my collaboration with the AV hire company. Yolanda and I had a look at some of the images projected in the lecture room and I feel that the large-sized presentation is definitely right for 3 of the images at least. My challenge then is to create a darkened space for the projection by building a lightweight false ceiling over the back half of the gallery space. My thinking then would be to have 2 more moving images in the entry spaces on either side of the doorway and to display those slightly differently on large LCDs. I like that order of encounter and the size difference – the areas of moving image are related but different with speed, movement and composition.
I like this simple projection strategy that uses a paper strip screen and movement from a fan. It’s a god way to break away from the traditional screen and bring movement into the work. I thought about these sorts of unusual screen ideas for my work but I felt that the content and detail of the imagery was too integral to the work to be split apart and diffused in this way.
Viola, B (2014) Inverted Birth (projection)
Viola, B (2014) Earth Martyr; Air Martyr; Fire Martyr, Water Martyr (Screens)
Viola, B (2008) Small Saints (Screens)
It’s useful for me to look at Bill Viola’s installation strategies as he is also using singular iconic figures, performing to camera against an amorphous background. The single, large projected image in Inverted Birth is impressive in it’s size and looming position of the viewer. The 4 martyrs are displayed like a modern altarpiece which is a nice conceit but I feel they are a bit small at this size and would benefit from being more imposing. The Small Saints series is a different approach, making the images more intimate and photographic, like something you might have on your mantelpiece at home. It’s a really different approach from what Viola usually takes and I’m keeping it in the back of my mind for future consideration when I have works that might suit a more intimate approach.
I love Yorgo Alexopoulos’s use of multiple changing screens. The above work Transmigrations uses screens grouped into clusters. It made me think about using screens of differing sizes, orientations and placements.
This is an interesting method of installation, creating an enveloping ‘room’ from the video. In Crude Carrier the video moves around the 3 screens so it can be viewed as a continuous movement. The images can be viewed from within and without of the ‘room’. The screens are moveable and can also be opened out or mounted flat onto a wall. There is a naturalistic soundtrack with the sounds of water, boats, seagulls and traffic. I’m looking into this sort of installation strategy for my current work although it may not be possible or right for the work.
Projecting onto sculptural objects or uneven surfaces (rather than the traditional screen) is another option I have considered. I think that for this series of works, much like with the moving paper screen, the content of the videos would be broken up and distorted too much with this method but it’s something I could consider for future work.
I was interested in the chaotic nature of this work, from the multitude of randomly hung screens and frames on the walls so the overlapping and changing projections. Obviously this isn’t a suitable strategy for my current work, but it’s so different to what I would usually think of doing myself that I got really drawn into it.
So here are some examples of the strategies I’m considering using my scale model. I have more videos than I need which gives me scope to change and edit the installation.
I’m very fortunate to have the kind of friends who let me dress them up and make them do weird stuff for the sake of my art practice.
Earlier this year I created a diagram to examine the performative from the point of view of the artist. I had the challenge of creating a second diagram from the perspective of the viewer/participant. I might need to do a bit more work on this so any feedback is welcome! Here is where I have got to so far; the top diagram is my original, the bottom diagram is my new viewer’s perspective.
I’ve been looking back at art historical references over the last few weeks. There is an obvious nod in my video work towards religious iconography, baroque painting (particularly the Italian Baroque) and to symbolist artists. In my last series viewers noted the references to classical beauty ideals; high foreheads, white faces, wrapped head coverings and the fact that the figures appear austere and devout like an ‘abbess’ or a ‘monk’ (those words were put forward as descriptions).
I have taken a look at different areas of art history that are referenced in my work and tried to pick apart a little of why this is the case and how I can work with it more fully to consciously use these references rather than them being somewhat unconscious decisions on my part. This isn’t an in-depth analysis of these works, but more of an overview of some of the stylistic influences that I have been exploring and that have been expressed in my work.
Starting off with painters from the Baroque period who use a similar tenebroso technique. This is an extreme form of chiaroscuro where there is a violent contrast between light and dark, with the darkness being a dominating feature of the image. These dark shadows and deep foreground colours have come through in my video pieces “Hive Oracle” and the “Sublimation” series. Figures emerge out of the darkness with no fixed setting. The figures often have intense or unusual expressions and the action in the paintings has a viscerality that was not present in works from the Renaissance. Women have action and agency that was previously absent from most artwork.
Looking at Caravaggio’s “Judith” the pose and gesture are quite awkward, the image focusses more on getting everyone in shot and making sure the composition is pleasing than of the realities of actually cutting someone’s throat in this way. Judith isn’t exerting much force, so even though the image is visceral, it misses the violence of how a scene like this would play out in reality. Skip forward a few years and we see an artist I love, Artemisia Gentileschi, taking on the story in a much more believable way. The beauty of the gesture and composition is sacrificed to realism and violence, the women are powerful, determined and dominant.
Artemisia Gentileschi (1614-1620) Judith Slaying Holofernes
The figures are foreshortened and stacked behind each other – very different from the ideal composition at the time. I like examining this painting in contrast to the Caravaggio so wanted to include it here.
This links to another aspect of my video work I have discussed with faculty and peers; the subject of gesture. I use a certain amount of posed and unusual gesture in my work that reflects the gestural tone of classical painting and sculpture. Often the gesture and pose in these works is expressive rather than natural, they are poses you could make but probably wouldn’t. The gestures create a theatricality in the work, an elegant exaggeration of reality.
Artemisia Gentileschi (1610) Susanna and the Elders
A very early work by Gentileschi that has not yet adopted the intense chiaroscuro of her later paintings. The figures make exaggerated, theatrical gestures.
Jan van Eyck (1430-1432) Ghent Altarpiece (Interior) One of the most famous examples of the the altarpiece with christian iconography. The imagery covers both the interior and exterior of the tri-fold screen.
I spent a bit of time revising the stylistic conceits of religious icons and altarpieces. The set’s of 1 or 3 central figures and the ability for a narrative to be told across a presentation that can be viewed all at once have some parallels to what I have been working with in video. The central figures are often realistically imagined (in line with the stylisation of the era) but with ornamentation behind them in gold and this is something that I have also observed in my more modern influences.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1875) Virgin of Consolation
A more modern approach to the religious icon and one of a series of paintings of the Virgin Mary by Bouguereau. She displays the exaggerated gesture, the ornamentation in gold behind the central figure and the central, vertical composition seen in earlier icons.
Mary MacGregor-Reid (2015) Hive Oracle (still shot)
This use of ornamentation and gesture appears to have influenced some of the Symbolist artists and unsurprisingly they are a movement that I have always enjoyed. My favourite painter, right back from when I was still in school, is French Symbolist Gustave Moreau. I had the chance to see some of his work in the flesh, so-to-speak, a few years ago and was entranced by his use of colour and brushwork. Works that I thought were probably quite tight and formal in their painting style were actually wildly expressive and loose. Many of them utilise the stylistic elements I have picked up on in this post – the use of chiaroscuro, the prominent central figure, the mix of realism and stylised ornamentation, the expressive gesture. He painted Salome many times, 2 variations are below:
Gustave Moreau (1876) Salomé
I’ve been fascinated by the use of overlaid ornamentation in this work for a long time. It’s so unusual and it creates a a film or screen over the subject that sets them apart from us – definitely ‘otherworldly’. Moreau’s women tend to be voluptuous and bejewelled rather than austere.
Another artist from this era that has been useful for me to revisit is Gustav Klimt. His work has unfortunately been aped by a lot of contemporary decorative artists and so it almost looks cliched, but observing the real Klimt it becomes obvious that the imitators can’t come close.
Gustav Klimt (1901) Judith and the Head of Holofernes
Oh look, it’s Judith and Holofernes again! The symbolist artists loved depicting the strong, passionate women with a touch of darkness about her. Here Klimt is riffing off the stylistic elements of icons with the rich, gold, flattened ornamentation setting off painterly naturalistic figures.
Recently I have been considering my use of black backgrounds in video and wondering how the work might fair with other colours or tones. The use of white on white appeals to me because it retains the otherworldly strangeness but loses the usually dark connotations that go with magic and the occult. Looking back on all my work over the last 2 years there is a funny switching from dark to light to dark to light, in that my work both stylistically and literally switches black and white! I enjoyed working with the white and gold/yellow of the first honey/wax works and the live performance ritual so would like to explore that further. I’m intending on shooting the same sequences on different backgrounds to see how the change from the black tenebroso effect to the white on white effect plays out.