FINAL MAJOR PROJECT. WEEK 9.
I’m choosing to stay away from other photographers’ work at the moment. No reading monographs or Googling new names. I need to find my way without influence or compromise whilst I hunt for a voice. I can all too easily get seduced and/or confused by other people’s work. Especially if its work that I connect with and admire. Besides, I’ve looked at so much work by other practitioners over the past 18 months that a break feels overdue. The process I’m in is delicate and I don’t want to get swayed or feel compromised in the decisions I am making. I need this part of the F.M.P. journey to be free from influence in order that I discover how the work wants to speak.
Instead I am reading about painters, fine-artists, and music. Especially the energy of punk and protest songs. Food references play a main part of my research, but to find my way forward I’m drawing on my creative and artistic roots going back to my youth. Hence, I’m revisiting the work of Francis Bacon, Tacita Dean, and Caravaggio amongst others.
All three have a relationship with photography. Deans’ is most overt in her use of the moving image, archival stills, photogravure, and projects such as Gaeta. Bacon used photographs as ‘masters’ for his paintings as he found that he could ‘drift so freely’ (Sylvester 1975, pg 45) when using a photograph as opposed to actually having the subject present. It’s also well-documented that he was inspired by the motion studies of Eadward Muybridge. And Caravaggio used a ‘photographic’ projection technique and chemical process to fix an image onto his canvas from which he would work.
In Bacon and Caravaggio I am reminded of why the human figure is important to me. The many ways with which it can going beyond its own physical constraints. In Bacon it’s the substance of flesh revealing the psychology within by, as he says, bringing ‘the figurative thing up onto the nervous system more violently and poignantly’ (Sylvester 1975, pg. 12). In Caravaggio’s work it is bodies and their relationship to story, held in the drama of moments, that I resonate with and find eternally interesting and challenging. With Dean, I respond to the breadth of her vision and her desire to ensure she is not limited by a medium, to play beyond boundaries. This artistic arresting of my attention is a reflection of which Jeff Wall discusses frequently. The desire to take the narrative and aesthetic scope which painting and art can achieve and explore that in terms of the photographic.
Interestingly, these three artists work in sequences. With Bacon and Caravaggio diptychs and triptychs play their part (though with Caravaggio this is really only apparent when you see some of the work in situ in the churches of Rome). This is something which has featured frequently in my Module research and with which I am now playing once again. Tacita Dean works frequently in longer exploratory sequences – for example her movie portrait sequence exploring dancer & choreographer Merce Cunningham in Stillness (2007) or her large scale drawings and photogravures .
There is also another similarity in that their distinct approaches which I am beginning to recognise in myself. These artists allow apparatus to have a degree of chance input. Especially in the case of Bacon whose use of paint was deliberately accidental. Apparatic input cannot be denied in photographic practice. For me it’s a recognition of apparatus contributing to the image and the vision of the work and often in the form of uncontrolled (on my part) chance. At present its a renewed, deliberate use of direct flash in daylight/strong sunlight combined with slower shutter speeds. Yes, it’s a predetermined decision to shoot in this way. But I leave a lot open to accident and surprise in terms of how the flash illuminates (or doesn’t) the subject. What it can contribute to observing within the moment alongside my decisions about props, location, subject etc.
In music I am returning to my desire to stay within a level of energy and dedication and that means crossing boundaries with a sense of rebellion inherent in that journey. To keep moving even though I am no longer certain of the project outcome, or even if I have a project at the moment. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere this is both exciting and anxiety inducing. Especially at such a late stage in the M.A. process. All I can do is trust my instinct and improvise my way forward step by step, note by note. Just like a musician might.
I’m also immersing myself in Anthony Bourdain’s fascinating culinary travelogue TV series Parts Unknown. Researching the shared sensations of food across cultures and the ability of food to deepen understanding. And how people across the world find pleasure and connection in it. This relates to the interviews I’m recording with project collaborators and participants. And it reinforces how important to me these discussions, and the detail and anecdotal evidence that they bring with them, are in how I am visioning my project. I’m not sure yet how I present those interviews. They are each quite lengthy (approximately an hour per recording) and so far there are seven with more to come.
Much of this present thinking is a deliberate decision on my part to buck the opinion of a few M.A. tutors and to explore myself and my practice deliberately as an artist. After all that is my sensitivity. My upbringing. My learning. My education. My sentiment. And I need to own this for myself as much as possible at this juncture in my F.M.P. journey, despite the deliberate attempts to make me perceive of myself otherwise and my own historic reticence to consider myself as such.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
Bell, C. & Howe, Z. 2019. Dayglo – The Poly Styrene Story. London, Omnibus Press.
Dean, T. 2018. Complete Works And Filmography. London, Royal Academy of Arts.
Dean, T. 2018. Selected Writings. London, Royal Academy of Arts.
Sylvester, D. 1975. Interviews With Francis Bacon. (4th Ed). London, Thames and Hudson.
Parts Unknown. 2013-2018. Zero Point Zero Production Inc.
Emmanuelle Andreani 2009, Caravaggio used photographic techniques: researcher, Phys.Org, viewed 11th August 2020. https://phys.org/news/2009-03-caravaggio-techniques