Masks – Inspiration From The British Museum

With signing my new tenancy today meaning that I’m in London, I planned a gentle day at the British Museum.

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My project for assignment 5 is using self portrait and embroidery to explore the emotional States of anorexia. I visited the British Museum as a means of having a gentle day after signing my tenancy. I travel back tomorrow and then move here on Friday. Yay.

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It quickly became apparent that the museum has a collection of masks in most of the cultural zones. Masks being an important element of many traditional and indigenous cultures, religions and traditions. As I will be embroidering onto my self portraits for this assignment, then I see that I am creating masks.

I felt particularly drawn to shamanic cultures that use icons depicting animal spirits. Some cultures use masks to reveal hidden aspects of personality, rather than to hide them. This feels particularly pertinent to me in my process of recovering from my eating disorder.

Hidden or suppressed aspects of my character being revealed to aid me in my recovery, now that makes sense to me. Animals are important to me as spirit guides, and I’ve previously blogged about my connection with pigs, and their spiritual representation of abundance. I feel drawn to kingfishers, which to me represent both protection and rage. These are helpful and unhelpful aspects of personality. Kingfishers will fight other kingfishers to death to protect their territory. That fits in with my portrait depicting rage. Some native American cultures consider the rattlesnake (utsonati) to be a potent medicine spirit, which fits in with recover. This would work well with pride, my sixth self-portrait.

Today I’ve also considered that I could make a plaster cast of my face, and then use the decoupage technique to blend my portraits with Letinsky’s photography to add a different dimension to the work I am producing.

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My tutor recently gave me some feedback, suggesting that I be open-minded to the organic evolution of my ideas. Today’s trip to the British Museum has done just that. Is anyone up for making plaster casts of my face? I can’t remember when I last got plastered!

Assignment Five – Refining My Idea

I’ll be making my own portrait with 6 different emotional expressions relating to my eating disorder. Justaposing them with 6 different photos from Ill Form and Void Full (Laura Letinsky).

Both photos will be placed side by side on a white surface, with a white backdrop. The surface will become a space in which I will place a piece of fruit, or other food which will match that from Letinsky’s art. The photos will then be squashed, twisted, torn or altered in some way. I’ll then photograph the still life I’ve made and then stitch onto the final photo.

 

The stitching will be done in a manner that uses shape and colour to emphasise the emotional expression.

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Thank You Laura Letinsky – Refining My Idea

I recieved the most wonderful and exciting news yesterday. Laura Letinsky responded to my email, giving me permission to use 6 of her photos as the basis of my fifth assignment.

This assignment is exploratory in many ways, and I will use it to develop my embroidery skills, embroidering on top of photography.

Letinsky, in her own words, “cannabalises” her own and others photography. In anorexia the body moves into the metabolic state of catabolism, in which the body eats its own proteins (muscles) in order to survive. One idea is to make use of photographs of my body parts from when I was really ill, justapose them with photos from Letinsky’s I’ll Form and Void Full, and use embroidery to distort the shape of my limbs, picking out cours of the foods from Letinsky’s art.

The other option is to photography my face, capturing different emotional states, embroider over them in the style of Maurizio Anzeri, and justapose these with relevant parts of Letinsky’s art.

I’m not sure how I am going to develop these ideas into a concrete plan as yet, so time for some meditation.

Laura Letinsky

Maurizio Anzeri

 

Review – Laura Letinsky

Laura Letinsky (1962)

  • Still life
  • Staged photography
  • Controlled accidents
  • Food
  • Destructive nature of human behaviour
  • Domestic life
  • Food as feminine – social construct of domesticity
  • Pastels
  • Lighting – bright, natural
  • Space
  • Broad White backgrounds
  • Half eaten foods, non desirous {unlike traditional still life of food)
  • “half eaten apples, dirty dishes, and scattered cake crumbs are a common motif in her work” (Amy Lin (2016))
  • “I realized that still lifes were a vehicle to explore the tension between the small and minute and larger social structures.” (Sholis, B (2013)
  • Uses other photographs, including her own, highlighting consumption of photography and relates this to consumption and homogenization
  • “Using images already in the world, including my own earlier works, is akin to using objects in the world. It’s all raw material ripe for the picking, so to speak. Alongside its ability to provoke sensations, photography has a way of homogenizing experience. A piece of schmutz and a Tiffany diamond become the same thing once they’re photographed—they become photographs. I have a love/hate relationship with this power of the camera to flatten difference.” (Sholis, B (2013))

IllFormVoid31_620_webFig. 1. Untitled 31 from Ill Form and Void Full (2011)

Untitled-no-18Fig. 2. Untitled 18 from Ill Form and Void Full (2011)

08_IllFormVoid_49_2013-1024x787Fig. 3. Untitled 49 from Ill Form and Void Full (2011)

Having looked further into Letinsky’s Ill Form and Void Full series I have decided that I am going to make use of her style of still life photography for assignment 5. I’m already producing a body of work on eating disorders, and Letinsky’s style of cannibalising photographs adds an additional element that I can use to explore anorexia. Catabolism is a state in which the body turns its own proteins (muscle) into energy which can then be used so it can function. The body destroys itself in order to preserve itself. I am going to seek permission from Letinsky to use her photography in order to do so.

Illustrations

Figure 1, Letinsky, L; Untitled 31, Ill Form and Void Full [paper
Archival Ink Print]; AT: https://aperture.org/blog/interview-with-laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/12/2018

Figure 2, Letinsky, L; Untitled 18, Ill Form and Void Full [paper
Archival Ink Print]; AT: https://aperture.org/blog/interview-with-laura-letinsky (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Figure 3, Letinsky, L; Untitled 49 [paper
Archival Ink Print]; AT: http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/ (accessed on 26/12/2018)

References

Lin, A; 2016; Laura Letinsky; Online: AT: https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Sholis, B; 2013; Interview With Laura Letinsky; Online: AT: https://aperture.org/blog/interview-with-laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Addition References

http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/ (accessed on 26/12/2018

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura-letinsky (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Initial Ideas For Assignment Five – Concept – Exhibition

  • Eyes
  • Faces
  • Expression of emotion in eyes
  • Over-sewing
  • Cross stitch pattern of facial expression
  • Gerhard Richter documentary
  • Basic stitch ideas (JW)
  • Advanced over-sewing ideas (TL)
  • Keep authenticity in my photography
  • Break away from authenticity
  • Explore more fully the work of Laura Letinsky
  • Explore emotional States in the style of letinsky
  • Review photography books for further ideas
  • Create test photos
  • Seek feedback upon ideas and test photos
  • Make test photos with the public
  • Review Maurizio Anzeri
  • Review Carolle Benitah
  • Review Julie Cockburn
  • Select and print 6 photos from Ill Form and Void Full (consent gained on 28/12/18 from Laura Letinsky)
  • Leave the photos on my lounge floor in order that I breath them into my soul
  • Meditate – this will come together in its own way if I meditate
  • Review Shaun Cardinal, Diane Meyer and Annegret Soltau
  • Review Kate Aston
  • Review https://hollyocacontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/assignment-5-constructed-image/

http://maurizioanzeri.com

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1982113/

https://myblueprint.com/article/top-10-must-know-hand-embroidery-stitches

https://jamierawlingsartist.com/

http://www.juliecockburn.com

Any feedback upon my initial ideas would be most welcome.

Emulating Laura Letinsky – Exercise 4.11 – Emulation

Brief:- Remember, there’s no need to make a direct copy of a photograph, for example a Man Ray photogram; make your own photographic experiment as Adam Fuss did (you can compare their photograms online). If you chose to emulate Man Ray, you might seek out interesting objects that can be rendered graphic shapes in silhouette by shooting them against a white background. Or perhaps you want to emulate the uncanny, liminal sense of space created in a Laura Letinsky photograph but using landscapes. Make the image your own. Artists rarely copy each other, but they do learn from each other. Try to identify exactly what it is in the photograph that appeals to you: the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark) the composition or design the subject the concept the photographer’s viewpoint the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image. When you’ve identified these elements, plan what you’ll need: equipment location models.  When you’ve organised all this, make the photo.

Final Two Photos

I need to begin by saying that I am not happy with the results of either photo, but there are aspects to each of them that I do like.

The first photo is the one that I most prefer, and makes more use of colour and planes. Yes it is far busy and less subtle than a Letinsky, but I ensured that it used two planes, and it is also 3D in nature because of the net which drops down from the main canvas, and the roses which are hanging down from the light socket. It is aesthetically pleasing to me, it’s pretty and beautiful.

The second photo has more movement, which I prefer. I love how the sheet hangs, and envision this as being similar in nature to the roof of a marquee. But the second plane that I tried to create, with a petal at the end of each piece of thread, just doesn’t work.

Neither photo has the amount of neutral space that Letinsky makes use of so well. Both photos have finger prints, creases and glue marks, which it goes without saying that I am not pleased with. The first photo also has a gap between the satin effect canvas (pinned to the ceiling) and the net (hanging down).

Technically this was a complicated project. Flower petals shrivel and die, each sheet was three meters by one meter, and very difficult to pin to the ceiling. I made use of super glue to place the petals in the second photo, which was a big mistake. Super glue discolours the petals, sticks the canvas to the carpet, and whilst I was raising the sheet from the floor, a lot of the petals became unatuck. I used PVA glue for the first photo and it didn’t stick the petals to the floor, but still left unsightly marks when a petal refused to stick.

Despite the piece of art that I have created being of poor standard, because of the technical errors, I am pleased with the result of the first photo. I have had a lot of fun, and developing techniques to control the space that I am choosing to work with is good progress. I definitely wish to create art in this style in the future. To do so I would need at least one technician, a large board so the canvas can be ironed, and find an alternate way to glue the petals onto the sheet.

My creation is not a copy of Letinsky, but I believe that I have used elements of her style and technique to make something that is pleasing to my eye.

Contact sheets (here)

Reference

Keys, R; 2018; Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky – David Bate – Pieter Claesz; Online: AT:  https://photosociology.photography/2018/09/28/picture-analysis-laura-letinsky-david-bate-pieter-claesz/ (accessed on 17/11/2018)

Project 3 – Learning From Other Photographers

Brief:- Research point – Self reflection – Requirement Most visual artists learn from one another. Both historic and contemporary photographers and visual artists can teach you new things and by learning from them you can bring something new to the subject. So how do you learn from other photographers? There’s a tradition of ‘after’ painting, where an artist copies a master’s work – but in his own style rather than theirs. Pablo Picasso often did this for inspiration. Édouard Manet’s Olympia is slightly different in that it’s a critical response to Alexandre Cabanel’s The Birth of Venus and other such romantic and idealised nudes. Cubism’s visual experimentation was influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne, who had a ‘blocky’ style of painting in daubs of paint. Hannah Starkey’s photographs are clearly influenced by Jeff Wall’s tableau pictures without ever being copies. So really you take from the artist anything that interests you: the arrangement of characters in a scene, the pose of a figure, the way light and dark interact, the type of subject matter, the mixing of media, the visual strategy, etc… Research point – Self reflection – Throughout this course you’ve been introduced to the work of different photographers to help give you an understanding of the creative potential of photography. Now it’s time to question your own work and identify anything you think is lacking. You don’t have to be over-critical, just honest. Write down any areas in photography you need to develop. (Your tutor reports should give you some clues here.) Write what sort of photographs you want to take. Just note down keywords. Now look through a book like Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story, or Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) (both London: Thames & Hudson) and try to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that you want to attain or just things that interest you. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is contemporary or historic. Make a note of these key elements. Now research these photographers online and choose one key photograph to use in the next exercise.

There’s one area which glaringly stands out for me to work on. Lighting. Making use of lights to create an atmosphere, using spots, using ambient lighting or controlling background light, I need to develop these techniques. My tutor has recommended observing light in indoor settings and then trying to recreate it at home.

Now that I have a speedlight I am making slow inroads into understanding flash photography, and that’s going to be an ongoing process.

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Mixed media art is also a growing interest. It’s something that’s been developing over the period that I’ve been studying. Exercise 3.5 Photography from text (here) was a good introduction. I’m part of an OCA collaboration group and have enjoyed collaborating with other artists. Toxic Shame (here) provided me with the opportunity to write and narrate prose as part of a collaborative project. People with Autism co-authored Autism: Out Of The Box (here) with me, a project in which I wrote the essay and encouraged the co-authors to produce accompanying photography or art for the essay.

A woman with autism is currently writing her story, and my role will be to support her to make photography which will accompany her writing. This is a role I wish to develop. The OCA collaboration group is on-going, and I have had initial contact with an artist in Australia who may wish to collaborate with me.

I’m very pleased to be studying Experimentation:- Still Life, which is part 4 of Foundations in Photography. This part of the course has opened up my creative potential. I made a sensory collage, just for fun, out of materials left over from the emulation exercise. Photomontage, collage and sensory collage all give me the opportunity to practice with lighting.

Lighting is the way forward. When I return from my travels I will look through my many books to find find photographers who inspire me, and who make creative use of lighting. I will then create some emulation based upon their work.

The piece I produced to emulate Laura Letinsky will be added next week when I return home.cof

Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky – David Bate – Pieter Claesz

David Bate bungled-01 2009

Brief:- Have a close analytical look at the photograph above by Canadian photographer Laura Letinsky. You can see a larger version at http:// thephotographersgallery.org.uk/ill-form-and-void-full There is something immediately uncanny in this photograph and in much of Letinsky’s work. Firstly, notice the planes that make up the background and the area on the lower left of the picture. These ‘surfaces’, on which there are objects, shadows and cut-out pictures of objects, create an odd sense of space. It’s difficult to tell exactly which way gravity is working here. There appears to be a table top seen from the side in the middle of the area on the left, but then there’s another ‘surface’ seen from above too. This plays with our sense of dimensionality, the way we as viewers orient our viewpoint on the scene depicted. The objects themselves are simple, everyday items: two spoons, some fruit and cherry pips. Some of these appear to be ‘real’ in the sense that Letinsky has photographed them herself, whereas others have been cut out of magazines. Notice that these cut-out objects had been photographed from different viewpoints (and in a different time and space), which Letinsky has tried to incorporate into the perspective of her own ‘still life’ scene. The spoon on the left appears to rest on the surface and take part in the scene and the other spoon appears above the surface. How many things in your own life are real in the sense that they are in front of you physically? And how much of what you experience and know comes through representations? How do you think this affects people? In her previous work, Letinsky used left-over meals, plates and cutlery to indicate a scene, event or relationship going on beyond the view of the photograph, turning viewers into detectives looking for clues and connotations. Meticulously placed dishes express something about the thinking of the ‘character’ who placed them. In this work, she extends this by looking at the ways people incorporate representations and collective fantasies into their ‘reality’ and their desire. Have a look at Laura Letinsky’s website lauraletinsky.com. Also look at the still life work Bungled Memories by David Bate at www.davidbate.net. For a seventeenth-century comparison with Letinsky’s work, you can look at the paintings of Pieter Claesz here: rijksmuseum Pieter Claesz Write about the following issues in response to Letinsky’s photograph.

  1. Visual description (objects & background/space)
  2. Composition/design/arrangement
  3. Sense of space or ‘dimensionality’
  4. Connotations

Laura Letinsky

Ill Form and Void 12 Laura Letinsky 2011Fig. 1. Ill Form and Void 12 (2011)

Initial Thoughts – Lots of pleasing space. The whites and greys provide a feel of peace, stillness and serenity. The background surface is smooth and has the feel of a photographer’s gallery backdrop. There are three other planes, a vertical line which is slightly diagonal, intersecting with a horizontal line that slopes down towards it, creating a neutral space to the lower left of the picture. Then there appears to be a formica-like surface, which is reflective, and the subjects appear to be resting upon this, and then within that plane there is also the surface of a table which has a table-cloth over it. A spoon with crimson petals rests upon the table-cloth upon the left hand side, and on the right there is a half cut out shape of a plate, and then a whole plate with what appears to be some food remains. A second spoon, perhaps with sugar in it, floats above the table, and two pieces of fruit appear to be both on the table-cloth and yet not on it at the same time. The cherry pips and stalks begin on the formica-like surface and flow down onto the neutral space at the bottom left of the photo. At first glance, the way the planes intersect make the image appear to have horizontal and vertical surfaces, suggesting an upright structure. However, the more of see of this photo, the more that I think that it has been photographed from above, and that all of the objects have been cut from a magazine and placed upon the background. If this were the case then the shadows which appear in the area of light would have had to have been created in post processing.

There is an optical illusion within this photo, which makes it appear to be something which it is not. It has the suggestion of being a scene which was photographed, but is probably a collage, which has then been shot with a camera and developed digitally. I find this to be a clever piece of art, and one that I find enjoyable to look at.

As someone who has grown up with an idea of what still life is, from more traditional compositions, this drastically broadens my horizons, thank god. Letinsky’s composition is completely constructed and the only objects which I can see are pictures which have been cut from magazines, and placed by her onto a paper surface. I’m really impressed.

I have taken a look at other photos from this series (on her website – see references), and I only wish to add that I find this series to be beautiful.

David Bate

David Bate bungled-01 2009Fig. 2. Bungled Memories 01 (2009)

The above photo by David Bate is taken from his series Bungled Memories, in which he breaks every day objects. In their broken form these would be discarded, however, he photographs them and then uses them to create new works of art. On his website he discusses this series in relation to the psychology of “Freudian slips” (DavidBate.net)

I don’t get what he is trying to say with that description. The only thing that I can put in psychological terms is that by creating photos in which the breaks of the subject are completely smooth, almost perfect, and using backgrounds which creates boxes, is that we refine, define, clarify and compartmentalise our memories of events in a style which suits our internal frame of reference, rather than as literal representations of facts.

Pieter Claesz

Still Life with a Turkey PieFig. 3. stilliven met kalkoenpastei (Still Life with a Turkey Pie) (1627)

This is a more traditional still life in which the objects are painted in a manner that is a visual representation of “what was there”. There is no attempt to make the viewer think, no attempt to deceive or play tricks with the mind, and no attempt to ask the viewer to consider that there may be a representation of something un-seen. There is a clear sign of wealth and opulence, but this is also a clear visual representation.

I find it quite interesting that the art world at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th had a debate about how photography was just a mechanical description of what was there. I have always held the belief that the majority of traditional art did just that by using an alternate recording device – the paint brush. Here the photography of Letinsky and Bate take the viewer on a journey through the abstract and challenge the viewer to keep looking and questioning. Bathes was wrong. Art captures what was there, photography invites, questions and challenges (OK, so art and photography can both be factual documentations or original works that invite thought).

Illustrations

Figure 1 Letinsky, L; 2011; Ill Form and Void [Archival Ink Print on Paper]; AT: http://time.com/52027/pictures-of-pictures-the-ambiguities-of-laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/09/2018)

Figure 2 Bate, D; 2009; Bungled Memories 01 ; AT: http://www.davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html?pic=96 (accessed on 26/09/2018)

Figure 3 Claesz, P; 1627; stilliven met kalkoenpastei [Oil on panel]; AT: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/zoeken/objecten?q=Pieter+Claesz&p=1&ps=12&st=Objects&ii=1#/SK-A-4646,1 (accessed on 26/09/2018)

References

http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/

http://www.davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html?pic=120 (accessed on 26/09/2018)