I notice that the Tate Modern has an exhibition entitled Shape of Light: 100 years of Photography and Abstract Art, one whose art historical approach refers back to the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark photography exhibition, The Sense of Abstraction in 1960. The Tate blurb states that this is the first major exhibition to explore the relationship between the photography and abstract art, spanning the century from the 1910s to the present day, and it includes some of the contemporary work by Antony Cairns, Maya Rochat and Daisuke Yokota.
The Tate exhibition basically re-inserts the history of photography into the well-writ narrative of art history to makes a necessary point: – that photography merits serious consideration within the category of abstract art, and that the camera’s attraction to the shape of light rather than the shape of solid form as we perceive it, changed the way images of all kinds were composed. It also suggests that there has been a fruitful dialogue between abstract painting (Miro, Riley, Braque, Mondrian, Pollock, Kandinsky) and photography over the last hundred years.
This raises a question: has this kind of dialogue come to an end in the 21st century rather than being continued?
King’s Head abstraction
The curators place the 20th century’s avant-garde’s photographic experimentations (ie., abstraction) in the context of wider developments in art, with examples of cubism, abstract expressionism, Bauhaus and op art providing benchmarks. The curatorial argument is that abstract photography has evolved in step with painting and that there is a shared history. The relationship between painting and photography has been a symbiotic one, a close mutualist relationship that has benefited both art forms.
An alternative interpretation is that abstract photography followed behind abstract painting, in that abstract painters influenced the way photographic artists understood image and that the photos are the monochrome equivalents of paintings. This interpretation reinforces the culturally conservative position of the supremacy of painting. This conservative interpretation overlooks the way that both Rodchenko and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy challenged the supremacy of painting by refusing to see any medium as more important than another and by working in fields as diverse as film, graphic and theatre design, sculpture, painting and light shows. The common tendency in the Australian art institution is to adopt the conservative interpretation. Continue Reading…
Although I have a rudimentary studio set up at Encounter Studio (with a 8×10 Sinar P, a table and window light) most of the still life images that I do of the subject matter around the coastal neighbourhood at Victor Harbor are in open air settings. The method of working is simple. The locations and subject matter are selected whilst I am on the morning or evening poodle walks, I take some scoping photos with the digital camera (an old Sony NEX-7) and, if they work, I come back and reshoot them with a film camera.
This kind of studio work is a break from my topographic approach to photography that I do for the Mallee Routes project. This is an early example, probably one of the first images made in an open air, coastal studio:
bottle + shells, Petrel Cove
The bottle had been washed on Dep’s Beach, which is west of Petrel Cove, and I carried it back to Petrel Cove on the return leg of the poodlewalk. I set it up amongst some rocks, and made some digital pictures. I then hid the bottle amongst some rocks so that people wouldn’t find it and the high tide wouldn’t carry it back to sea.
As mentioned here and here I had an opportunity to do some aerial photography in late November along the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula thanks to Chris Dearden and his recreational Sonex motor-glider (a Xenos). We flew from the privately owned Goolwa airport to the mouth of the River Murray, then turned west and flew to Newland Cliffs in Waitpinga, then flew back to Goolwa. This was the first time that I’d done any aerial photography outside of a few snaps on various commercial flights.
I was stunned by the beauty of this part of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula coastline from the air. It sure looked very impressive.
Mouth of the River Murray
I just could not resist making a photo of the mouth of the Murray River with the two dredges working full time to keep the mouth of the river open. Water should be flowing through the mouth and into the Coorong, given the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the water buybacks to increase the environmental flows of the river and the dredges not needed.
What we have learned recently is that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is incompetent and that the NSW state government and bureaucracy have been complicit in water theft and meter tampering. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority knew about the theft of water for environmental flows by some irrigators for cotton growing in northern NSW and it did nothing. Same for the Queensland government. There is a long history of state governments in the Murray-Darling Basin turning a blind eye to excessive water extraction by irrigators. Continue Reading…
In starting to work on the Fleuriescapes project once again I can now see that it is more about place and homecoming, with the photographic style more in the form of poeticising. The project is about being at home in this particular place, and it is about exploring what that means through poeticising what is familiar and taken-for granted in our everyday, pre-reflective life.
After we left living in the CBD in Adelaide to shift down to Victor Harbor (ie., sea change) it slowly dawned on us that the southern Fleurieu Peninsula was our home Adelaide is now where we go to do business then leave to return home–it is a world of instrumental value and rushing about. Though we were once comfortably at home in the city’s everydayness and its local neighbourhoods we no longer are at home where we used to live.
We often dip in and out of the consumer society of the city; an urban life that is based on unending economic growth and gaining satisfaction from consumerism. We no longer miss living in the urban world of the city 0f Adelaide, with its coffee shops, entertainment, businesses, art galleries, film labs, corporate universities, people and politics. Our experience of the city is now akin to one of homelessness–a passing away of belonging to a world based on unlimited economic growth.
I have taken the plunge and started selecting the images I have made whilst on my coastal poodlewalks and putting them into a Lightroom folder as the next step towards constructing a photobook. I have been publishing some of these images on my Littoral Zone weblog, which I had set up in order to help me figure out what I am doing with the photographs that have been made almost on a daily basis. These are simple, low key photographs of humble things and fleeting moments encountered on my various poodle walks.
Venus Bay, Eyre Peninsula, SA, 2013
Since the photos in the poodlewalks blog were images-in-text, the concept behind the photobook is a visual poetics, or more accurately a photo-poetics; one that explores word image (textual-pictorial) relations. The book as a photo-text breaks with both the idea of the photographic image as a record of objects or events in the real world as in photojournalism’s narratives, and the standard conception of the photobook being images with minimal or no text. It is part of what Liliane Louvel, the French theoriest, calls an iconotext in which text and image merge in a pluriform fusion.
Such an approach breaks with a formalist modernism, as that held held that the literary and visual arts are substantially different and mutually exclusive; a view that reaches back to Lessing’s Laocoon with its distinction between the literature as a temporal art and the visual as a spatial art. With the decay of formalist modernism these rigid boundaries were breached with many theorists and artists positioning themselves against Lessing’s rigid borders. The mutual interdependence of images and words and the impure and mixed mediality of visual as well as verbal artifacts are now widely accepted in our visual culture. Photography-in-text is a hybrid product that gives rise to a hybrid textual genre–an intermedial photo-text. Continue Reading…