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.
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 really do struggle with my landscape photography in and around Encounter Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia, even though I do a lot of scoping for it. I struggle in the sense of having both a lots of doubts the value of this working and a lack of confidence in what I am doing —with both the coastal work and the roadside vegetation. So I don’t get very far with working the Fleurieuscapes project as I am not sure what I am doing with it.
I only have confidence in the abstraction side of this photographic project. The work process is now routine and I am quite comfortable with it. I make a digital study of the object, sometimes convert the colour digital file to a black and white one, and then spend some time assessing the image for possibilities for a 5×4 photo session. Is it worth doing? If so, what is the best way to approach this? This is an example of the work process –some granite rocks on the beach at Petrel Cove.
granite study for 5×4
I have sat on this image for a couple of months at least. In fact I scoped it a year ago and I’d left it sitting on the computer. I re-scopped it earlier this year when I was walking around exploring Petrel Cove whilst on a poodlewalk. I remembered that I had previously photographed this bit of rock and that I wasn’t happy with what I had done, but I had thought that it had possibilities for a black and white 5×4 photoshoot using the baby Sinar (F2). So I re-scoped it. Continue Reading…
The beach dimension of the Fleurieuscapes had a minimal presence in the exhibition at Magpie Springs. Images, such as the one of Petrel Cove below, did not make the cut with the curators. Petrel Cove is on the south side of Rosetta Head, and it is a picturesque beach with rocky outcrops, which, despite a dangerous rip, is populated during the summer by surfers, recreational fishers, families and photographers.
It represents the pleasurable, freedom and recreation during the summer months without the stench of sewerage, piles of discarded condoms, human faeces, life savers, or racial conflict.
surfers, Petrel Cove
The Petrel Cove beach is usually empty during the late autumn, winter and early springs months apart from the odd surfer, dog walker, photographer, or lone fisherman. The place has a history of its rip regularly claiming the lives of those people who ignore the warning signs that signify the potential dangers. So Petrel Cove is not an unspoiled place that has a spiritual significance. Continue Reading…