On Reflection: Week 6, Module Two

“Spring Fever!”

Where a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts … …”

The words so easily permeate my mind as I try to summarise my week in words. It’s just not happening. Anything, everything, is seeping into my mind and swamping what I actually want to be there… …

So, this week!

As it stands, my project proposal involves using photography to explore the knowledge and techniques employed by the great Dutch masters. Pinning down exactly what it is that gives a great painting it’s appeal has been something I have tussled with all week, and don’t closer to anything like a conclusion now.

Pretty much have a handle on the photography side of things, issues like bringing a “painterly aesthetic” to my work are proving a little more elusive at the moment. Just what is the “painterly aesthetic”?

One thing that really struck me, is the extent to which painting is a discriminatory process, whilst photography is indiscriminate.

If an artist wants a mark, the artist makes a mark. If the artist wants a line, the artist draws a line. Perhaps more importantly, is what the artist can just as easily, perhaps more easily, decide not to include in a painting or drawing.

Photography, on the other hand, portrays what is there. It is the “indexical” of nature.

Why is this relevant? Well, because of the debate concerning power and responsibility in photography.

The Big Painting Challenge (BPC) – wow, what a programme. I do see things (very) differently now, much more so than even a few short months ago. I’m much more able to appreciate art, and see the positive and the negative aspects to a specific piece of art. I’m better able to quantify, and qualify, the aesthetics of an image. Looking at it as a YTS MA, there is now so much in there to think about and to make me question. Individuals waging a personal “battle” to express themselves creatively – know how that feels.

I watched an artist turn a non-expressive mouth into a smile by adding a tiny white line of paint to one part of the upper lip as an accent – its seeing THAT level of detail, it’s THAT level of knowledge.

That ties in very nicely with a comment by a mentor on the BPC, Pascal Anson: “Something that is really important for amateur artists is to look for 90% of the time, and draw for 10%.”

Do we, as photographer’s, spend as much time looking?

Wall suggests that photographers are either “hunters” or “farmers”. But, for those who are farmers of images, how much time is really spent “cultivating” images? I suspect in this sense there is little difference between the two.

This week, by accident more than by design, I have been led into studying two of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen – simply breath taking. Even the backgrounds in these two paintings I find to be stunningly beautiful and far from simplistic.


George Stubbs, 1762. Mares and Foals without a Background


George Stubbs, c. 1762. Whistlejacket

I actually feel quite privileged. If I had never embarked upon these MA studies would I have been able to appreciate these paintings as much?

A difficult week, I really haven’t felt like writing. My thoughts have really dwelled on other activities. More than anything I’ve wanted to break away from my desk and use my camera.

I’ve hit a wall, I’ve got whatever the photographer’s equivalent of writer’s block is.

Perhaps it’s a form of “spring fever”.

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