Assignment 2 Feedback, Reflection and Rework

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I was very pleased with the feedback for this assignment. There was a helpful balance of positive comments mixed with constructive critique. I code all my written feedback using highlighter pens in order to maximise the learning from tutor comments and also to inform the rework of the assignment. This has come a bit of a habit, but as a distance learner working in a degree of solitude I try to eek out all that I can from the written feedback.

Strengths are highlighted in green, areas for development in pink and follow up suggestions are highlighted in yellow. The feedback for this assignment confirmed that there was good development in conceptual thinking, a sense of narrative with some continuity and some good images. There was a good level of technical ability also demonstrated.

This was tempered with very helpful critique suggesting that some of the images did’t meet the ambition of the project. Also my thinking was not singularly defined enough leading to some ambiguity in reading what the work was ultimately about. I have stated before that I am on a journey and I am refining my technique as I go, but achieving my intent in work is still illusive. But, there is much learning on the way and in many respects the constructive critical feedback is more valuable as a learning aid than the positive comments. I also recognised and understood the criticism  about some of the images , particularly the cluttered ones where my message was not clearly enough defined. This was a very personal project and making it accessible to a wider audience isn’t easy, nor should it be really. At the risk of sounding trite any one could do it if it were easy!

This work was in many respects very emotional and personal, particularly for my wife. For this reason I feel it is important to rework some of the images in order to fulfil the goal I set out to achieve , capturing love and cherished memory in the objects left behind by someone close who is no longer with us.

My response to Tutor feedback

Dear Matthew,

Many thanks for your helpful feedback for Assignment 2. It was a very personal interpretation of the brief and your feedback is helpful in identifying the strengths and limitations of the work. Your question about the purpose of the work proved to be particularly helpful in raising what should have been an obvious point for me to consider. In many respects I saw the work as a response to the brief, but recognise I need to make work that transcends the idea of the brief and stands out in its own right. With hindsight the work is about presence and this needs to stand out more. I was pleased that you liked the final images in the set. Interestingly these were also images I made towards the end of schedule. I think ideas and themes developed through the process of making the work may be the most interesting, more so than those the planning stage.

Taking on board your feedback about the clutter in some of the images, which I agree with, I am going to re do the exercise in advance assessment. I want to explore the idea of a juxtaposition of the living with the objects that are in the images. I will also look at some references about still life photography. I was very interested in your comments about Vanitas objects. I have done quite a bit of reading about this over the past few days. I have looked at some interesting on-line discussions about the work of Steenwyck.

Many thanks for the references, I really enjoyed the Avedon and the Richon in particular

This was a good assignment from a learning point of view and I recognises that I still have further work to do.

Thank you for the comments about the blog. It is a work in progress and there are still some items that are not displaying. Mainly write ups to exhibitions and study visits. I thoroughly enjoyed and felt quite enlighted by my visist to the Conceptual Art show at Tate Britain. I am going to set aside some time to try and get to grips with my WordPress woes!

I will press on with the next part of the course and am today starting the diary in advance of assignment 3 I thought it might be good to do it for longer than 2 weeks.

Many thanks again for your helpful feedback, it is exactly what I need.

Best wishes

John

Overall I was pleased however that my tutor felt this was a good attempt at a complex piece of work. I was left with the clear sense of the strengths and the areas I need to work on. The full feedback can be read here: j-o-tutor-report-2

My tutor also suggested I should look at further work around still life photography and supplied some helpful links which I followed up on.

I was intrigued by the notion of the vanitas object, a feature in dutch school painting

Objects featured in artwork are a well known area of discussion and thought and the vanitas works of the dutch school are perhaps some of the best known. I first came across the idea while reading Berger’s: Ways of Seeing. He talks about painting becoming a mechanism for the display of wealth and power during the Renaissance.

The gospel quote below shed some light on the idea of objects and vanity

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:18-21

Olivier Richon suggests:

–“ a re-interpretation of the still life genre and a reflection on the object as sign. He uses a large format camera to quote genres and other images, also using animals as a recurrent subject that complements the stillness of objects. The camera is commonly a metaphor for the eye. Richon proposes that the camera is also a metaphor for the mouth: a devouring eye or a drinking eye that absorbs its subject to turn it into an image. Here photographic practice is located within a contemporary notion of allegory that considers the images as a script and a rebus, where meaning and signs are accumulated, in the same manner as objects are represented as an accumulation of signs in the Flemish still life.”

From this quote I began to explore two key areas in the reworking of this assignment. The first was the notion of images as a script or more significantly a Rebus. I also spent some time looking at Flemish painting and the idea of ‘Vanitas’ symbols.

Following up on a reference made in the written feedback I read the 1974 article from Camera Magazine by Richard Alvedon – ‘Jacob Isreal Avedon- (1974). In this brief article Alvedon reflects on photographing his father in the final years of his life. Avedon was impolying all his skills as a prriat photographer who in essence worked with strangers to record a subject with whom he had a deep relationship. I was struck by a particular line in the article in reference to the final images:

They exist on their own. Whatever happened between us was important to us, but it is not important to the pictures. What is in them is self-contained and, in some strange way, free of us both.

This quote was important in my reflections about my assignment and what i was trying to achieve in the images I made. The essence of the images and their content was highly personally an at odds to the idea Alvedon sets out above. This helped me anchor what I wanted the set of images to say, it helped me unpack some of the confusion evident in the work as suggested in my tutors comments. In the feedback my tutor posed the question any viewer would ask:

….what is the purpose of the work? Is it a celebration of a life, an account of a life, a critique of a life or an evaluation of a life?

For me I wanted the work to be a celebration of life, a statement about objects in the present that say something about an important life that still has influence although now gone. I was also helped by the critique of the individual images. One was singled out as offering a different way of developing the theme. With reference to the image below the feedback suggested:

I particularly like the image of the picture and the figure in the background that creates a certain ambiguity. This image suggest to me that perhaps there was another way to interpret this brief through the relationship between the objects and at the point that they come in contact with the living.

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This set me thinking about how I might combine some of the compositional ideas i had looked at in the flemish painting and the notions of objects at the point they come into contact with the living. Based upon this idea I made a number of new images, in which the Vanitas, the Moment Mori are seen in the same context as the living. This was much more exploratory and to some extent more of a risk than the original set of images.

The set uses some of the original images but removes some of the very cluttered one and actively superimposes the living in the same scene as the objects that are at the heart of the theme.

The works remains very personal and i am struck by the paradox that it is very hard to be objective about a work that is so unashamedly subjective. For the images to work they need to strike a connection with the vower who may also hold certain personal object dear from deputed family member sand relatives. Indeed this is at the heart of the idea of vanities object. in the end object outlive their owners and a vanities object does not have to be as brash as a skull, a candle, a clock to make the point about the passage of time and the temporal nature of life. To me and in this work, the binoculars seen on both the first and third images (they are the same pair) fulfil the same symbolic function

I am uncertain as to whether the final set works, but it does get closer to the sense of a celebration of someones life and the part they play in the current lives of their loved ones.

Reworked Image Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Avedon, R. (1974) ‘Jacob Isreal Avedon’ Camera Magazine November 1974 , found at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/04/richard-avedon-jacob-israel-avedon-1974.html (Accessed December 2016)

Harman Steenwyck – Vanitas Still life Painting http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/still_life/harmen_steenwyck.htm

Momento Mori Defintion, found at : http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/glossary/memento-mori (Accessed December 2016)

Arkette, S. (2009) http://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/photography-olivier-richon-anima-l/

Masters of Japanese Photography-Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts

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Masters of Japanese Photography is an exhibition of the work of three photographers described in the exhibition guide as three of Japan’s most prominent living photographers. Nobuyoshi Araki (b1940) Ekoh Hosoe (b1933)  Kikuji Kawada (b1933)

They work is set against a background of post war Japan, a period in which rapid reconstruction and industrial development took Japan from defeat to be a leading industrial and technical nation. At the same time traditions were bing questioned and cultural change in this island nation led to a critical review of identity.  I tend too think of Japan as having three distinct historical contexts, an ancient one rich in traditions dating back to before medieval times, a more recent imperial history dating back to the 1800’s and a post war modern in austral history. The work of the artists in this exhibition touch upon all of these themes and to my relatively uneducated eye, also show European cultural  influences such as surrealism, Dada and classical renaissance european painting.

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before relflecting on the artist i wanted first to say something about the display and curation of the work. All the images were framed in large simple wooden frames and i was really struck by the high quality of the productiopn of the work. Given the dates of the work, i assume they were all film based process, and some were labeled as such. There were three distinct zones separating the work of each arts and in two of the individual exhibits there was a clear sequence. one

Nobuyoshi Araki

Araki is the youngest of the three artists featured and he started his career in commercial photography after graduating in Filmaking from the Chiba University in 1963. His work more than the others appeared to present a sharp contrast. One wall was made up of large 20×24 framed Cibachromes, slightly entail in colour. The images bar one were all of exotic and complex japans flowers. There was something slightly unreal about the works and the colours remind me of the super real and sometimes lurid colours seen in Martin parr images. On the other wall there were images of women, all in monochrome and these ranges from Fashion images with an clear erotic tone to very explicit images of women in Bondage. The contrast in the works was as  I say very stark. The exhibition notes set out out that Araki used ‘Kinbaku’, an ancient Japanese type of bondage using ropes as a recurrent theme in his work. I am not sure I liked the images but I have to say I felt the exhibit in hola gave me a revealing and indeed completing sense of the tensions between the ancient and the modern in Japan. Images of women wearing kimonos and tied in ropes suggest something dark. From a technical point of the view the images were faultless and Araki is clearly a skilled images maker, his work offering glimpses of thing that sit below the surface in this distant and to me quite alien, but intriguing eastern  culture.

Ekoh Hosoe

Originally a freelance photographers and film maker, Hosoe changed his name from Toshihio to Ekoh, in response to an new era in Japan following the end of the war. With a number of artists he established the Vivo agency in japan

Hosoe’s work in this exhibit had a much clearer narrative and although the style of the images changes through the sequence, i found this set much easier to read than Araki’s work. All in monochrome the collection of work on display are large, beautifully printed 20×24 silver gelatine prints framed simply and elegantly. The work has a whole had a beauty about it that appealed to my love of film made black and white art.

The set of images on display were a surreal exploration o the writer Yukio Mishima, entitled ‘Ordeal by Roses’, originally called ‘Killed by Roses’ when published but changes at the request of the subject. The works range from fairly orthodox portrait images to college like surreal interpretations. All had some reference to flowers /roses as part of the iconography. I got a real sense of the tension and angst from the work I think about when considering Mishima. As a student many years ago I had read some of his work an was aware of his ultimate ritual suicide following a failed attempt inciting a coup d’ etat. 

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I could see many in the work and al were executed beautifully. I was confused by the sequencing of at e work, all of which had unique numbers in their titles, but they were not displayed in number sequence. I would have liked to find out the curatorial reasoning behind the sequencing but no one at the gallery could tell me. That said this really did flow and there was a strong sense of sequence. There was also a clear sense of western influence with collage like sequence that used  snippets of well know european art, within the overall composition. I  was also intrigued by the artists use of the rose, a reference perhaps to beauty and thorns. 

Kikuji Kawada

Kawada, unlike his peers in this exhibition started out as an economics graduate and after working for a publishing company got involved in photography. A founder member of the Vivo Agency his work in this exhibit is a strange and at times hard to follow exposition  of natural phenomena. With a particular focus on eclipse and images of the astronomical events. This ‘Last Cosmology ‘ set draws upon traditional notions of such natural events being the harbingers of disasters. The work was very dark and although there was some serial progression i the eclipse images, I found the narrative of the work oblique. The exhibit notes talked about influences from European landscape art but again i found that hard to read. I will persevere though. i have made it an early new years resolution to look further into work that is hard to grasp and see it as an academic as well as aesthetic challenge. I was remanned of the scene from early black and white hour fils, patricianly the cloud and moon images. there was area Hammer feel to some of this work.

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What I learned from this exhibit

This was a challenging and thought provoking show. i led Hose work the most, and was more intrigued by Akira and Kawada. I left with a real sense that visiting exhbition and getting something from them isn’t about whether i like the work or not. Rather it is about the thought processes that are provoked. All three of theses artists offer an insight into post war Japan, a clash of cultures and the influence of the west. i also reflected that the post war industrial growth in the country also gave us many of the tools we all use to make our our own work

Note to Self- Follow up on the Vivo  Agency and the idea of an anti documentary approach. 

 

References

Koetzle, H-M,(2015) Photographers A-Z, Taschen, Koln

Sainsbury Centre Gallery Guide  (2016) University of East Anglia,Norwich