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.

sally-5900

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/

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