Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What Lies Beneath …

It seems that the art I make is autobiographical – whether I want it to be or not.

I’ve been doing some preliminary studies for a series of pictures entitled “Stripped”.

I’ve mentioned this before – repeatedly, I’m sure – but I take photos of places and then rip them apart to see and express what lies beneath. I’m stripping back what is seen to reveal what is unseen. I have hundreds of such photos (and I keep taking more) and I’m enjoying working my way through them.

At first I was selecting only the better images and weeding out the many bland ones. And I do take some remarkably bland photos. I have repeated shots of grey skies, the surface of water, patches of dirt. Then I realised that however bland these images were, I’d taken them for a reason. At the moment I took them I was seeing something that I wanted to capture. It was the everyday, the here-and-now … what was there in front of me. The beauty in the ordinary.

So far, so good.

It was when I set myself the simple task of writing a few paragraphs about “Stripped” that I began to realise there was something more going on than I was aware of. I was going to send out a mailing – together with a sample – to some of my friends and contacts. This simple task had been on my list for months but I kept putting it off. You know how it is when you find yourself avoiding doing something? Sooner or later you start to ask yourself why.

That’s when I realised that no matter how objective I was trying to be, I was still at the centre of it all. I was the one holding the camera, making the choices, taking the shots. I wasn’t just exploring the world in general, but my world in particular. And the ideas I’m exploring are not just random concepts, but personally-held beliefs that I’m examining and holding up for discussion.

“Stripped” may not be all about me, but it was a bit about me. And a bigger bit than I had realised.

I realised that in the process of stripping back “nature”, I’m stripping back myself. I’m revealing a bit more of myself. The whole process of making art (taking photos, doing drawings, cutting, sticking, reading, researching, journaling, blogging) is not just revealing things to me, but revealing things in me.

I’m having to think very carefully about this.

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I don't think you should think TOO carefully about it because that's the point of art - it's personal expression, as opposed to design, which is for a specific purpose.

Good art is bound to come from something that is personal, otherwise it's unauthentic and people can tell. That also explains why people love your pictures and want to own them once they find out what they're about.
Hi Jo ... I do tend to overthink things! That word 'authentic' has been on my mind this week, funnily enough. Maybe time for a bit more honesty!
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