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I was pleased to discover that our summertime project is precisely what I intended to accomplish as my creative development this summer! I planned to investigate new artists within specific genres of photography, and art movements, curate a mini-exhibition based on the artists I discovered, explore, experiment with techniques and conclude with the curated body of work displaying my newly acquired skills and knowledge.
Summer Project Research
Abstraction in Photography (2013)
This informative video is an excellent starting point! Absolutely spot on! Finding it gave me legs to stand on and confidence. Additionally, it strengthened what I, deep down, already knew and felt for a very long time. Over many years of following my photography passion, each time I took slightly (or very) abstract pictures, a particular kind of satisfaction and excitement erupted inside me, unlike anything else. Exceptional and thrilling, it became something I would seek repeatedly and constantly. Now it is crystalline to me, I am captivate by ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY.
This comprehensive clip comprises significant abstract and experimental photographers as well as the likely origin of abstract photography. I decided to research most of the photographers discussed in this video: Antoine-Henri Becquerel, Pierre Dubreuil, Alvin Coburn, Man Ray, William Garnett, Herbert List, Jaroslav Rössler,Moholy Nagy, Anton Bragaglia, Erwin Blumenfeld and Naoya Hatakeyama.
I will investigate further artists found during my research; Brassaï, Andre Kertész, August Strindberg, Sigmar Polke, Marta Hoepffner, Maurice Tabard, Dora Maar, Paul Horst.
Experimental Photography (2020)
Series of ideas for experimental photography utilising glass, liquid, oil, milk plus food colouring, washing up liquid on cotton buds (an interesting effect that is worth trying out), wine glass as a filter, phone pinhole camera (created with a piece of cardboard). He also mentioned a few experimental artists worth checking out (Anna Atkins, Louis Dagert).
The following article, which I found extremely useful, and a great starting point where I found some great artists I later researched in-depth, is from https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/surrealist-photography/
Surrealist photography has come a long way. While Photoshop and other post-processing programs make it fairly easy to create surrealist photographs, back in the days of darkroom photography there were no computers to help you. All surrealist effects had to be either done in camera or in the darkroom – a feat that is not very easy to accomplish. From the famous Man Ray to the more recent Erik Johansson, it’s interesting to see where surrealist photography started and what it has morphed into throughout the years.
While Man Ray worked with a wide variety of mediums, he is most well-known for his surrealist photography and photograms (which he called rayographs). For those not familiar with photograms, they are photographic images made without a camera. You can create a photogram yourself by setting yourself up in a darkroom, placing objects on top of photo paper, and then exposing both the paper and the objects to light. Once you develop the photo paper, you’ll see that there are white shapes where the objects sat. Photograms are an easy way to get acquainted with surreal and abstract “photography” in the darkroom.
While Photoshop was not an option in Man Ray’s day (1890-1976), this didn’t stop him from creating some of the most influential surrealist photographs of all time. He used solarization, double exposures, montages, and combination printing to create works of art that left viewers scratching their heads.
Tabard (1897-1984) is another notable surrealist photographer. Like Man Ray, he used the techniques of solarization, double exposures and montages to create eerie and unnerving photographic images. He began his work as a portrait, fashion and advertising photographer while experimenting with surrealist images in his personal work. A room with an eye, a lady who seems to be turning into a tree, and ghostly solarized portraits are only a small portion of the surrealist work he created.
Bellmer (1902-1975), born in Germany, is most well known for his unsettling portraits of mechanical dolls that he created himself. He originally studied engineering and was incredibly interested in politics, yet gave that up to pursue a career as an artist. He had read about Surrealism and sent photographs of his dolls to other artists, who immediately praised his work. This spurred the collaboration with other artists and led to his work on a few more books, ranging from his own photography to experimental poetry to illustrations of erotic stories.
Maar (1907-1997) and Picasso studied with Man Ray, which could be why Dora Maar became so interested in Surrealism. Her famous Portrait of Ubu became well-known within the Surrealist movement, being a photograph that many have speculated to be an armadillo fetus; Maar declined to let the public know exactly what the subject of the photograph was. This photograph is a good example of what Surrealist photography is when it doesn’t include the use of double exposures or solarization; the image itself is strange and unusual, and while it may be grotesque, continues to fascinate a wide audience.
An interesting short article that touches upon a few kinds of approaches to surrealist photography. I absolutely prefer the darkroom and analogue pieces over the digital ones (which I didn’t include in my overview as they make me feel absolutely nothing when I look at them). Contrary to the real thing that inspires and mesmerises me.
The Adventure of Photography // The Surrealists (2013)
Excellent short documentary about the early days and the rise of surrealist photography, with interviews from one and only Man Ray, who experimented a lot with photographs and photograms. When he found something interesting, he studied it “and repeated the experiment, so when you repeat something, it’s no longer a matter of luck”.
The documentary covers works of Maurice Tabard, Raul Ubac (invented burning – look into this), Brassai, Sali, Picasso, Wols, Hans Bellmer, Dora Maar, Eli Lotar, Claude Cahun, Pierre Molinier, Paul Outerbridge Jr, Horst-Paul, (more temporary) Gerhald Vormwald, Heinet Troendle, William Wegman, Boyd Webb, Joel-Peter Witkin. It ends with a prodigious declaration “If surrealism has not changed the world, it has at least changed art. Photography ceased being a mere recorder of the truth and opened up to the heady mystery of the human spirit”.
Other notes from this video: Jean Cocteau (precursor of surrealism), surrealist manifesto 1924, techniques of solarisation and superimposed photographs.
In this section, I will investigate various unknown or somewhat familiar to me artists
I resolved to include a short bio with most of them. The reason was that the more I researched the artists, the more I became inspired not just by their artwork but also by their lives, hence I found it essential for subjects analysis and personal growth.
I studied an article about Henri Becquerel (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1903/becquerel/facts/). When Henri Becquerel investigated the newly discovered X-rays in 1896, it led to studies of how uranium salts are affected by light. By accident, he discovered that uranium salts spontaneously emit penetrating radiation that can be registered on a photographic plate. Further studies made it clear that this radiation was something new and not X-ray radiation: he had discovered a new phenomenon, radioactivity.
Episode 4 – Henri Becquerel (2019)
Henri Becquerel was interested in fluorescence, which led him to examine uranium. He tested it on photographic paper and discovered radioactivity. Marie Curie followed these findings, and Pierre Curie abandoned his research on magnetism to join hers.
Pierre Dubreuil (March 5, 1872 – January 9, 1944) was a French photographer, born in Lille, who spent his career in France and Belgium. As a pioneer of modernist photography, Dubreuil embraced innovative techniques and ideas that were celebrated, criticized, and at times, overlooked. (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pierre-dubreuil)
Alvin Langdon Coburn (June 11, 1882 – November 23, 1966) was an early 20th-century photographer who became a key figure in the development of American pictorialism. He became the first major photographer to emphasize the visual potential of elevated viewpoints and later made some of the first completely abstract photographs. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Langdon_Coburn)
Vortograph, the first completely abstract kind of photograph, composed of kaleidoscopic repetitions of forms achieved by photographing objects through a triangular arrangement of three mirrors. Coburn, a member of the Photo-Secession group and a pioneer in nonobjective photography, invented vortography in 1917 and remained the principal advocate and practitioner of the technique. Coburn’s experiments with the technique lasted only a short while. (https://www.britannica.com/technology/vortograph)
Alvin Langdon Coburn (2014)
Comprehensive overview of Coburn’s work from his early days through development to inventing vortograph and his fascination with Asian culture (which he incorporated in his photography).
Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky; August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976). Man Ray was an accomplished painter, photographer, sculptor, illustrator, filmmaker, inventor, philosopher, dadaist and surrealist. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was young. He had known he wanted to be an artist by the time he was seven and pursued it diligently. In high school, he studied drawing and draftsmanship and was offered a grant to study architecture, but did not accept it.
“I have finally freed myself from the sticky medium of paint, and am working directly with light itself.” So enthused Man Ray in 1922, shortly after his first experiments with camera-less photography. He remains well known for these images, commonly called photograms but which he dubbed “rayographs” in a punning combination of his own name and the word “photograph.”(…) in his photograms, Man Ray embraced the possibilities for irrational combinations and chance arrangements of objects, emphasizing the abstraction of images made in this way.
Man Ray’s artistic beginnings came some years earlier, in the Dada movement. Shaped by the trauma of World War I and the emergence of a modern media culture—epitomized by advancements in communication technologies like radio and cinema—Dada artists shared a profound disillusionment with traditional modes of art making and often turned instead to experimentations with chance and spontaneity. In The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows, Man Ray based the large, colour-block composition on the random arrangement of scraps of coloured paper scattered on the floor. The painting evinces a number of interests that the artist would carry into his photographic work: negative space and shadows; the partial surrender of compositional decisions to accident; and, in its precise, hard-edged application of unmodulated colour, the removal of traces of the artist’s hand. (https://iphf.org/inductees/man-ray-emmanuel-radnitsky/), (https://www.moma.org/artists/3716)
“Crimes against Photography”: Man Ray and the Rayograph (2017)
This short video speaks of Duchamp’s and Ray’s relationship and their influence on one another, collaborations (Duchamp’s ‘ready made’), Ray’s move to Paris and his unplanned becoming of a portrait photographer (to make a living). During his exploration of the photographic medium, he stumbled upon photograms, and well, the rest is history, right?
The complete Man Ray | Exhibitions | Showcase (2018)
Exhibition of Man Ray’s work in Vienna, covering an array of his work.
Man Ray – Short Film (2014)
A subtitled overview of Ray’s works that includes his progress from painting to photography (which Ray considers to be the same thing). The video mentions ”School of Paris” (filmography, innovation, provocation, change). ”Surrealism – artistic movement born in Paris in the ’20s, and inserted the concept of the vanguard that would define modernism in the period between two wars”.
”The movement is strongly influenced by psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud”.
”Surrealism is a combination of the representative, the abstract, the unreal and the unconscious. Among many of its methodologies are the collage and automatic writing”.
”According to the surrealists, art should break loose the demands of logic and reason and go beyond everyday consciousness, seeking to express the world of the unconscious and dreams”.
Man Ray: Emak-Bakia (1926)
An abstract journey into the subconscious that provoked many feelings and evoked many memories. Bizarre and wonderful, familiar yet unknown. Made my heart beat faster and made me feel uneasy, but I can’t pin down whether it’s in a good or bad way…I think it’s a positive thing, the ambiguity of sensations, not many things in life provoke this kind of melange of emotions and experiences.
Man Ray – Emmanuel Radnitzky – Dadaism & surrealism (2014)
Notes from this video: no hierarchy or order to his artistic endeavours, from photography to painting to sculpture (unrestricted artistry, in my opinion). Cubism in his abstract paintings intentionally draws viewers attention to something else, something other than what they are! (genius, I say). AEROGRAPH! The video follows Man Ray’s career, showing examples of his work from the beginning in the USA to his flourishing in Paris, then back in the USA as he had run away from war (he hid his paintings in the floors of his and his friend’s house, and it all survived!). Return to Paris and continuation of outstanding work.
“The pictures I took spontaneously – with a bliss-like sensation as if they had long inhabited my unconscious – were often more powerful than those I had painstakingly composed. I grasped their magic as in passing”
Herbert List (7 October 1903 – 4 April 1975) was a German photographer, who worked for magazines, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Life, and was associated with Magnum Photos. His austere, classically posed black-and-white compositions, particularly his homoerotic male nudes, taken in Italy and Greece being influential in modern photography and contemporary fashion photography. Herbert List was a classically educated artist who combined a love of photography with a fascination for surrealism and classicism. Full bio at https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/herbert-list/
Herbert List, Greece 1937 (2016)
Italy (1940-1950) by Herbert List (II / 2) | Takkin Quartet (2009)
In 1917 Jaroslav Rössler (1902 – 1990) began his career as an apprentice in the Prague studio of Frantisek Drtikol, where he learned the techniques of oil, bromoil, pigment and other printing techniques. From 1923 to 1925, he also made a series of his own photographs, using contrasts of geometrical areas of light, shade and reflections with different shades of black, grey and white tones, and geometric shapes cut from paper and cardboard.
In the mid 1920s Rössler went to Paris to enlarge his photographic experience by working in some of the city’s well-known studios. While in Paris he continued his photographic experiments, and his picture poems, photographs, collages and drawings influenced by Cubism were occasionally published in avant-garde periodicals.
In 1935, Rössler was expelled from France as a suspicious foreigner after being jailed for photographing a street demonstration. He returned to Prague, opened a portrait studio, and for many years gave up his own creative work. He resumed working in the mid 1950s, in some ways continuing his older work, especially in photomontage and geometrically harmonized compositions with strong shadows.
Although Rössler’s work includes some of the most progressive and earliest examples of the application of abstract tendencies in creative photography, it remained little known even in his own country until the mid 1960s and 1970s.
Radůza/9. Ocelový město/Jaroslav Rössler (2017)
Probably a discovery of a year for me. I think I could do a whole assignment just on Rossler. I am in awe and completely mesmerised by his photography, which I think about frequently. Since discovering him, I bought three books about him and his craft, one coming all the way from America!
László Moholy Nagy
“The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of ‘how to do’. The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.”
An extensive article on this artist at https://www.theartstory.org/artist/moholy-nagy-laszlo/artworks/, https://www.moholy-nagy.org/
László Moholy-Nagy is arguably one of the greatest influences on post-war art education in the United States. A modernist and a restless experimentalist from the outset, the Hungarian-born artist was shaped by Dadaism, Suprematism, Constructivism, and debates about photography. When Walter Gropius invited him to teach at the Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany, he took over the school’s crucial preliminary course and gave it a more practical, experimental, and technological bent. He later delved into various fields, from commercial design to theatre set design, and also made films and worked as a magazine art director. But his greatest legacy was the version of Bauhaus teaching he brought to the United States, where he established the highly influential Institute of Design in Chicago.
Moholy-Nagy believed that humanity could only defeat the fracturing experience of modernity – only feel whole again – if it harnessed the potential of new technologies. Artists should transform into designers, and through specialization and experimentation find the means to answer humanity’s needs.
His interest in photography encouraged his belief that artists’ understanding of vision had to specialize and modernize. Artists used to be dependent on the tools of perspective drawing, but with the advent of the camera they had to learn to see again. They had to renounce the classical training of previous centuries, which encouraged them to think about the history of art and to reproduce old formulas and experiment with vision, thus stretching human capacity to new tasks.
Moholy-Nagy’s interest in qualities of space, time, and light endured throughout his career and transcended the very different media he employed. Whether he was painting or creating “photograms” (photographs made without the use of a camera or negative) or crafting sculptures made of transparent Plexiglass, he was ultimately interested in studying how all these basic elements interact.
From 1923 to 1928, Moholy-Nagy taught at the Bauhaus, an influential school of architecture and industrial design that provided students with groundwork in all of the visual arts. His recruitment to the faculty marked a turning point in the school’s direction since he was given control of the school’s crucial preliminary course, or Vorkurs. Rather than endorsing the individualism of Expressionist painting, he introduced a new emphasis on the unity of art and technology. Moholy-Nagy’s gregarious disposition made him a natural teacher. He taught the metal workshop, taking over from Paul Klee, which designed a line of lighting fixtures under his direction that are still in use today.
The Legacy of László Moholy-Nagy
Moholy-Nagy’s influence on modern art is felt broadly in several disciplines. Along with the other emigres from the Bauhaus, he succeeded in instilling a modern aesthetic into modern design. His impact was felt most strongly by his students, but his use of modern materials and technology impressed other young designers, including Charles Eames, who visited the New Bauhaus while studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. In addition, by combining photography with typography to create what he called the typo-photo, Moholy-Nagy is considered by many to be the initializer of modern graphic design.
Moholy-Nagy’s influence on photography is felt equally through his writings as through his photographs and photomontages. His first Bauhaus book established photography as a fine art equal to painting. His experiments in light and shadow reinforced photography’s value as a subjective medium, and therefore an artistic medium, rather than simply a means to document reality.
László Moholy-Nagy: Proto-Conceptual Artist (2014)
A short overview of Moholy-Nagy’s work.
”Coinciding with the Bauhaus centenary, Hattula Moholy-Nagy and Daniel Hug, the daughter and grandson of László Moholy-Nagy, consider the lasting impact of the artist’s work today. Hauser & Wirth’s exhibition in London dedicated to Moholy-Nagy examines his influence as a proto-conceptualist, whose work interrogated the role of the art object and the artist in society, anticipating questions posed by subsequent generations of artists.”
THE NEW BAUHAUS – The Life & Legacy of Moholy-Nagy | Exclusive preview (2021)
”An odyssey through the life and legacy of László Moholy-Nagy, the innovative artist and educator whose pioneering approach to integrating technology into design continues to influence and inspire. In the 1920s, rising artist László Moholy-Nagy taught at the revolutionary Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany, alongside luminaries like Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Gunta Stolzl, Wassily Kandinsky, and Marcel Breuer. An upstart within this esteemed group, Moholy established himself as a visionary, and the approach he developed while teaching became the ethos of his work: training artists to live “happier lives in modernity”.”
This video speaks of Moholo-Nagy’s versatility as an artist.
”(Question) Mr Moholo-Nagy, what is your attitude towards art today? (Answer) I do not believe so much in art as in mankind. Every man reveals himself. Much of it is art.” (0:3-0:20). Then talks about how Moholy-Nagy started the new Bauhaus in Chicago, the school that would work for ”the social betterment of all citizens through art”. Also, covers his recruitment and extensive and multi-disciplinary work at Bauhaus.
”Abstract art was always seen as not just provocative but revolutionary”.
”You make abstract art not because it looks pretty. You make abstract art because you want to change the world (…) the way that we interface with the world is shaped by how we see it.”
Just an excellent preview and I ended up buying the film (of course, I have a soft spot for documentaries).
Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo: Light Space Modulator (2020)
Anton Giulio Bragaglia (a full article at https://www.moma.org/interactives/objectphoto/artists/16790.html) was the intellectual leader of Italian Futurist photography; he made his photographs in collaboration with his younger brother Arturo Bragaglia. Anton Giulio completed his scholastic education at the local seminary in his Italian hometown; however, his artistic training was developed as an assistant, alongside his brothers, in his father Francesco Bragaglia film production company in Rome.
Anton Giulio Bragaglia meets Erik Satie. Gnossienne No. 1 (2015)
A short video overview of Bragaglia’s photodynamic work.
Anton Giulio Bragaglia | Thaïs (Futurism Film) Itália 1917
Thaïs is a 1917 Italian silent film directed by Anton Giulio Bragaglia. The movie is the sole surviving Italian Futurist film and is currently kept at the Cinémathèque Française. It is not based on the novel of the same name by Anatole France.
The plot is fairly conventional and refers to the love stories of turbid “diva-film” typical of the period. The beautiful Slavic countess Vera Preobrajenska (played by Thaïs Galitzy) is a seductress of married men, dragging them to the brink of ruin. Vera resolves to seduce Count San Remo, the lover of her best friend, Countess Bianca Stagno-Bellincioni (played by Ileana Leonidoff). Bianca, in the midst of depression, falls off her horse and dies. Vera feels guilty and commits suicide. The film sets are characteristic of the Futurist movement. They were designed by Enrico Prampolini who used geometric shapes based on a strong black/white contrast: spiral, diamond, chess, symbolic figures (cats, masks spewing smoke). Painted scenes often interact with the characters, creating a world of illusions where it is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. As the film progresses, it becomes more and more abstract to reflect Vera’s increasing confusion. The oppressive and anti-naturalistic visions can be seen as a preamble to the German expressionist cinema, which was notably inspired by the style of Prampolini. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tha%C3%AFs_(1917_Italian_film))
Photodynamism Movement Photography with Blackout Technique (2013)
A great short video with instructions on how to take a photodynamic image.
“Photography is so easy a medium to use, the box camera, a roll of film, a snap – a picture! Photography, the art, is so immensely difficult because it is so easy to get a picture of sorts. One must work hard to smuggle anything into a photograph other than record keeping.”
Erwin Blumenfeld is one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. An experimenter and innovator, he produced an extensive body of work including drawings, collages, portraits and nudes, celebrity portraiture, advertising campaigns and his renowned fashion photography both in black and white and color. (www.erwinblumenfeld.com)
“No medium of expression is art unless it becomes a vehicle for successfully transmitting an emotion from the one using to the one viewing it – and if it does this what difference is there what raw materials are used?”
”A montage of Erwin Blumenfeld’s experimental beauty films, resurrected from the archives by the German-born photographer’s son Henri.” https://www.nowness.com/story/erwin-blumenfeld-at-hyeres
A complete short review of Blumenfeld’s work. He took many photographs altered with mirrors and various materials, which I love, and find very inspiring and timeless. I think he was absolutely ahead of his time.
Erwin Blumenfeld Documentary (2013)
A full overview of Blumenfeld’s work talks about his death (potential suicide), obsession with beautiful women, and his migration to New York as a German Jew escaping from the nazis (which set up his career). I found it very sweet and clever that he used to ask models just before he took a shoot, ”will you marry me?” (genius), he said, it softens their faces.
Erwin Blumenfeld 7 Images That Changed Fashion Photography (2015)
“…no mirror – no art. no echo – no music… we are doubles – without a mirror I would have never become a human being…”
I covered André Kertész in another blog entry so I will just put together a few inspirational photographs to my abstract collection.
I chose Brassai for my collection, as next to his iconic and mesmerising images of Paris, he dabbled in an abstract side of photography. I am speaking, of course, about his graffiti series, which is unlike anything else he has done, bizarre, fascinating and thought-provoking.
This black and white silver gelatin print is one of a group of eleven photographs in Tate’s collection from Hungarian photographer Brassaï’s extensive series Graffiti, begun in the 1930s and continuing into the 1960s. The photographs were taken in Paris and, as the title suggests, depict close-ups of graffiti carved into and painted onto walls around the city. Brassaï worked on the series alongside other projects for three decades, culminating in the publication of the photobook Graffiti in 1961.. Brassaï’s graffiti images were first published in the Surrealist magazine Le Minotaure in 1933, and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1956, in a show organized by the American photographer and curator Edward Steichen (18979–1973). More at http://www.artnet.com/artists/brassaï/ https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/brassai-graffiti-p80980
Marta Hoepffner (German photographer), the niece of Hugo Ball, was one of the small group of photographers who remained in Germany under Nazism, which resulted in continuity between the avant-garde photographic research of the 1920s and that of the postwar period. Her abstract photos mingle references to pictorial abstraction with the techniques of the New Vision movement in photography. Her training at the Frankfurt School of Art (1929–33) proved a determining factor; Frankfurt had become the new centre of modernity in Germany, rivalling the flourishing cultural scenes of Berlin and Weimar. After studying photography under Willi Baumeister, who taught his students about the work of László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, and Herbert Bayer, Hoepffner quickly turned to experimental photography. Moholy- Nagy’s book Painting, Photography, Film (1925) propelled her further down this road. Thanks to her studies, she was familiar with the photographic techniques of the avant-garde, such as solarization, multiple exposure, double exposure, and photomontage, although she still remained attached to the pictorial medium. (https://awarewomenartists.com/en/artiste/marta-hoepffner/)
Great article on Maar’s artistic journey at https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/dora-maar-15766/seven-things-know-dora-maar
Maurice Tabard (July 12, 1897 – February 23, 1984) was a French photographer. Tabard was one of the leading photographers of the Surrealist movement, which he entered under the influence of his friend, American photographer Man Ray. His work was well known for incorporating solarization, superimposition and photomontage. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Tabard)
The Work of Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama (2012)
”But there aren’t that many places in the world where no people have been before. With a camera, just by changing your angle or changing your perspective a little bit, it looks like someplace people haven’t been.”
Naoya Hatakeyama: Personal Landscapes (2016)
Contemporary artists that I follow
KEISOT A london based artist and his newest (’20) creation.
”With Keisot, I capture the ordinary. Working with motion, light and abstract patterns, I turn these shots into imaginative and mysterious stories. I create an escape for the viewer; to explore an alternate perspective. Intentional camera movement is intuitive for me.” https://www.keisot.com/
I really like this sort of artistic expression and admire this artist’s artwork. It led me to discover ICM (intentional camera movement), with which I intend to experiment in the future and cover in my research.
Simona black and white ICM https://www.instagram.com/siart21/
Visual artist acrylic painting painting on glass, digital art, photography and more https://www.instagram.com/simonasasart/
Armadillo Media https://www.instagram.com/armadillomediaproductions/
A Manchester-based artist that I stumbled upon on Instagram. I really like his work, and we got along online, also he lives locally, so I suggested meeting, as we are passionate about the same thing. We met, and it was a valuable experience for me, as it is so important to me to meet like-minded people passionate about abstract photography. Also, it confirmed that you could make any contacts if you take things into your hands and you are proactive.
ICM Photography Tutorial – Intentional Camera Movement (2019)
5 TIPS for Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) Photography (2020)
I read an interesting (and very cynical) article in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/may/06/shape-of-lights-100-years-photography-abstract-art-tate-modern-review, which fundamentally criticises the exhibition in the review. The feature starts with (oh what an excellent start) “An endless procession of mundane, repetitive photographs dominate a show that can’t even decide what ‘abstract’ actually means”.
The rest of it continued in this tone: “Take a picture of a slab of concrete in crazy closeup. Photograph beer bottle caps arranged on a dark surface so they resemble an array of shining dots. Crouch at the foot of some very tall trees and point your lens directly upwards, so that the uppermost leaves appear like dark smudges against a pale expanse. Work only, and always, in black and white”. I believe it is so crucial to read and inform yourself on the opposite point of view. The younger me would probably not read the article after the first, very negative sentence, present Ela, was curious. Curious of what is on the other side, intrigued by the contrary, extremely critical view. I deem it essential to learn what people entirely different to you think about your subject and practice area. Through learning about their contradictory opinions, I can develop a deeper understanding of the whole spectrum of viewpoints on the topic. The article goes on ” (…) But hold on to these early photographs, so potent and beautiful. For what follows is a tide of academic exercises, science projects, technical and visual experiments, with only the occasional triumph and a quite startling degree of repetition”. I, of course, sympathise with the artists that were exhibited there (as well as curators who were equally targeted). However, I found it insightful to familiarise myself with this extreme opposing opinion (there are many abstract artists that I haven’t heard of mentioned in this article, and I will refer to it for more info).
Amazing article on my research subject. I love how this feature brings science to explain the concept of the abstract: Defining Abstract Photography https://www.ideelart.com/magazine/abstract-photography
Dada and Surrealism: Europe After the Rain documentary (1978) (2018)
Dada: The Original Art Rebels documentary (2016) (2018)
Books I read for my research:
- Futurism & Photography: Giovanni Lista
- Dada and Surrealism: Robert Short
- Experimental Photography a Handbook of Techniques: Marco Antonini, Sergio Minniti, Francisco Gomez, Gabriele Lungarella, Luca Bendandi
- John Blakemore: British Image nr 3 John Blakemore
- Czechoslovakian photography: Jaromir Funke, Jaroslav Rössler
I spent three months researching abstract photography, and I had such an excellent time. I think I really grew from it, feeling very stimulated and inspired. My first roll of film that I shot during the summer, motivated by everything that I read and saw came out incredible, I was over the moon! Consequently, I feel my feet strongly on the ground and have a clear sense of direction, very, very exciting!
MMU FIRST YEAR
Based on a year of development at MMU and my underlining love for the bizarre and obscure that unfolded and evolved throughout years of photographing, I focused on the theme of experimental, abstract, surrealist and camera-less photography (photograms, lumen prints, cliche verre etc), as well as techniques utilised within these genres; double/multi-exposure, solarisation, overlaying negatives, superimposing and many more.
391 explores Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unconscious according to which contradictory ideas coexist side by side. Furthermore, they do not have degrees of certainty in the same way that conscious concepts do, for that reason, Ela Skorska considers it to be a gateway to the most unadulterated form of expression. Profoundly influenced by surrealism, futurism, abstract and Dada movement, Ela experiments with techniques and compositions to draw with light and mirror the creations of her subconscious mind onto photographic paper. Motivated by the notion of infinite interpretations inextricable to abstract art, Ela seeks to captivate and liberate the viewer by unlocking the cognisance to representations and mesmerise by blending the line between photography and painting. Significantly influenced by geometry ubiquitous in all art forms, she investigates the fascinating symbiosis between it, the abstract, and the mind. Accidental abstract photography created by French engineer and physicist Antoine-Henri Becquerel was an immense source of inspiration. It led Ela to explorations with the chance, which inspired her methods of work, from flâneur chasing the light to short photographic sessions in a small, designated area, Ela discovered not just entirely new ways of work but herself. Equally, the aesthetics of Czechoslovakian avant-garde artist Jaroslav Rossler, surrealists Dora Maar and Maurice Tabard had a crucial influence on Ela’s perception, deepened her understanding of light, and gave her a unique vision, which she manifests in this exhibition.
I was a silent witness to the world’s beauty that was brought to life by the illumination of light. I have found the voice to speak to you about the exquisiteness I am experiencing, and I hope that equipped with it, I can draw with light the magnitude of this world so we can recognize and awe in it together.
EXPLORE AND EXPERIMENT UNIT HAND IN
EXPLORE AND EXPERIMENT WORKSHOPS
PLACE WORKSHOP WITH SYLVIA WALTERING
We commenced the workshop with an engaging presentation from Sylvia. She introduced us to various artists that investigate the theme of place and space. We discussed what these words mean to us, although there is a general agreement on what they represent, I feel like people have a very fluid concept of these terms and interpret them differently, freely, interchangeably, and subjectively.
What place and space are to me? I guess I believe that anything around us could be considered a space. A space in which we live, including space and time, outward and inward like head-space. We can occupy spaces with presence, thoughts or ideas, and that is what makes them places. For example, I look at a space where two white walls meet illuminated by sunlight, creating shadows and consequently a striking abstract geometrical image. At this moment, it ceases to be a space and becomes a place of creation, inspiration and satisfaction (especially if I can produce a photograph that truly reflects what I am seeing and experiencing, not just the visual side of it, but successfully projecting the feeling of that moment). To conclude, a space for me is/means the potential, while a place is the big bang of ideas exploding into something, where everything comes together. Whether it is the idea of love, family, friendship, art, serenity or anything else I can imagine, it’s all created in the potential of space into something more defined and exciting.
During today’s workshop, we were building a den. Encouraged by our tutor, we rummaged through the art school in search of materials. Throughout the construction, we questioned ourselves what place (especially the one that we were building) meant to us and how it made us feel. For me, it was a pure and liberating experience that brought up a lot of joy and warm feelings of comfort, innocence and playfulness we all experienced as children. When I look back at some of my childhood memories, it’s like watching a movie, and the ones with the den in them were definitely one of the happiest ones to view.
These photos were taken by Ed Jones (he kindly shared them with me)
We finished the day by analysing taken photos and preparing them to print the following day of the workshop.
Building Den (2021)
DAY TWO OF PLACE WORKSHOP
We started our day by exploring the space around Manchester. With a flaneur approach, we wandered the streets according to chance (rolling dice, pulling cards dictating the movement). At each stop, we performed tasks (sensory like smelling, hearing etc, or physical like making a video, taking photographs, collecting something etc) at each stop, every 5 minutes for about a couple of hours.
At this stop, I got the task of recording a video. I captured a wonderful moment of wind talking and vibrating the water.
Wind Talk (2021)
An audio recording of SMELL task from Stop 2
At this stop, I was given another video assignment.
The World is Spinning (2021)
During the walk we went past a small community library box so I picked up a random book that caught my eye. Later on, I used it for my DUST project, hence the missing cover.
My favourite images from that day
First time I hung my art on the wall for everyone to see. I am not going to lie, it felt good and a great sign of things to come!
I studied how to perform a good quality interview.
‘How to Interview ‘’Almost’’ Anyone | Mike Dronkers | TEDxHumboldtBay (2015)
I researched the work of several artists mentioned in the PLACE workshop presentation in preparation for my response project.: Marjolaine Ryley, Bert Teunissen, Carrie Mae Weems, Laura Blight, Laura Letinsky, Wolgang Tillmans, Michael Landy, Anna Fox, Henk Wildschut, Jana Sophia Nolle, Edmund Clarke, and Rachel Whiteread.
PLACE WORKSHOP RESPONSE PROJECT
I thoroughly enjoyed this very investigative workshop. I thought about multiple possibilities to respond to it and considered the following options: photographic endeavour, small sculpture project, poem and a video clip. With a theme of experimentation, I settled on producing a short, interview-based video. I have never interviewed anyone before, so it was an engaging experience for me. I have to say, I really enjoyed it and felt comfortable doing it. Also, on rewatching my interviews, I think I have done quite a decent job at giving people a space to talk without saying much/asking too much, which I think is very important. I listen to many podcasts and talks, and there is nothing worse than the interviewer that does not give his guests space to develop their thoughts. Building on this experience, I imagine I will pursue this way of work again, as I really enjoyed it and would like to explore it more.
Considering my contemplations about what place and space mean to me, I began to wonder about the extensive ambiguity of these words and how many different interpretations there might be, individually and relatively perceived and addressed by various people. It led me to create a video for my one-week response to the PLACE workshop.
I asked several people, on the spot, what is their favourite place. I wanted quick, visceral answers instead of well thought through responses. Just when it seemed so straightforward, I added a slight complication by asking, what is their favourite space, to see how they stand next to each other, how they differ and how they integrate.
I aimed to create a collection of potential meanings of these two words and reveal how we sometimes see the world entirely differently when looking at/thinking of the same thing. I aspire to determine that we have alternate realities within the reality that we all agree upon.
PLACE workshop project (2021)
DUST WORKSHOP WITH ALAN JONES
To begin our experiment with the DUST workshop, Alan gave us a few things to watch, read, consider and do. Firstly he brought our attention to Marco Breuer.
”Marco Breuer is one of the most innovative contemporary artists working in photography today. He is well known for using an extensive range of processes to extract abstract and visually compelling images from photographic materials. Line of Sight comprises a selection of photographs made by Breuer and placed in dialogue with objects from de Young’s permanent collection. Selected and installed by the artist in a compressed time period of 48 hours, Breuer sets up a dynamic exchange between the works of art, the collecting practices of the institution, and the viewing habits of museum visitors. The single-gallery exhibition is part of the Collection Connections program of Cultural Encounters.” (https://deyoung.famsf.org/deyoung/exhibitions/marco-breuer-line-sight)
Installation of Marco Breuer: Line of Sight, de Young 2011 (2016)
”I was very careful to really let the installation happen in the 48-hour time frame that we set for it so that I would remain open to discoveries (…)”.
”It’s not my job to spell everything out, I think that’s an illustration, and that’s not what I do.”
I admire the attitude that Breuer has towards his craft. He has a vague plan while keeping things open, the outcome is undefined in advance. Also, I relate to his stance on ”not spelling everything out” to the viewer, which gives curiosity to his artwork.
Consider the relationship between the history and his dialogue to find a way to work with it…He says’’ this is not illustrative’’, a key thought to how we will work.
Gabriel Orozco (Jalapa, 1962) grew up in Mexico City in the cultural milieu of the Mexican left which was linked to muralism, photography and the political literature of the sixties and seventies. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. He currently lives and works mainly in Tokyo and Mexico City. Orozco gained his reputation in the early 1990s with his exploration of drawing, photography, sculpture, installation, and expanding later to include painting. His work blurs the boundaries of art with everyday realities and often balances complex geometry with organic materials and elements of chance. His work blurs the boundaries of art with everyday realities and often balances complex geometry with organic materials and elements of chance. (https://www.mariangoodman.com/artists/56-gabriel-orozco/)
This recommended article, https://www.thewhitereview.org/feature/gabriel-orozco-cosmic-matter-and-other-leftovers/, talks about Gabriel Orozco’s artistic practice, which is described as ”an aesthetic of the trace”.
‘To live, means to leave traces’. Walter Benjamin
”People do leave traces in their wake: the refuse and detritus of history; the variegated remnants of daily life; or dust. A trace is ephemeral, a locus of ambivalence suspended in the unstable space between construction and dispersal, presence and absence. A trace is very little, almost nothing. But it is also an index of life […] ”.
Gabriel Orozco at Tate Modern (2011)
I admire how Orozco speaks about his process of making his art, using simple ideas and simple materials (vs large, complicated installations), followed up with an empowering statement ” everybody can do that”.
TASKS FOR FIRST DAY OF DUST WORKSHOP
Task 1 – I want you to find something in your current space NOW! Stare at it, study it, see how it holds a history whether it be new or old! Make some notes about it trace it, photograph it in situ. Then place it against a white background elevate it to its own state… create a history, factual or fictional. Bring that with you on Monday we can discuss this.
Notes and analysis of the skull
A skull I found in Devon in a field or woods. I don’t remember exactly, as it was quite a few years ago. I reckon it’s a sheep’s skull. We went for a long and lovely walk, and we got a bit lost in the woods, which was fun till it got to the point that in a few hours, it would be dark. We found our way back by following the sound of a crow, as I decided that crows are our friends and they will help us. True story, they did save us that day. All that time, I carried that skull around in my t-shirt as I didn’t have any bag to put it in. Since then, it lived with me in the van, then the boat, being a constant feature and a weird souvenir, I guess. It lives next to the fireplace, so it gathers a lot of dust, not just from the boat life but from being next to the fire. I sometimes wash it, but at the moment, it is covered in dust, dirt and even cobwebs. The teeth on the skull are moving up and down, which is very bizarre. When I shake it, it rattles a bit. I feel like there are some new holes of disintegration on the top left of the skull that I don’t remember seeing before, but I might be wrong. Perhaps I never paid as close attention to the details of this skull till today’s analysis? When I look inside it through the back, I see some light coming through from both sides. It came a long way from Devon, drove around in the van, travelled through Europe to Poland and France, lived in Cambridge, Stone, Manchester, and cruised the waterways of the UK. I will never know how this sheep died, but I celebrate its life by making it a part of mine and bringing back memories of living in Devon, as well as living in the van and the boat.
I think that, through this simple activity, I learned that objects acquire a whole new life when looked at closely and given enough attention. They can and will shift your perspective. A valuable lesson indeed.
Skull elevated in its own state against a white background
Task 2: I want you to get some Sellotape and place it on the carpet/tiles/walls flooring and bring the “mucky’’ tape to the session on Monday (forensic).
Two out of four pieces of tape I originally made, the other two went missing in the process.
Task 3: consider these thoughts:
‘’How big are we in the space we occupy now, and how small are we in the space we don’t ‘’
In the space that we occupy now, we are definitely an integral part of it. We live in it, and we arrange it, move things, throw away stuff and bring new ones into it. We are an element of it but also, in a sense, a creator, or should I say a significant contributor to its existence. We live in symbiosis, and we only materialize because of each other’s existence. Yet without it, we are lost, just a human in the open-wide world looking for the space to occupy. Is it in our genes to do so? We used to move all the time looking for food to forage and shelter to rest. I guess it’s just part of evolution (and not for everyone, some still have a strong urge to live this way). Nowadays, people are obsessed with occupying space in one way or the other.
In the space we don’t occupy – we don’t exist. As far as this space is concerned, if you are not there now or have never been there, there is no memory of us for that space – therefore, we don’t exist for it.
‘’Who are we then who are we now’’ ?
We are energy, then we were a different kind of energy to now, and that will always be the case. Not even in the space of years but minutes, it’s like we are a volcano of thoughts, emotions, preferences, individually experiencing the then and now. Even when we look back at ‘then’, we might feel that it is unique every time we do, as we are different energy now, which will affect our outlook. We are forever changing, never the same, always moving, evolving, setting opinions and changing our minds.
It is an interesting expression – to change one’s mind, it’s like to say – I have become the other me, so now my decision is taken up by that person, a person with a different mind. I am interested in the multiple personalities which occur within each of us, and how complex we are to create this one whole being.
FIRST DAY OF DUST WORKSHOP
During today’s workshop, I executed a series of cameraless images based on the tasks assigned in the homework. I projected light through pieces of dirty sellotape that ‘collected’ its environment upon itself (with my help). The results were unexpectedly stunning. I have worked a fair amount with photograms and really appreciate the beauty and potential of cameraless photography. It was my first time to replace the negative in the slot with something else and project light through it, and the results electrified me and inspired multiple ideas. My instinct told me to crease the sellotape, and the effect was astonishing. I particularly adored projecting through a wide-open aperture and the results it created, something I would 100% want to explore further. I am very interested in a notion of collaboration with chance, where I, as an artist, have some ideas that I project and express at the same time I choose to do so through means that don’t give me complete control. The final outcome is in some way my expression and ‘planning’ and in some way, whatever it is that might happen to and with materials used, final prints, mistakes, and random occurrences at each stage of the way. The final work would be a collaboration with a chance.
Tape imprinted on the floor around a fireplace on my boat
Tape imprinted with cobwebs and ceiling dust.
Tape imprinted with blanket hair/residue and folded on itself. After projecting light through the layer, I was not completely satisfied with the amount of hair – I wanted more, so I folded the tape on itself to achieve the desired effect.
My favourite one – I imprinted the tape with my cat’s hair. As I was about to project light through it, instinct/voice in my head (however you want to call it) told me to crease it as it might create an interesting outcome. And so I did.
What I wanted from this image was an open-wide aperture as that created an exquisite outcome (as you can see on pictures below), but I struggled to achieve that as with f stop wide open, even one-second exposure was too long, and the photograph was coming out black. It forced me to close the aperture to produce a print, however, it was not 100% what I had in mind as I was really after the blurred effect that came from low f stop. I have taken some photos with my camera to capture my vision, which gave me an idea. Perhaps projecting with the settings that fulfil the desired effect, but rather than doing a print, photographing a projection with another camera on a tripod with a long exposure time would be a way to solve this problem? Something I am definitely revisiting in the future. The otherworldly images I made fully imprinted on my mind and heart.
Open-wide aperture results that I am endeavouring to print or photograph
After a few inspiring and groundbreaking (I love this term) hours, we proceeded to print some of our works and conclusions. We spent a few hours printing, which was a great experience as I still feel unconfident when it comes to that as I hadn’t done much of it because of the remote learning last year. I found myself not needing much, or any, assistance, and successfully scanning and printing my art on high quality and large scale, which made me feel assured and encouraged for the future.
At the end of an excellent day of learning, we all hung our pieces on the wall. It was great to see everyone’s efforts and concepts, a truly rewarding experience, and I feel inspired thinking about the future.
Dust workshop (2021)
DAY TWO DUST WORKSHOP
Homework for day: Watch David Campany’s DUST (book) lecture.
A Handful of Dust: Lecture with David Campany (2019)
I like Campany’s story about seeing a picture of dust in the gallery and being genuinely offended, in reaction to which he says ”I thought it was disgusting”. It’s fascinating what feelings art can provoke in us and how seemingly (or obviously) negative ones can make an impact we wouldn’t expect on us. Interestingly (and maybe a bit ironically), the entire lecture is based on that photograph of dust and dust itself. It’s a journey through time and space, iconic, timeless, and thought-provoking. I also enjoy how he talks about smaller gallery spaces, which benefit the spectator and the artwork presented as you ”remember everything after”. I made a mental note on how he exhibits this particular book (books being tricky to display in gallery space) by simply cutting it up and displaying it on a large glass surface/table. Excellent talk and a great lecturer, which I really relished!
He discusses a journal – Litterature, which he describes as a bridge between Dada and surrealism, also magazine Minotaur – both to look more into in the future.
TASK: You also need to create an approach/method/manifesto to ‘make’ a piece of work that could be in response to an object owned or bought (maybe from a charity shop ).
Reading for Homework – James Elkins ‘’The Object Stares Back’’ (on the nature of seeing) a great intro book. Page (19 – 22)
This text discusses passive seeing/looking (which happens without us noticing). It declares that ”just looking is like hunting, or being hunted, but it is also kin to hypnosis, nightmares and dreams”. I like the parallel James is making between looking and loving, and states falling in love is much like actual falling. I have experienced it many times and can definitely confirm – it’s exactly like that.
I found out about UV light in the printing department! (that we can use after 4)
Washing out cyanotypes