Thursday, May 21, 2009

Four Corners. The transition from image to art.

Four Corners. Pollen.

The collection of sponges, a box of tissues and one brass knob were parked by the front door waiting to be carried up to the log cabin we were equipping for visitors. I recognized a ‘photographic opportunity’ in the accidental arrangement, so I placed them on a black background, carefully positioned the elements and took some photos of what was essentially an abstract image - abstracted from reality. The first step only in the development of a work of art.

Some while later when the photos was transferred from camera to computer I selected the most interesting and did some minor adjustments -mostly cropping and darkening the image slightly to blacken the background. Then I added a beautiful gold frame from a computer selection and the ‘cleaning collection’ was into the next phase of development. By framing it I had done the equivalent of placing it on the wall and asking viewers to think of it as a work of art - an abstract one at that. At this point I had created a point of difficulty for the viewer. Firstly, it attracted attention by it`s strangeness, it`s differentness from other pictures around it and that was the first important step: amid a sea of images, this one could engage a viewer, if only for a moment. It needed to hold attention however, and the collection of items had been arranged in a very symmetrical way so only the puzzle to be solved of what were the original parts making up the image could keep the viewers focus. Already, by creating an abstract picture ( and a photograph, not a painting, at that!) I had lost many potential viewers who would only interact with ‘beauty’ or ‘realistic pictures’. As they say in advertizing however, if you do not capture a person`s attention first, you will not be able to pass on your message. By creating a visual puzzle, I had done my best for this necessary next phase.

Having, hopefully, caught the viewer`s attention with solving the puzzle, was I content to step back at this point and let my photo make it`s own way in the world? What was it`s ‘message’ anyway? And how to nudge the viewer towards a deeper truth that transcended it`s elements. Once the sponges and so on were recognized, how to stop the viewer from wandering on with only a sense of cleverness. The answer had to be in the title which could not be ‘Sponges etc.’I was about to take the final step before turning the image loose to mess with the minds of the world.

I had to go back to what spoke to me when I first saw this collection and was attracted to make a picture of it. The colours and shapes certainly, but in it`s very simplicity and bi-symetricality it made me think of my visit of a year ago to the canyons and mesa country of the American South-West - to the imagery and the stories of the Navajo. Once again there was a clash between the essential traditional quality of the "face" of the image and the consumer items that made it up. I needed a title that would point the viewer in that direction. By ‘Four Corners’ I was placing the imagery geographically, by ‘Pollen’ I was relating the dominant yellow to Navajo ceremony and spirit. With these clues, could some viewers make the leap into the heart of the matter and complete the story within themselves? That is the essential journey that the arts call upon us to make.

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