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Author Topic: Art and the plasticity of its forms  (Read 15438 times)

Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #140 on: July 11, 2017, 03:49:42 AM »

Art is always communicating something, but it may do other things too, and nobody can make you heed the message if you don't feel inclined.  That certainly includes photos and all the visual media, as well as performance and music and acting and all that.  In fact I would say that everything is always communicating, trying to fill up your poor over-stuffed head with even more stuff.  The universe is a veritable beehive of information, infinite buzz.

It's not just about the photo itself, or the photographer's intentions; there's also the people and places and times and things that end up in the photo, all busy trying to communicate something, voluntarily or involuntarily, whether you want to hear it, or not.

A lot of artwork is chock full of stuff that the artist may not have intended to include.  There is nothing wrong with listening to these unintended messages.  There are also certainly photos that are rich in both cerebral and visceral ways, but it's always up to the viewer to find the way in.

I have to admit that the majority my own photographs are not particularly cerebral.  That's not what I enjoy about making photos, but I do enjoy other peoples more cerebral images.


Just enjoyed a trip through your website: I think I now understand why you tend to expect more from images than do I. I think it's conditioning from and by working in a much more concrete medium where a specific something, a definite entity has, by practical definition, to be created and expressed!

Apart from anything else, the real length of time that has to be applied to any production makes you see it as a birthing, a change from the basic materials through the intervening time of creation right to whatever point you reach where you think it's done, enough! completed already! I can't see my photography like that, in those terms; it's far more a quick grab at the unclear - a shot in the semi-dusk of my own psyche.

Rob

GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #141 on: July 11, 2017, 04:39:47 AM »

For those of you who read French, some thoughts of Edward Hopper... not so much on art, but the specific instance of how he paints and why.
I'll try to find a copy in the original language...

Cher M. Sawyer,

Vous me demandez de faire une chose qui est peut-être aussi difficile que peindre : expliquer la peinture par des mots.

Pour moi, la forme, la couleur et le dessin sont seulement des moyens pour parvenir à une fin, ce sont les outils avec lesquels je travaille et ils m’intéressent pas beaucoup en eux-mêmes. Je m’intéresse avant tout au vaste champ de l’expérience et de la sensation, que ne traitent ni la littérature ni l’art purement plastique . Il convient de dire prudemment « expérience humaine », pour éviter que cela ne soit entendu comme une anecdote superficielle. La peinture qui se limite à la recherche d'harmonies ou de dissonances de couleur et de dessin me rebute toujours.

Mon but en peinture est toujours d’utiliser la nature comme intermédiaire pour tenter de traduire sur la toile ma réaction la plus intime face à un sujet donné telle qu’elle se manifeste quand il me touche particulièrement, quand mes intérêts et mes préjugés donnent une unité aux faits extérieurs. Je ne sais pas exactement pourquoi je choisis certains sujets plutôt que d’autres, à moins que ce ne soit parce que… Je pense que ce sont les meilleurs intermédiaires pour effectuer une synthèse de mon ressenti.

Habituellement, il me faut bien de jours avant que je ne trouve un sujet que j’aime assez pour me mettre au travail. Je passe ensuite un long moment à étudier les proportions de la toile, afin que le résultat soit le plus proche possible de ce que je cherche à faire. La très longue forme horizontale de cette œuvre, Manhattan Bridge Loop, cherche à produire une sensation de grande extension latérale. Prolonger les lignes horizontales principales presque sans interruption jusqu’aux bords du tableau est un moyen de renforcer cette idée et de faire prendre conscience des espaces et des éléments au-delà des limites de la scène. L’artiste apporte toujours la conscience de ces espaces dans l’espace réduit du sujet qu’il a l’intention de peindre, bien qu’à mon avis tous les peintres ne le sachent pas.

Avant de commencer ce tableau, je l’avais planifié très minutieusement dans mon esprit mais, à l’exception de quelques petits croquis en noir et blanc réalisés sur le motif, je n’avais aucune autre donnée concrète ; je me suis contenté de me rafraîchir la mémoire en regardant souvent le sujet. Les croquis préalables ne vous seraient pas très utiles pour comprendre la genèse de l’œuvre. La couleur, le dessin et la forme ont tous été soumis, consciemment ou non, à une considérable simplification.

Puisqu'une part si importante de tout art est une expression du subconscient, il me semble que presque toutes les qualités importantes d’une œuvre sont mises là inconsciemment, et que l’intellect conscient n’est responsable que des qualités mineures. Mais c’est au psychologue de clarifier ces choses-là.

J’espère que ce que j’ai écrit vous sera utile.

Bien à vous,

Edward Hopper
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GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #142 on: July 11, 2017, 04:45:10 AM »

The crux is probably this para, which I'll attempt to translate:

Mon but en peinture est toujours d’utiliser la nature comme intermédiaire...

My goal in painting is always to use nature as an intermediary to attempt to translate onto canvas my most intimate reaction when confronted by a given subject, as it manifests in me when it touches me the most profoundly, when my interests and prejudices give unity to the exterior facts. I don't know exactly why I choose certain subjects rather than others, unless it is because... I think that they are the best intermediaries by which to make a synthesis of my feelings.
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #143 on: July 11, 2017, 05:37:45 AM »

Thanks for the piece. I feel he begins much as might a photographer (of street and happenstance!) but then moves away from instinct into the realms of considered (if refreshed, on and off, by relooking) intent, which is now never my way, my MO.

Again, it seems to boil down to the immediacy of photography marking it out as a distinct artform, where a different mindset may be required, and where painterly qualties, paths of thinking, may actually become limitations to accessing the moment. In that context, I wonder again about Leiter, and whether his original paint aspirations were misplaced (as indeed mine) and that his true medium had been, all along, photography and the catching of temporary tunes from the street.

Ah! Gotta fly; my son's just arrived down in the port!

Rob

GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #144 on: July 11, 2017, 06:15:41 AM »

Possibly so, but the description of the choice of subject echoes HCB's ideas on the choice of the moment: Hopper chose his subjects in a way that seems not so different to the way a photographer might choose what to frame, although the photographer may be obliged to do it faster, and has the luxury of risking more experimentation.

I couldn't find the full text to Hopper's letter to Sawyer, but he covers similar ground in his "notes on painting" that accompanied his first exhibition at the MoMA:
https://biblioklept.org/2014/08/10/notes-on-painting-edward-hopper/

Basically, he says he makes images that indirectly capture his emotions, but doesn't touch on whether this might communicate them to a viewer. I suppose that might define (have defined?) a successful artist...
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #145 on: July 11, 2017, 11:41:34 AM »

Possibly so, but the description of the choice of subject echoes HCB's ideas on the choice of the moment: Hopper chose his subjects in a way that seems not so different to the way a photographer might choose what to frame, although the photographer may be obliged to do it faster, and has the luxury of risking more experimentation.

I couldn't find the full text to Hopper's letter to Sawyer, but he covers similar ground in his "notes on painting" that accompanied his first exhibition at the MoMA:
https://biblioklept.org/2014/08/10/notes-on-painting-edward-hopper/

Basically, he says he makes images that indirectly capture his emotions, but doesn't touch on whether this might communicate them to a viewer. I suppose that might define (have defined?) a successful artist...


Hmmm... I feel inclined to quote the only relatively late Brian Duffy, from his interview: "never believe anything an artist tells you - they are all liars."

https://www.duffyphotographer.com/videos/bbc-documentary-man-shot-sixties/

I note I remember him as using "they" and not a "we", yet he did do the art school number.

In your own Hopper link above, there's also another to be found to one of the R.W. "Emerson Essays" that makes the art thing even more doubtful. I suspect that as I walk this trail, and that the longer and the more dusty that journey into the setting Sun becomes, the less and less do I end up believing anything much about anything. Which brings me yet again into the space of Leiter's mind, where he is quoted as remarking that he seems to know less and less about anything, and that soon he will know nothing. I met the guy's visual world in '59 or '60, promptly lost all trace of him until he hit Nova in the 70s, where he worked with Soames, yet I can't recall him during that era, despite buying every Nova that ever was published and so it was inevitable I'd have seen his stuff, and I sure didn't forget his name. Yet, ironically, he is right back occupying the plinth space in my inner pantheon that he first stood upon back in the middle of last century.

I'm no expert on the Hopper oeuvre, and off the top of my head can only think of the 'diner' image, despìte having looked at a lot of stuff about him on the Internet. This may go some way to explaining, or at least confirming what I wrote a day or two ago about now finding little luck learning things by reading. But the point I was actually trying to reach was, and still is, that I wonder if photography was a tool in Hopper's tool kit. His style seems very photographically influenced, possibly more by photographic geometry even, that by the then contemporary subject choices. Lots of painters use cameras, mainly (they often claim) as aides-memoire alone...

Rob

Not connected, but may still interest Graham:

http://www.marieclaire.fr/anne-nivat-reportage-dans-quelle-france-on-vit-reporter-de-guerre,1185116.asp
« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 04:44:22 PM by Rob C »
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GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #146 on: July 12, 2017, 03:48:26 PM »

Yep. The problem of unemployment is going to be a huge issue throughout Europe, because

a) There is nothing much in the skill set of a large proportion of the French/Italian/Spanish working population that gives them an advantage over someone in India or Thaimand, let alone Romania;

b) Automation means we don't need so many to make the things we want, which already far surpass the things we need.

Only one candidate addressed this in the presidential election... he finished 5th, despite being the official candidate of the Parti Socialist and having a Nobel-winning economist on his team.

It's currently a problem in the south (I guess as much in the US as Europe), but it will spread. And running back to religion is in part a return to traditions to define "us" vs "them", hence intolerance, hence even further fracturing of the Catholic/Muslim divide and battening down against the immigrant flows from Africa and the Middle East.

It's gonna get nasty in 20 years :(
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #147 on: July 12, 2017, 05:17:56 PM »

Yep. The problem of unemployment is going to be a huge issue throughout Europe, because

a) There is nothing much in the skill set of a large proportion of the French/Italian/Spanish working population that gives them an advantage over someone in India or Thaimand, let alone Romania;

b) Automation means we don't need so many to make the things we want, which already far surpass the things we need.

Only one candidate addressed this in the presidential election... he finished 5th, despite being the official candidate of the Parti Socialist and having a Nobel-winning economist on his team.

It's currently a problem in the south (I guess as much in the US as Europe), but it will spread. And running back to religion is in part a return to traditions to define "us" vs "them", hence intolerance, hence even further fracturing of the Catholic/Muslim divide and battening down against the immigrant flows from Africa and the Middle East.

It's gonna get nasty in 20 years :(


There was a snatch of news today, the start of which I missed, where somebody was pointing out - I can't shake the feeling it was somebody inside the robotics industry - that his work was going to make many people unemployed. His tone was not one of joy.

I don't think we have a twenty-year respite: I think the immigrant explosion (about them) will be much sooner than that; listening quite a lot these days to the news, I  note more and more politicians coming out and saying the once unsayable: folks just don't want to mix, and see no real reason why they should feel any wave of sympathy at all, when the problems are all within the homelands of those people moving out. As, of course, lie the solutions. For pity's sake - we can't even stand most of our own people en masse and avoid the places swathes of them congregate if we possibly can. My own idea of hell lies sixty or so klicks way, on the summer streets of Magaluf or Arenal. And that mostly comes from the UK and Germany. Who needs further afield and even more different and, thus, threatening?


Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #148 on: July 14, 2017, 05:26:05 AM »

Art? Yes, it most certainly is; she, the Spanish Queen, must be the loveliest "royal" there is.

So cool and apparently self-possessed, always immaculately clad, she epitomises all that class that the gauche (by definition, what else?) left seems to hate. I love her!

http://www.msn.com/es-es/noticias/espana/los-10-mejores-momentos-de-la-visita-de-felipe-y-letizia-a-reino-unido/ss-BBEl6Ar?li=BBpm69L&ocid=UE07DHP&fullscreen=true#image=1

;-)

Rob C

RSL

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #149 on: July 16, 2017, 08:46:42 AM »

I've let this one run for a while without checking in, but here's a note on my favorite painter: "Nighthawks" is the painted equivalent of street photography. But in paint, Hopper was able to carry it beyond what you might catch with a camera. The emotion is THERE in those poses and attitudes. You can't look at this painting without feeling you've been there, seen that, have chatted with those people at one time or another. It's street at its apex.

On another subject: Brooks Jensen brought up an interesting idea in the latest LensWork. He's making PDF copies of his own work available for free. As he says, he's more interested in distribution of his stuff than in the pittance you're likely to make with gallery sales and book inclusions. Sounds like a great idea.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 09:00:39 AM by RSL »
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #150 on: July 16, 2017, 10:15:54 AM »

I've let this one run for a while without checking in, but here's a note on my favorite painter: "Nighthawks" is the painted equivalent of street photography. But in paint, Hopper was able to carry it beyond what you might catch with a camera. The emotion is THERE in those poses and attitudes. You can't look at this painting without feeling you've been there, seen that, have chatted with those people at one time or another. It's street at its apex.

On another subject: Brooks Jensen brought up an interesting idea in the latest LensWork. He's making PDF copies of his own work available for free. As he says, he's more interested in distribution of his stuff than in the pittance you're likely to make with gallery sales and book inclusions. Sounds like a great idea.

That's an understandable attitude from Brooks: for a long time I was very reluctant to go online with pictures because of piracy, but the reality - for me at least - is that I feel lucky to have worked when I did and made some kind of reasonable living doing mostly work that I loved. Today, I have very little real energy left and attempting a day's work on some hot beach would probably finish me off. So there's little commercial motivation (real) to care about the future. Having said which, I'd be prepared to fight any copyright theft that I discovered - probably by having old clients take up the fight; that would be neat, poetic justice!

Beakhammer

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #151 on: July 18, 2017, 03:51:36 PM »


Just enjoyed a trip through your website: I think I now understand why you tend to expect more from images than do I. I think it's conditioning from and by working in a much more concrete medium where a specific something, a definite entity has, by practical definition, to be created and expressed!

Apart from anything else, the real length of time that has to be applied to any production makes you see it as a birthing, a change from the basic materials through the intervening time of creation right to whatever point you reach where you think it's done, enough! completed already! I can't see my photography like that, in those terms; it's far more a quick grab at the unclear - a shot in the semi-dusk of my own psyche.


Rob


Just so.  Working iron teaches you to be patient, but also encourages you to make darn sure that you are not wasting your time.
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GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #152 on: July 28, 2017, 09:37:33 AM »

So this is getting a lot of coverage at the moment

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/olive-cotton-award-photographic-portrait-prize-awarded-to-image-without-a-face-20170724-gxhr4y.html

Note that the photo seen at the head of the link is not the portrait in question... and I'm wondering if the newspaper photog was deliberately taking the piss.
I think my feelings are well voiced by this guy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN9iJCZ5Il8

Beakhammer might be able to relate to one comment which resonates for me: as someone who has forced myself to learn to weld various metals well enough that they can be used on eg a racing motorcycle without breaking, I'm a bit insulted to see a sculpture with welds that look like they were done without the slightest concern for aquiring the necessary skill...
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opgr

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #153 on: July 29, 2017, 04:06:06 AM »

Beakhammer might be able to relate to one comment which resonates for me: as someone who has forced myself to learn to weld various metals well enough that they can be used on eg a racing motorcycle without breaking, I'm a bit insulted to see a sculpture with welds that look like they were done without the slightest concern for aquiring the necessary skill...

Just watched a docu of some well known sculpturist. He at some point in his career worked on metal sculptures. They interviewed him about it and he mentioned how he was at the time interested in the perception that a flat sculpture seems to change the dimensions of the room as you move around and view the sculpture.

In order to make these sculptures, he had to learn how to weld obviously, but apparently the more problematic issue was how to get the metal sheets perfectly flat. And later he learned about sandblasting to better preserve the paint on the artwork.

But the point is of course that he wasn't interested in creating the perfect piece of art with perfect welds, he was experimenting with the change of perception resulting from such sculptures. Obviously it is useful to be able to weld, and to be able to create flat sheeting, and aid in the longevity of the work, but the initial trigger is not the perfection of craftsmanship.

It is a bit like saying that a true piece of photographic art can only be produced using this-or-that camera with so&so many megapixels whatever. It is in the end irrelevant.

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Regards,
Oscar

GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #154 on: July 29, 2017, 07:15:42 AM »

It's not particularly the question of perfecting craftsmanship... and if truly his interest was to experiment with perception, whatever. That's the process of learning.

However, when it comes to selling art there is a question of respect for public and for oneself. Would you be happy to sell something that is badly executed? A darkroom print that is incorrectly washed, or an inkjet print made with the cheapest possible inks which are known to fade quickly?
That speaks to me of artistic arrogance: "I'm such a wonderful artist that it doesn't matter that I couldn't be arsed to practise welding for a few days."

It reminds me of the cynical joke "How do you know if a photo is art? If it's out of focus and under-exposed, it must be art."

The extreme example occurred a couple of years ago when a large sculpture built over the top of a pedestrian street in Brussels collapsed. Several tons of wood came down, because the sculpteur had no idea how to build a structure that would stay up. It's purely luck that no one was killed.
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Beakhammer

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #155 on: July 29, 2017, 03:15:51 PM »

Badly made art gives art a bad name, makes life harder for artists and puts off a lot of people who might otherwise support the arts.  It is very very rare that making something badly actually adds value to the ideas being expressed by the work.  Adding value or depth to the work would be the only excuse for making something badly, and it is very seldom a good idea.  There is another factor  that grew in the 20th century, which is the tendency for some artists to scorn craftsmanship as a way to distance themselves from the reality that making sculpture is blue-collar work, and a parallel message was to use poor craftsmanship to signal that the intellect was ascendent over the somehow more plebeian instinct to make something well.  All of these trends are unfortunate when they show up, but I think there are plenty of examples of artists who are not afraid to make beautiful, strong and well-made objects.  Of course, some artists are simply incompetent, as in any other field.  There are massive bridges and buildings that have collapsed prematurely as well as sculptures.  People sometimes use "artistic license" to excuse bad craftsmanship, but that's all it is, an excuse.

Of course this sort of discussion will lead to disagreements about exactly how well-made something needs to be.  There are two reasons to make something well, these are longevity, and message.  Sometimes an artist may have a good reason to make something that looks ugly, or weak, but a truly skilled artist can make a strong work that looks weak.  A really good artist can make something so ugly that it is beautiful.  These kinds of tensions can be part of great work, but shoddy craftsmanship is almost never a good idea.
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