Papermaking Workshop with Jane Ponsford

Box Hill – 12thAugust 2018

This was a free, one and a half hour workshop held out in the open (although under a gazebo) in front of the Zig Zag café, right at the top of Box Hill. A great location and such a good opportunity to try something new.

Jane Ponsford is an artist and papermaker who creates books, sculpture  and installations. I found out about her from a recent newsletter from Surrey Hills Arts  which is a partnership between Surrey Arts, Surrey County Council and the Surrey Hills – aiming to “engage and inspire people with this outstanding landscape and its unique natural, cultural and industrial heritage through the arts”. One of their recent projects was “Surrey Unearthed” which involved ten artists (Jane being one of them) who would explore and celebrate the materials that form this landscape during 2018.

Jane’s Project is “Terrain”  (running from June 2018 and April 2019) during which she is collecting and cataloguing materials from the landscape and creating installations incorporating these and other pieces (made independently and with others) in four locations . This multi-media/multi-medium approach is one that I have become increasingly attracted towards during the past year and I was disappointed that I actually missed the Exhibition that was held at Leith Hill Place during July. Still, at least I was able to attend the papermaking workshop and there will be some further events.

The Workshop

We were a mixed range of ages – from around 4 years old to me – and all were well catered-for. Given the shortness of the workshop Jane had prepared the paper pulps – one plain and also some others incorporating various natural dyes. She showed us  the mould and deckle – two separate frames.  One is the mould which has mesh screening through which the watery residue of the pulp can strain.  The other – the deckle – is like a wooden box frame which forms the edge of a piece of paper when laid loosely on top of the mould. We were then shown how to dip the frame into the pulp, shake out most of the water and turn out onto a cotton square with some felt beneath it before being pegged out to dry off a bit.  In fact here is a Youtube video that shows the process, except we didn’t have access to a press/heat due to being outside rather than in a workshop – hence the pegging-out.

Then we moved on to trying out the dyed pulp plus placing material such as petals and seeds into the paper utilising a small piece of mesh dipped lightly into the pulp and then pressed onto the material so it becomes a part of the paper.

The next part was to try out some dyes on white paper. I’m thinking of trying out some anthotypes using bramble dye so I tried this out. I mentioned the possibility of anthotypes to Jane and we had a brief discussion as to using paper that had been “sized: (I must check this out in my anthotypes book) Jane said that the dye might not be as intense but she had some ‘sized” paper so I gave it a try using the bramble dye again plus some oak gall dye.

It  was a short introductory workshop but I felt I’d learned a lot and want to do more.  Damp papers folded in a j-cloth then plastic bag; carried carefully to car and then home to dry and begin a new collection.

 

References/Resources

https://janeponsfordstudio.com

https://khadi.com

https://www.lawrence.co.uk

http://www.paperslurry.com/2014/08/01/make-mould/

https://www.surreyunearthed.org/terrain/

https://www.surreyhills.org/discover/about-arts/?cat=arts

www.surreyunearthed.org

 

 

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Tacita Dean and Landscape

Thoughts on a book, videos and an Exhibition visit.

I have the book “Tacita Dean:  Landscape, Portrait, Still life (2018) which is the information-filled catalogue for the three concurrent exhibitions of Dean’s work shown in London during 2018 at different locations. The book is full of photographs and commentaries from Dean and others – something I want to keep dipping into, so this post is going to be an evolving one as I add thoughts, reflections and information. At the beginning of the book (p.9) Dean makes what to me is an important point about genres in art.  Writing about  Paul Nash’s watercolour “Cumulus” she asks, “A portrait, a landscape and a still life”, explores this using examples from her own work too and then goes on to remark, “I have continually found ways to both confound and confirm this categorisation by genre but am grateful to it nonetheless for the structure it gave to this museum collaboration”.  Dean gives an example about her postcard collection and how trying to sort and catalogue this by image for later recollection:

“…… is not dissimilar to appraising one’s work in relation to genres. It goes well until you come across an anomaly, and the anomaly makes you create a new description and a new category, and it goes well again until the next anomaly and the next category and so on and so forth …..

I can so much identify with that  and was also reminded of Exercise 1.2  and the points made by Rosalind Krauss re archaeological examination of the photographic archive and the attempt to dismantle and reassemble it within the categories previously constituted by art and its history.

I also watched a BBC One programme episode of the series “Imagine” – “Summer 2018: 1. Tacita Dean: Looking to See”. the documentary was based on Alan Yentob talking with her in her studio  in Berlin,  visiting her in Los Angeles where she was completing her film “Antigone” and talking with others about her.  I learned that her grandfather, Basil Dean, who founded Ealing Studios was interested in colour and location filmography and that he abandoned all his children. Tacita Dean herself  is one of three, her childhood was slightly eccentric and isolated.  Collecting became a passion for her. She kept searching for four-leaf clovers as a child and usually finds one now when walking – in a perpetual data of waiting and looking, and also has collections of round rocks, found postcards and photographs. She always wanted to be an artist and refused her father’s wish that she read English at University. Although she grew up in the YBA (Young British Artists) age she was never quite in their gang because her work didn’t quite fit.

Tacita Dean is inspired by analogue film and her subject matter is ostensibly modest. An example is Michael Hamburger 2007 – a man in his house talking about apples. Dean lets the camera roll on the subjects who forget she is there. Her work is slow and some critics say it’s boring.  Dean talked about what comes when you wait – like a rotating tower you go round and round and come back into the future. What I noticed was her use of frames within frames – as if we are always looking through a window.  The documentary itself was fairly slow, leaving spaces between the sentences. I found her quite beguiling – the rhythm and clarity of her voice, with a suggestion that she’s smiling inside; her face movements and her strong physical presence. I was surprised to read in an article in the Guardian (March 2018)  that she has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for the past twenty-five years and walks with some difficulty.

In the Tate video below Tacita Dean begins by talking about her film “Green Ray” – the last ray of the sun as it sets and then talks about using film and her response (2011) to the challenge of filling Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. I’m posting it here as a reference for myself.

Landscape Exhibition at the Royal Academy 19thMay to 12thAugust 2018

Opening the information booklet I immediately identified with this paragraph:-

On an individual level, landscape is biographical: ‘Place’ is to landscape as ‘identity’ is to portraiture.  We inhabit this sensory, dynamic medium with our bodies and minds: when we experience or remember landscapes, touch, smell and sound are as important as sight. We also bring to bear pictures, poems and films of landscapes which frame and layer our immediate perceptions. Landscapes are temporarily complex: they work on us with the potent forces of familiarity and strangeness, reality and imagination.

The Exhibition took up two large rooms plus the cinema space where her film “Antigone’ was running at hourly intervals. Enormous panels of Blackboard Drawings – made with chalk to create, erase and re-create shadow, shape, form and depth. The sea, clouds mountains, some with writing on them that was hard to read.  I noticed the use of sections – often in threes. She seems to enlarge the detail of objects that seem indistinct, such as fluffy clouds. The oak tree Majesty was so large it was also in sections.  I’m presuming it is formed from photographs of several trees – hand-printed photographs and then Dean hand-painted around every branch with a small gauge paintbrush using white gouache paint, “delighting in my proximity to even the tiniest and most inaccessible of branches on these mighty trees.

There’s a simplicity of approach (I honestly did keep thinking “well I might be able to do that”) combined with creating work on a monumental scale. I think I was somehow identifying with a child-like wonder at the nature of things. A vitrine held some of the large stones from Dean’s Round Stone Collection, which reminded me of the way in which my sons and grandsons collected and filled their trouser pockets with ‘interesting’ pebbles and other small objects whilst we were out walking.  In the second room further vitrines hold a part of her four, five, six, seven and nine.  I’m not sure she counted properly to be honest, but the arrangement of stems swirling around leaves fascinated me with their delicacy (the BBC One video shows her carefully arranging them using a pair of tweezers) and I wanted to go out and find some to experiment. It made me remember searching for four-leaf clovers when I was small – well, maybe a bit older as well; not to mention the daisy chains.

 

I was intrigued by the film Antigone. The film itself is quite slow-moving, with soft, earthy colours – two frames/screens side-by side, often with one still whilst the other is moving.  When I heard Tacita Dean talking about Antigone in the BBC episode I had immediately thought about fathers and children, particularly daughters (bearing in mind what was said about her father and grandfather). I also wondered about the link with her older sister, who is called Antigone, and that the film is a tribute to her, especially given the story of Antigone who was both daughter and sister to Oedipus. Dean writes about this in the book (pp.91) and how she wondered how her father could give his daughter such a name. She once asked him – his answer being that Antigone was the first feminist, “….. an answer that I didn’t expect, especially as it came from the mouth of a man who had penned me a letter whilst I was at art school calling feminism the ‘anorexia nervosa of the West”. It seems that Dean was fascinated by the story of Oedipus from an early stage, beginning at art school. In the film the story of Oedipus and his eventual self-blinding is linked with an eclipse which is a wonderful filmic metaphor that also turned my thoughts towards “The Sublime”. Dean’s description of the making of the film and her own responses really illustrates the creative process and how it can impact upon the creator.

As I wrote at the beginning, this is an evolving post as I add further information and reflections.

 

Exercise 1.5: Visualising Assignment Six – Transitions

So far I’ve contemplated three possible projects:

Our Garden

I’ve already documented,(at the bottom of this post here  my misadventure with the idea of having a backdrop for the tree so it would be more of a portrait of the tree as it blossoms, fruits and dies down during the year. The scar on my leg still hasn’t faded!

My other idea is to photograph almost the whole of the garden. This is the simplest as I only have to step outside.  The main reason I thought of this is because our garden is opposite a local shop whose back wall is painted an off-white colour but this colour changes according to time of day and there are also some lovely sunset skies.  I’ve done some test shots using a prime 50mm lens which I thought would be better than using my zoom lens.

After the first couple of shots I realised that my vantage point needed to be slightly more to one side because as the trees began to grow their leaves the back of the shop could hardly be seen. I’m not sure whether this will have enough interesting about it to sustain a series but will wait and see. I’m also thinking a wider lens could be needed, plus a tripod will be required for late evening shots especially as the days shorten. if I am going to take and, if I’m going to seriously consider this then I will make notes on day, date, weather conditions etc.

Allotments

I’ve visited allotments in the past on Open Days and I love to see the growth there.  It would be great to be able to follow one through a year. I need to consider whether I would just choose one allotment on a site or cover the whole site. I’ve written to the secretary of an Association not too far away which was formed in 1917 and is also now a members of the National Open Garden Scheme.  They have two sites (the newest being created in 2012 ) and documents going back to 1917 which are lodged with Surrey History Centre.  I haven’t had a response yet so keeping my fingers crossed.

Housing developments

In this post here  I referred to the prospect of three large housing developments being developed around the area where I now live.  These will not only impact upon green belt land but place strain upon available health and education facilities. The new development will necessitate potential sweeping alterations to the creaking road system and the three different Boroughs involved have been required by Surrey County Council to produce a feasibility plan (again currently contested by the local residents and businesses) One of these developments is proposed for a site currently occupied by Fairoaks Airport which originally opened as a private airstrip in 1931.  The current owners plan to close the airport, with an original plan to build 1500 housing units – now reduced to 1000.  There is much local opposition to the plan, including refuted suggestions of private deals between two of the Councils involved to support each other’s schemes (see here )

The smallest contested development is proposed on land where I spent much time on my previous Module photographing poppies – all of which disappeared last year as the soil was turned over and barbed wire fencing installed (see here ) presumably in expectation of the plans going ahead.

Now all these planning applications, discussions at County level and necessary involvement of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) who just happens to be the MP for the Borough wherein Fairoaks Airport stands) will take some considerable time to show an outcome.  I’m pretty sure that houses will be built but will building begin before I finish this Module?  Even if building hasn’t begun, is there any way I can somehow incorporate this wider environmental/social debate into the project I choose to create for Assignment 6?

 

 

A Study Visit to Phytology and Bethnal Green Nature Reserve

A Visit to Phytology and Bethnal Green Nature Reserve – 28thJuly 2018

This was the first of the multi-disciplinary “Art and Environment Study Days: Ideas from the Soil “offered by OCA tutors Melissa Thompson and Dan Robinson.

The objective was to:-

  • Meet other creative people and share ideas
  • Think about nature’s influence on art and design whilst recording the experiences
  • Improve and experiment with drawing/photography
  • Have fun with tools and materials, try alternative ways of using a tool
  • Challenge creative thinking; generate ideas and new ways of working

What interested me was that the project is a collaboration between a group of artists and Teesdale & Hollybush Tenants and Residents Association which had been taking care of the land since the late 1990s. the aim being to protect the space, educate the public about home grown food and medicine  and so use these programmes and artistic projects to demonstrate the ecological value of retaining the land rather than using it for building at the time of a housing crisis.  Phytology itself is part of Nomad Projects, “an independent commissioning foundation that provides support for contemporary artists to develop socially relevant work within the public realm”. There is more about their projects here

Information about Bethnal Green Nature Reserve,  its history and its trees and shrubs can be found here  and the Phytology medicinal garden can be found here

The Day

The small nature reserve is hidden away in Bethnal Green and protected by railings around the perimeter which are slowly being entwined by green growth.  The gate is open and I step inside to a wonderful smell of loamy soil as the leaves dance on the trees to sing a welcome.   My overwhelming impression was of light, airy greenness with its delicate overarching canopy.

There were eight of us in the group to be welcomed by Melissa and Dan.

During introductions and initial discussions, I was aware of not only a shared interest in the environment and landscape but also a desire by everyone to collaborate at a multi-disciplinary level and learn from other artists which is so reassuring. Following this Michael Smythe, who established Nomad Projects in 2009, came to say hello and, after we’d been reminded that some liquid refreshment had been brought for us – some soft, smooth Mallow tea (we’d been so busy talking to each other that we hadn’t noticed!), Michael  gave us a brief talk about this particular project and then gave us a tour –  bypassing a group in another small clearing who were learning about the use of medicinal plants – ending up at the garden. It’s quite small actually but, again, with that sense of slight wildness, with plants not quite contained as they butted up against each other. The Phytology site informs that there are twenty-three different medicinal plants.  I knew about dandelion and burdock, remembered eating ‘bread and cheese’ hawthorn leaves; am quite often stung by common nettles (thank goodness I know about the value of dock leaves), but hadn’t heard about most of the others.  I still can’t quite work out how the marsh mallow root was formally used to create marshmallows – those soft, fluffy confections which are often covered in chocolate.

We then returned to our own space to begin the first set of exercises – five of us chose a slip which gave instructions to follow, all of which encouraged us to observe our environment in different ways.  The first set of exercises was about observing growth noticing, documenting and finding relationships with non-human beings in the garden – intervening and interacting. My major realisation was that although I enjoy being in green spaces I’m not good at learning or remembering the names of plants and I discussed with another member of the group how different this is when meeting people – we want to know all about them and knowing their name is important. This made me think about the naming of things, and I mused how much knowing the names of plants might make we humans feel more connected with them as an essential part of our environment.

Actually, this Nature Reserve is one of those places like Dr Who’s telephone box – it takes up a relatively small area yet somehow expands when you’re inside it due to the clever way in which the paths have been created to encourage wandering, explore, discover small artist installations scattered around, bird boxes, small pools. Occasionally I could see fleeting figures flitting behind whispering, leafy screens. Feeling out of time somehow, almost like I’d wandered into a fair glade – a Midsummer’s Day dream offering some natural healing.

Then it was time for lunch and we joined in with a wonderful shared lunch (held every Saturday from 26thMay to 1stSeptember) cooked and prepared by local residents, using fresh ingredients from the medicine garden.  We were joined by Nick Bridge, Writer in Residence who visits weekly  https://phytology.org.uk/projects/letters-shed-nick-bridge/  Secluding oneself away for spiritual refreshment has been known for centuries and what an opportunity to do this by spending some time as a writer in residence within the nature reserve.   A small space which is the writer’s hut offers Nick a time for reflection and writing and his thoughts and exchange of letters with like-minded contemporaries will hopefully appear in book form at some time in the future.  Nick talked about the way he is using his time away from his everyday high-powered job to reflect upon the meaning and value of Phytology at a time when climate change and environmental issues occupy his thoughts.

After lunch Nick joined us in the second set of exercises – again focussing us on interacting  with the trees and plants. I carried on observing quietly, sometimes taking photographs or creating short videos; noticing more of the smaller installations, almost hidden away, some nestling by the small ponds installed to support the newt, toad, frog, insect and bat population. I went to the plant garden again and stroked the soft leaves of the marsh mallow plant.  On the way back for the group de-briefing I visited the writers hut and had a look at a collection of some of the ‘found’ objects discovered in the nature reserve by the artist Ellie Doney when she spent the summer of 2017 as an artist in residence there  .

 

Thoughts

In many respects it’s difficult to summarise the experience itself because I felt so immersed in the environment.  It’s the kind of green space I would love to be able to visit every day.  In fact the nature reserve isn’t opened to visitors every day because, being a relatively small space the garden needs time to recover and it closes completely to visitors for some months.  I certainly wondered about the smallness of the medicinal plant area. Local residents can go and collect leaves etc for their own use and I couldn’t imagine the plants could cope with being picked too often. I also keep reminding myself that, although the nature reserve itself has been there for several years it is now a partnership with an education and artists project.  It really is an on-going creation, almost like an out-of-time capsule with its own staff and utilising the talents of artists writers and geographers who intern there or spend time ‘in-residence’.  I think it must be this sense of movement, flow and newness that helps to keep it fresh, green and refreshing.

After hearing Nick Bridge talk I’ve also pondered again on the dissonance in the daily lives of many of us – that living in boxes.  Working in environments that stress and exhaust us and then escaping to nature or other pursuits that we need to keep us in tune with other aspects of ourselves. How wonderful to think of being one of the staff at the Nature Reserve and Phytology or to build a more holistic lifestyle for ourselves. Normally when I go up to London for Exhibition visits and such I come back feeling very tired, weary of the hard pavements, noise and thick air of the underground.  This time, though, I came home feeling relaxed, revived, refreshed and invigorated.

Here’s a video I put together from the short ones I created during the day.  I hope it gives an impression of what it’s like there.

 

I’m so pleased as well to have been able to participate in one of these Art & Environment Study Days, to be reminded that there are other students within OCA from other disciplines who want to collaborate and exchange ideas and to know that Melissa and Dan want to keep the momentum going and have already set up a Google Drive folder on the OCA student website for us to share work and thoughts.

 

References

http://bgnrt.org
http://elliedoney.co.uk/work/phytology
http://nomadprojects.org/project/
https://phytology.org.uk

https://phytology.org.uk/projects/letters-shed-nick-bridge/

 

 

Exercise 1:4 – What is a Photographer?

 

Read the essay, summarise key points; write down responses and consider whether these questions are still relevant today, including where you , as a practitioner, stand on this issue.

__________________________________________________________

Marius de Zayas was a Mexican-American Caricaturist Publisher and Gallery Owner. The context here is that he was a contemporary of Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen both of whom, with others, rejected Pictorialism an approach which was most active between 1885 and 1915.  Pictorialists believed there was too much preoccupation with photography as science and, instead, wished to use it as an expressive, subjective medium.  They achieved this through manipulation of the printing process and the use of alternative processes such as cyanotype, bromoil and gum bichromate.

Stieglitz and Steichen, as Modernists, rejected Pictorialism and believed that photography should embrace the intrinsic qualities of the camera as opposed to attempting to emulating the look of other types of art.  Their aim was a celebration of form – natural and man-made.  Modernists wished to achieve as much clarity and tonal detail as possible although in the early 20thCentury their photographs were not found in serious art institutions.  Stieglitz, who considered himself an artist, met Steichen in 1900 and Steichen was the most frequently featured photographer in the journal “Camera Work” which Stieglitz began printing in December 1902. Stieglitz formed an Exhibition Society “The Photo-Secession” and Stieglitz and Steichen together opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession  (known as “291” after its address) in November 1905 where Stieglitz  also introduced modernist painters and sculptors to America.

Marius de Zayas showed at Stieglitz’s “291” gallery and then became a scout for new artistic talent. He became very much influenced by Cubism and so began to include more abstract ways of representation of his subjects. He wrote some of the most provocative and theoretical essays in Stieglitz’s magazine “Camera Work”, particularly The Sun Has Set”(1911) which he began by announcing “Art is dead” – believing that modern art was floundering in a society that valued industrialism and capitalism. The essay to be read now Photography and Artistic-Photography was published in 2013.

The Essay

It isn’t long but I found it quite tortuous to read.  Here is what I gleaned.

  • The difference between Photography and artistic photography is that, in the former, man tries to get at that objectivity of Form which generates the different conceptions that man has of Form, trying to represent something that is outside of himself- free and impersonal while the second uses the objectivity of Form to express a preconceived idea in order to convey an emotion. Tries to represent something that is inside himself – systematic and impersonal representation.
  • When a man picks up a camera without preconceiving a final result and points it at a subject to represent it as reality he is “doing Photography”, “pure photography”. Looking for objective reality by just pointing the camera – as the camera is mechanical and so has no intention

Marius de Zayas gives the word form a capital letter – “Form”, which appears to connect with Greek philosophy  (objectivity is associated with ideas such as reality , truth and reliability something that exists outside of the subject’s perception of it). Is that what he means or is he thinking of physical structure – as with Ansel Adams and his series of photographs of the Yosemite range.  The latter makes more sense to me,  plus in the 1930s Adams criticised the Pictorialists because they were attempting to mimic other art forms (and that’s another use of the word ‘form’.)  However one also has to take into account that in the 1930s Modernists also began to utilise aperture size in the lens they used which meant they were  anticipating the final outcome, plus Edward Weston cropped into views to create more abstract photography and Ansel Adams utilised the Zone system.

The view of de Zayas is that Steichen has ‘carried to its highest point the expression of a system of representation: the realistic one” so presumably he believes that Steichen is ‘doing photography” although Steichen was previously a painter and so brought his artistic skill to photography. On the other hand, Stieglitz is searching for ‘the pure expression of the object” – doing this synthetically with the means of a mechanical process (using the camera as a medium) as are ‘some of the most advanced artists of the modern movement trying to do analytically with the means of Art. To be honest, at the moment I can’t make much sense of that, except that de Zayas doesn’t seem to be elevating one approach over another – so long as the photographs demonstrate the desired qualities of clarity and tonal detail through embracing the intrinsic qualities of the camera rather than manipulating an image in post-production.  To him, photography is an art in itself.  The assumption seems to be, though, that the photographer just goes out with his camera with no idea of what he wants to photograph and then just points the camera with no allowance being made for choice of subject and vantage point.  I could well have misunderstood so will wait to be advised.

I certainly think these arguments are still relevant today and there seems to be endless debate as to whether photography is an ‘Art”, also whether documentary photography, for example, should appear on a gallery wall.  I am also aware that, in recent years, some practitioners of photography are describing themselves as “visual artists who use a camera as their primary medium”.  I think that I probably fall within that latter camp but use my camera and process the results in different ways according to the effect I wish to achieve and what seems most appropriate.  I have also been experimenting with alternative processes such as cyanotype, photo- polymer prints and chlorophyll prints. Additionally I have used different types of cameras such as polaroid and infra-red.

Bibliography

https://www.theartstory.org/artist-de-zayas-marius.htm
https://www.theartstory.org/movement-pictorialism.htm
Alexander J A P ( 2015)  Perspectives on Place London. Bloomsbury Publishing.
De Zayas, M. (1913) Photography and Artistic-Photographyin “Camera Work 1939, No. 42/43.

 

 

 

Exercise 1.3: Establishing Conventions

In the press release for the Exhibition Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography MOMA (1981) Peter Galassi refers to the paintings and drawings on view being landscapes primarily from European collections and by artists such as Constable and Coret and some talented but less well-known contemporaries – many of whom had never been seen before in the United States. Remembering that Galassi’s aim was to show that photography was “a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition”, I wondered if he would have chosen paintings to ‘prove’ his view, plus paintings which were well-known or viewed as similarly talented might also be likely to follow styles of painting deemed by critics to be ‘Art”.  Although, of course, I could well be doing him an injustice there.

With those thoughts in mind, I decided to throw caution to the winds and just do an internet search on 18th and 19thCentury Landscape paintings which lead me to Wikimedia, apart from one painting which I discovered by another route when I was looking for information on Woking in a separate search. I allowed my eyes and responses to be ‘in charge’ of choices which means that I have followed my own tastes in choosing paintings as opposed to being lead by ones which are well-known and I’ve had some surprises as a result!

All images are Copyright free except the one by Arthur Bellin, the painter from Woking, but the Manager of Huddersfield Museums has given permission for me to use the image.

My observations are in note form and in chronological order according to the date of the painting as I wanted to see what changes might have occurred through the century. 

Eighteenth Century Landscape Artists 

These are all male and European.  I looked for female landscape artists but could only find portrait painters at this juncture.

 

  1. “Illustration of the Fable about the lapdog and the donkey”  Unknown.  Around 1700

2. Franz Anton von Steinberg(1684-1765) “Fishing on Lake Cerknica” 1714

3. Antoine Watteau(1684-1721) “La Perspective (View through the Trees in the Park of Pierre Crozat) c 1715

4. George Lambert (1700-1765) “Box Hill, Surrey, with Dorking in the distance” 1733.  Also a scene painter.

5. Canaletto(1697-1768) “The Thames from the Terrace of Somerset House, looking towards St. Paul’s” c.1750

6. Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)  “Returning from Market” c. 1771-72. Preferred landscapes, painted portraits for economic reasons. Influenced by French rococo style learned from Gravelot. Learned the language of landscape.  Probably never painted directly from nature. Later was influenced by Peter Paul Rubens.

7. Johan George Müller Detail of a prospect by Johan George Muller of farmers from Fana entering the city gate Stadsporten, Bergen, Norway (1796)

Commonalities

The colours are muted, with a sense of being painted from a distance.  I noticed the layering of landscape in (2) and (4) through use of different tones. Any people depicted are in the foreground and quite small in the frame (to scale?) apart from No. 7 which is a detail from a larger painting.  The painters appear to be emphasising the grandeur of the landscape (or building) whilst drawing the eyes to the small figures through use of light colours and placement in the frame – usually in one of the bottom corners. There is an order and formality about them even in No. 7. One of the reasons I was attracted to No. 7 was due to its larger figures, architectural composition and leading lines of perspective. I’ve been unable to find any information online of any Johan George Müller living at that datethough apart from an entry on the University of Bergen website which refers to a prospectus.

Nineteenth Century

Having failed to find women landscape painters of the 18thCentury I was pleased to discover them in the 19thand have included four of them.

8. John Constable (1776-1837) “Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds” c. 1825. Commissioned by John Fisher, the Bishop of Salisbury and as gesture of appreciation Constable included the Bishop and his wife in the canvas. Entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1799. Inspired by Thomas Gainsborough, Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci.  Took up portraiture to make ends meet.

9. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) “The Fighting Temeraire” Oil painting.  1839. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839 but kept in his studio until his death.

10. Julie Hart Beers (1835-1913)  “Hudson River at Croton Point” 1869.  One of very few professional women landscape painters in C19th America and the only one to achieve renown.  Born Julie Hart, daughter of Scottish immigrants. Two older brothers were both painters.

11. Arthur Bellin  (1852-1925)     “The Lobsterers Landing Place, Sark 1887. Kirklees Museums and Galleries. In adulthood Bellin was living in Woking in The House in Wood (1911 census).

12 Helen Allingham (nee Paterson)  (1848-1926) English watercolourist and illustrator. Born in Swadlincote, died in Surrey. Illustrator first and then turned to watercolour after getting married in 1874. She became famous for her picturesque farmhouses and cottages of Surrey and Sussex as well as rural scenes in other parts of the country. Helen Allingham’s scene from Venice is unlike her more well-known watercolour paintings in terms of subject and composition.

13. Elisabeth von Eicken(1862-194) “Deutsch” 1890.

14. Lucy Bacon (1857-1932) “Garden Landscape, 1894-1896”  (1895). Californian artist known for her California Impressionist paintings of florals, landscapes and still lifes. Studied under the Impressionist Camile Pissarro. The only one known to have studied under any of the great French Impressionists.

Commonalities

What struck me most was the use of more intense colour which adds a sense of drama even to the more intimate/domestic scenes by Elisabeth von Eicken and Lucy Bacon plus giving the sense of a lushness of vegetation.  Skies appear to have a lighter hue compared with the paintings from the previous century.  Turner’s painting creates a raging, hot effect, whilst the acqua of Bellin’s sea and misty background  adds a haunting quality to  the lobsterer’s rocky climb from his boat.  Again there is use of a triangular composition to draw attention to the Cathedral (8), ship (9), lobsterer (11) and walking people (12). Overall there is more sense of a freedom of expression and the influence of the imrpessionists is noticeable in the paintings by Elisabeth von Bicken and Lucy Bacon.

Brief background

Having made my own selection and thought about the differences, I then briefly researched the history of landscape painting to get an overall sense of the way in which it was impacted by cultural changes and events and to check whether my choices were in line with these.

Landscape painting as such did not begin until after the era of Renaissance art in the 16thCentury as scenery was merely background for human activity, and it ranked low in the hierarchy of painting genres which were set out in 1669 by Andre Felibien, the secretary to the French Academy. This hierarchy constituted history painting; Portraits; genre (scenes of everyday life); still life and landscapes

By the 18thCentury new topological traditions had appeared in England reflecting the practice of landscape gardening and the reordering of nature to suit aristocratic patrons, with order not drama being the dominant motif.  Landscape painting became one of the most popular types of art after the French Rvolution (c.1789-93) and two major traditions emerged – English and French, both of which influenced landscape painters throughout Europe and North America.

In the early 19thCentury the Norwich School of landscape painters extended the Dutch Luminist tradition, producing scenes from around Norfolk and preferring outdoor painting to studio easel work.  The Suffolk artist John Constable portrayed man and Nature existing in perfect harmony at a time when agriculture was in depression and there were countryside riots.

Joseph Mallard William Turner became the youngest ever full member of London’s Royal Academy in 1802 and his scenic views became much more dramatic and romantic. His landscape and seascape art became increasingly free, focussing primarily on atmospheric effect, and his paintings had become almost abstract in composition by the early 1840s. He anticipated Impressionism in his treatment of colour and light, with his dramatic artworks being in contrast to the pastoral, often religious-based landscapes of his contemporaries . The Newlyn School became established in Cornwall from 1884 onwards, specializing in landscape and rural/fishing genre scenes.

In the early 20thCentury artists used the medium of photography to create interpretations of the land through pictorialist effects and, later, through formal compositions of close-up, cropped views of the landscape.

Landscape photographs from any era that conformed to 18thand 19thCentury conventions.

A few examples:-

18thCentury

Ansel Adams : triangular composition and use of leading lines in perspective as in “Yosemite Valley: Thunderstorm

Edward Weston: His series of  the Dunes of Oceano   layering of landscape through use of different tones and his aim to “present objectively the texture, rhythm, form in nature without subterfuge or evasion in technique or spirit…”

Jem Southam and his series, “The Shape of time: Rockfalls, Rivermouths and Ponds (2010) and the use of triangular perspective

19thCentury

John Gossage ”The Pond” (1985) There is an impressionist feel to some of his photographs of the pond as here  and he talks in this interview  of wanting to reference Thoreau’s vision in “Walden Pond” of nature being a respite from the city

Helen Sear “Pond” (2011)  . Again an impressionistic approach.

Jem Southam “The Painter’s Pool” (2002)  again with an impressionist feel.

 

References 

www.artcyclopedia

http://shop.anseladams.com/Yosemite_Valley_Thunderstorm_p/1901006.htm

http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/02/john-gossage-john-gossages-the-pond-1986.html

http://www.britishphotography.org/artists/13645/jem-southam
http://www.helensear.com/portfolio/display/

https://www.a-n.co.uk/resource/the-shape-of-time-rockfalls-rivermouths-and-ponds/
https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/140.1989/

https://www.grind.no/en/midthordland/bergen/stadsporten

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/photographer-john-gossage-reflects-on-the-pond-459091/

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/landscape-painting.htm

http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/landscapes/background1.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exercise 1.2: Photography in the museum or in the gallery

Rosalind Krauss (1982) Photography’s Discursive Spaces: Landscape/ViewArt Journal, Vol. 42, No. 4, The Crisis in the Discipline” (Winter 1982) College Art Association
(Accessed 10/07/2018 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/776691)

Critical essays on the history and theory of photograph began to appear in the late 1970s, with “ ….lines drawn between those who think of photograph as a relatively new and largely virgin branch of art history and those who rebel at the very notion of photography being ‘estheticized’”  “The split is real ….. and the rhetoric is fierce”, wrote Andy Grunberg, the New York Times critic in his essay Two Camp Battles over the Nature of the Medium(1983) .  Grundberg’s view of this was that the issue was not whether photography can be considered art, but what kind of an art is it and where should it be practised? He divided these camps into the connoisseurs and the contextualists – the former who delighted in the beauty of the original print, wishing to know it fitted with the oeuvre of its ‘author’ etc and the latter who adopted the ideology of post-structuralism – believing that the notion of originality in art is a myth and the history of photography should also include its social context. Rosalind Krauss is one of those critics whom Grundberg places in the contextualist camp.

The Photographer

Little is known about Timothy O’Sullivan’s history and personal life . He is known to have worked for Mathew Brady (one of the earliest photographers in American history) as a teenager and was subsequently commissioned in the Union Army although there is no record of him fighting.  He rejoined Brady’s team after being honourably discharged , followed John Pope’s Northern Virginia Campaign and then, by joining the studio of the photographer Alexander Gardner, had photographs published in the first Civil War photographs collection.  From 1867 to 1860, O’Sullivan was the official photographer on the United States Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel made by order of the Secretary of War according to Acts of Congress  of March 2, 1867 and March 3, 1869, under the direction of A.A. Humphreys by Clarence King.  his job being to photograph the West to attract settlers. The Wikipedia entry   describes him as, “taking pictures of nature as an untamed pre-industrial without the use of landscape painting conventions”, plus that he ‘combined science and art, making exact records of extraordinary beauty.”

The Essay

In her essay Rosalind Krauss uses two versions of a photograph created by Timothy O’Sullivan as the basis for her criticism that the historians of photography interpret early photographs according to their own current attempts to, “ … dismantle the photographic archive – the set of practices, institutions, and relationships to which nineteenth-century photography originally belonged – and to reassemble it with the categories previously constituted by art and its history” (1982:317).

One image is a print of a photograph created in 1868 and the other a lithographic copy of the first, produced for the publication of Clarence King’s Systematic Geology in 1878.  Krauss compares differences she perceived between the two for her purpose but, as the Lithographic print is poorly scanned within the online essay, I accessed both images on other websites (copyright free).

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/4327907016/in/photostream/

 

http://www.rhizomes.net/issue23/satter/image_4_lg.jpg

Although these are clearer for comparison this immediately raises another issue, unless one sees the original versions it is still difficult to make comparisons between online versions because the colours are often different between original, reproduction, website, computer and image processing.

Points made by Rosalind Krauss

1.According to Krauss the original photograph (1868) is “a model of the mysterious, silent beauty to which landscape photography had access during the early decades of the medium” Whereas, “the lithograph is an object of insistent visual banality” because, “Everything that is mysterious in the photograph has been explained with supplemental, chatty detail”, as the original has been so carefully recreated and the topographical elements have been restored. After describing various details in each, Krauss then expands her comments to state that the difference between the two arises because they convey two distinct kinds of knowledge. The print belongs to the domain of geology/empirical science whereas the photograph operates within Nineteenth Century aesthetic discourse which is itself organized around an exhibition space and its physical vehicle – its wall.

2.(p.312) Krauss then expands upon her notion of the gallery wall which became both “the signifier of inclusion” and “a representation of what could be called exhibitionality. She believes that painting, particularly landscape painting, began to both internalize and represent the exhibition wall through a variety of devices in the act of painting (re capturing perspective) and display (displaying a series of landscapes which ‘mime’ the horizontal extension of the wall and/or expanding the landscapes to become the absolute size of the wall.).  Krauss describes this process as being the history of modernism and continues by referring to the fact that historians of photography now assimilate their medium to the logic of that history. (p.313)

3.Having made the point, Krauss asks a two-part question. In his day, did O’Sullivan create his work for the aesthetic discourse and the exhibition space or for scientific/topographical discourse? Is the interpretation of his work being a representation of aesthetic values, “not a retrospective construction designed to secure it as art?  She quotes Peter Galassi who organized the MOMA Exhibition Before Photography (1981) “The object here is to show that photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition” and asserts that Galassi wanted to prove that the perspective prominent in 19thCentury outdoor photography  (What Galassi termed “analytic” as opposed to the “synthetic” constructive perspective of the Renaissance) was fully developed by the late 18thCentury within  the discipline of painting and so this would counter the view that photography is essentially ‘technical’.

4.Krauss then moves her argument slightly sideways.  Having providing examples of photographs responding to ‘exhibitionality’ she counters this by pointing out that O’Sullivan photographs were not published in the 19thCentury and their public distribution was through the medium of stereography.  Therefore, we are not only comparing two images but two different cameras – a 9×12 plate camera and a camera for stereoscopic views. The effect of the latter was to induce a tunnel vision with the image being viewed in isolation rather than being able to wander. The viewer’s eyes need to refocus in exploring a stereoscopic view due to moving between fore, mid and further ground which means it takes longer to view the whole compared with looking at a painting Krauss continues by pointing out the similarities between O’Sullivan’s images and a stereoscopic view.

5.Her next point concerns how photographers themselves described their work at the time. O’Sullivan consistently spoke of making them as ‘viewing’ – a word consistently used in photographic journals and “overwhelmingly the appellation photographers gave to their entries in photographic salons in the 1860s”. (p.314). Krauss moves on to the notion of authorship, stating that the use of the word “view” implies a natural phenomenon presents itself to the viewer’s eyes without mediation of an individual recorder or artist; leaving “authorship” to their publishers. Thus, authorship was made a function of publication with copyright held by various companies.

6.Furthermore, (stereographic) “views” were catalogued and stored in the drawers of a cabinet – enabling collating and cross-referencing through a “particular grid of a system of knowledge, with the cabinets “as a compound representation of geographic space in homes and public libraries” (p. 315). Scholars have decided that 19thCentury photography belongs within the aesthetic discourse and space of museums and galleries as “landscapes” rather than “views”. This decision carries within it concept of the ‘artist’ and a career/apprenticeship as such, yet 19thCentury topographic photography tends not to support those terms and opens them to question. Krauss gives examples of early photographers who had short ‘careers’ as photographers – moving on to other pursuits. There is the issue of ‘authorship’, the aesthetic of an artist’s oeuvre yet copyright belonged to the publisher. Photographers were commissioned (as was O’Sullivan), yet some survey work was never published, exhibited or even printed so how does that fit with oeuvre?

There is another testing of the concept of “oeuvre” whereby some bodies of work are either too meagre or too large for that notion. An example here being Eugene Atget’s vast body of work and the different readings of this. Krauss relates that each of Atget’s 10,000 is numbered but not successive or organised chronologically. Are the numbers a code? Maria Morris Hambourg deciphered the code as a catalogue of topographic subjects divided into five major series alongside smaller sub-series/groups. However, that analysis is only partial and Krauss asserts that Atget’s work is the function of a catalogue that he had no hand in inventing and for which ‘authorship’ is an irrelevant term.

7.Krauss refers to ‘subject’ and asks if what Atget photographed were his subjects, his choices. Were they the “manifestation of him as active subject or are they the function of the catalogue, to which Atget himself is subject?”

8.She ends by referring to archaeological examination of the photographic archive (as per Michel Foucault’s theory and model) referring to the attempt to dismantle the photographic archive and reassemble it within the categories previously constituted by art and its history.

Further Thoughts on review of my notes above

  1. Allowing for the fact that I had to zoom into the frame of the lithographic print so enlarging pixels, I can’t see that much difference between the two and I think they would both have to be seen in-situ to form a more solid, educated comparison, which, presumably, Krauss did.
  2. The role of the curator isn’t mentioned here but presumably it’s an important one. What about landscape murals which pre-date the late C18th? Also, no allowance is made in the argument for cross- fertilisation between painting and photography particularly as the use of the camera was taken up enthusiastically by some painters. It’s worth reminding myself though that there is no mention that O’Sullivan was ever a painter.
  3. The next exercise asks us to look at 18thand 19thCentury landscape painting – one aspect to bear in mind is that, presumably, as Curator, Galassi chose particular paintings to prove his point of view. How does O’Sullivan’s photograph fit with that? He wasn’t previously a painter but perhaps, he was influenced by paintings he had seen, or was making the best use of the camera/s at his disposal and using their unique properties to create his photographs.
  4. I don’t know about stereoscopic cameras although I do have a viewer and have researched how to create the double view. What I’m left wondering is whether the O’Sullivan used two cameras on the Geographical Exploration or whether the original photograph was created from one of the stereoscopic camera views.
  5. I think stating that “authorship” was a function of publication is stretching the point a bit here – “ownership” seems more appropriate. However, Abigail Solomon-Godeau has quite a lot to say about Krauss’s view on Atget and “author”, and that Krauss is using that term rather than that of “artist” as she is following the arguments of such theorists as Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes “in which the concept of authorship is understood to incorporate that of artist” and the “author-function”.The five “epigraphs” (codes deciphered by Maria Morris Hambourg) reveal “a shared assumption that there exists a one-to-one correspondence between Atget the man and his work” so that the objective facts of his career are smoothed-over and rationalized, “to accord with an idealist but immensely potent mythology of creative “authorship” (A. Solomon-Godeau (2003:30). Solomon-Godeau believes that Krauss’s use of the word “subject” in her question regarding Atget is most important (ibid p. 47). Re ‘commissions” Mary Warner Marien comments that routine commissions did not generally call for an artist’s personal interpretation or stylistic flair (p. 4)
  6. I’m reminded  of photographic genres and the impact of categorising images within them. Tacita Dean has recently drawn attention to this and I will be writing about this in a subsequent post.

 

References

Solomon-Godeau, A. (2003) Photography in the Dock Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Warner, M.M. (2010) Photography: A Cultural History(3rdEdition). London. Laurence King Publishing

http://www.jstor.org/stable/776691
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_H._O%27Sullivan
https://www.moma.org/artists/4363

https://www.nytimes.com/1983/08/14/arts/photography-view-two-camps-battle-over-the-nature-of-the-medium.html

 

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