Assignment 5 – Tutor’s Response

online tutorial – 21-iv-17

The tutorial was again wonderfully positive: “Well contextualised work on identity using a still life of groceries with a constructed strategy appraised from Barthes’ italianicity . Well referenced.” And then towards the end of the tutorial, almost as an aside: “You’ve turned into a conceptual artist…”

While I’m not sure that the transformation is complete yet (and also I am not sure how this will translate through to the next course, Identity and Place) this was a gratifying recognition of something I had been thinking myself as I started to draft the piece summing up my experience of Context and Narrative.

There was then some constructive criticism about the submitted picture:

One or two technical  niggle’s which you could look at:

  • not sure if the cream square is a layout device within the background or you are looking to take this out. It detracts a little. The various boxes and rectangles have two purposes: as well as wanting to repeat elements on both sides of the image to add an overall coherence and balance to the picture, I also wanted to leave in elements of the picture as it was shot to expose the constructed nature of the final frame and – by extension – the meaning of the advertising image itself.  The cream text boxes refer to the Guardian Saturday Supplement’s limits for full page-pictures and – within that – for text on picture pages. Possibly placing the text box caption outside of the text box rather than within it on the cropped image would work better. I will change this and reprint before submitting the constructed picture as part of my submission for assessment.
  • Is the background paper?  – It is – cloth might be better as in the original […] Barthes image and in reference to the ‘vanitas’ which it derives its conventions from yes completely; I’m not sure why I didn’t think to move away from paper of some sort (although I did reject using the role of tartan wrapping paper I found lying around at work as being a way to totally overdetermine the “scottishness” of the image). Cloth would lie better and also allow a softer range of colours for the background. A greenish yellow perhaps?
  • Fill light (which you do mention) light loss in the black of the string bag which makes it hard to see the form of the ‘highland park’ box. Could you have a little fill light in here – possibly on a snoot?  Yes. While the studio space I have in my attic is crampled, I should be able to fit in something to fill from the left of the camera.
  • Would you be willing to re-shoot this with the corrections? – I definitely would – none of these criticisms came as a surprise –  but will not have time to replace the perishable foodstuffs (in particular the Orkney cheese) in time for submitting the module for assessment.  And I need to get a move on with Identity and Place. However, it is nice to know that the picture is worth further refining! I’ll next be in Orkney during the summer. I’ll pick up a cheese then and try to reshoot before it is past its best…

Garry also picked out the way I had identified in  the write up that the assignment had “coalesced the ‘skills’ – as OCA calls them p122 – learned from Parts One to Four [of Context and Narrative]” He recommended that I should stress that these are “formal (technique, application etc) as well as conceptual (narrative, [my] ‘identity formation’ as a subject) and the reading of images (decisive moment v on-going moment).”  I should make sure to reference these critically in the blog.

Which leads neatly onto another thing that has bubbled under my take on the entire course: a lack of concise definitions of things that I obviously know about, but have not explained in my writing here on the blog. Here the missing definitions are around Anchor and Relay, Still Life and Vanitas Painting/Mementos Mori, Self Reference, the gap between Reality and Realism and more.

I really do need to find a way to address this. Going forward I think I will use the Notes category of the OCA blog template to provide a running glossary as I move through the concepts examined in Identity and Place, using them as linked notes (which can be reused as the course progresses – I think there are at least four places I could link to a piece on Vanitas  for example –  as I write longer pieces around the exercises and assignments. I could do a similar thing with exhibitions: just as there is a list of terms that i could nail once and for all, there is a small number of exhibitions that have lived with me during this module – Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern, Conceptual Art in Britain: 1964-1979 at Tate Britain and Images of Conviction at the Photographers’ Gallery spring to mind –  feeding into all sorts of things. Again, a short, sub-thousand word post on exhibitions that seem to have continuing relevance would give me something to refer back to.

If there is time before I submit this log for assessment at the end of the month, I shall write up one of them for C&N, but really this needs to be carried over as I start to crack on with Identity and Place. Likewise I have been saving David Hockney’s 82 portraits and 1 still life at the Royal Academy for proper examination during IaP. It seemed a great example of a (non-photographic) typology of portraits made by a single artist. I shall write up the notes made when I visited the exhibition as soon as I have put this log to bed.

But first, as Garry pointed out, I need to address the questions at the end of Context and Narrative, looking at the course’s overall effect on me and my thinking.



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