For further reading after assignment 1, my tutor suggested that – among other things – I should read Tod Papageorge’s essay on the way Robert Frank had been influenced by his friendship Walker Evans and by Evans’ book American Photographs. The content of Papageorge’s essay did not directly appear to feed into the work I did in part two, but then, as part of the work leading up to Assignment 3, I kept a diary, which included sequences of everyday photographs taken as I wandered through my life, seeing things. While the most obvious influence on this work was Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces (I was working with a compact, portable camera, often using flash and generally the pictures were taken while I was on the move) the range of photographic reference points was not limited to Shore’s work. The photographs illustrating this post, I hope, demonstrate this.
To go along with his exhibition at Tate Modern, Wolfgang Tillmans was signing copies of the catalogue in the bookshop there this week. I’d already bought the book when I visited it soon after the opening, but I nipped out of work on the day of the signing and took my copy back to Tate. By the time I’d reached the front of the queue, I’d had enough time to think of something adequate to say about the exhibition so, as I stood in front of Tilmans (who is a tall man, even sitting down, I was able to say: “I enjoyed the exhibition; it made me think, and it made me think about my own photographs as well” which seemed a nice summary of where my head is at the moment and went down well with Tillman, himself.
I visited the exhibition at Tate Modern a couple of weeks ago, when it had just opened and was very impressed by the way that each of the rooms of the exhibition – described as installations – provided a shared context for the pictures displayed there; some of the pictures could have been displayed in different rooms from the one they were in, but then they would have gained some meanings and lost others. It was an interesting way to experience the show, heightened by the different sized pictures which forced you to step in and peer at one, and then to retreat across the room in order to be able to comprehend what the next was about.
The result was very different from Elton John’s collection of Modernist prints that is also showing across the bridge in the Switch House. There – in classic modernist style – they are hermetic, sealed, content to be just themselves. They’re beautiful, but they’ve been done and they cannot innocently be redone either.
They are – well – just photographs. They are lovely and it is great to see them, but they don’t make you want to somehow incorporate them into your own work or rather your way of working. Tillmans makes you (and helps you) construct your meaning from his rooms full of juxtapositions; the modernist pictures just are.
- (2017) The Radical Eye – Modernist Photography from the Elton John Collection. London. Tate Moderm
- Tillmans, Wolfgang (2017) 2017. London; Tate Publishing
- The first thing that struck me was the sheer physicality of the paintings (they’re not in frames so much as contained within glass fronted boxes). You don’t get this from the Catalogue (Fiona went a few weeks ago and brought back the book; I was rather unimpressed by the reproductions and was then surprised by how much I liked them in the gallery) or indeed online.
- There is something sculptural about about the depth of the paint in the early (1950s + 60s) works. The later paintings are less obviously built up over time, but still show more evidence of having been painted than they do of being paintings of something.
- They are also both in concept and appearance a bit like a picked and picked again and again scab! The word scarification comes to mind.
- Also the worked over drawings include patches of paper collaged on over lower – presumably damaged or at least un-erasable – generations of the charcoal chalk and paper work. The result was a sort of patchwork effect that made me think of Hockney’s 80’s print collages. Possibly a usable effect later in the course…
- Following on from the above comment, I think that if I were to leave only one picture of myself for posterity to gawp at, I’d rather it was not an Auerbach. If I were to leave behind two though, I’d be honoured…
- Like the Monet pictures of Rouen Cathedral in the Musee de Orsay in Paris, the pictures have meaning and content at a distance and then dissolve into painting as you step closer. You can see (and see in my previous comment) how upsetting this can be to people who want simple likenesses of people and things…
- In the leaflet that you’re given as you go in, each of the rooms (organised by decade, with the paintings chosen by the artist and then a final, career-spanning one put together by Catherine Lampert) has a short essay on one of the paintings by a critic, a sitter or another artist. These are all fine descriptions – Lucien Freud on how the size of the picture relates to the size of the idea it contains is very good indeed- and I shall return to them when I start on the fourth part of C&N
- Similarly a line from the piece on Building Site, Earls Court, Winter 1953 – “I actually posed a still life in the front, of a saw and a pair of pinchers and a hammer, and thought I would create some sort of connection between painting from life and painting drawings” – points towards an idea for inclusion into the constructed work for Assignment 5: combining some sort of studio shot with a location background. Hmmm
- And, finally, there seems to be some connection between the later, strongly coloured pictures and the Saul Leiter work that’s on at the Photographers’ Gallery at the moment. In my head at least…
And as ever, I’ll now link to the Review in The Guardian (Tim Adams, 11/10/15)
Unlike the large scale works of other photographers like Andreas Gursky and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, I am not aware of having seen any of Jeff Wall’s enormous pictures before, apart from as reproductions in books. So the first thing that struck me about the six pictures – one triptych and five singles – exhibited in the large upstairs space at the Marian Goodman Gallery was their sheer size! Continue reading
This was a rather good, big exhibition (50 prints dating from 1932 to 1999) held in the Fine Art Society’s hall, looping round ground floor entrance area and then making a run up the stairs to the first floor. You had to slip behind reception desks at some points to look more closely, and at one point the flow was broken by a canvas studded with arrows and a staircase heading down into the basement, but the viewing conditions were generally good and the pictures lit well. Continue reading