Assignment 4: Reflective Commentary

In this assignment, I have been facing up to difficult subject matter, and attempting to deal with it in several ways: to explore photographic images in philosophical terms, to use art and creativity as a way of dealing with difficult emotions and to search for meaning, and to seek resolution to the problems of making that I had in the last assignment.

The outcomes are that I have considered the photograph, specifically of a person,  as a meditation on states of being, and this has led me into reading that has helped with the second issue. In addition, my research into Xu Bing has led me to consider the application of Zen Buddhism as a method and a purpose in art, and this has helped with the third issue too.

The choice of my own mother as the subject clearly ran the risk of being too personal, but I think by the end that the meditation into the photograph as an object, even a “museum object” moved this well into the realms of the general, and I feel that I have “objectified” the image in various ways, and transformed it into pieces that make sense. The objects-  comforting ones, wishes and hopes, memorialisation, also meet my own emotional needs.

Thinking in a zen-like way, to the extent that I am capable of it, is obviously therapeutic when facing loss, but I think the biggest effect of this influence was in my own way of working. I have struggled with photopolymer plates in this assignment, and sometimes wondered why I was bothering: at times I made lots of errors, through rushing, or trying to do too many things at the same time. Because I am now away from school, it is possible to concentrate, to practice and to care about quality. I’m not saying I have achieved that- the Japanese master printmaker I watched at work had been doing the job for 17 years and was still considered a junior –  but I do feel that working more slowly, in a calmer way, not trying too hard, helps  the works emerge. Also, the idea of function played a part here- I tried to think, when making these pieces, what their function would be, rather than seeing them as “pictures”, which suggests decoration. It felt important that they should function in some way- not that they will necessarily be used- but that their purpose is defined. (This is not a statement that everyone would agree with.)

The final images, “Moment in the Sun”, are combinations of image and text. I had tried this earlier with “The image remains”. Any use of text can be problematic, and it’s necessary to question the nature of the text and what it adds. In this case it is a commentary, but I think in the final images it avoids the “telling not showing” that was definitely a weakness of the “image remains” set, with its rather obvious commentary on fading sights and the onset of darkness. The final piece uses text that is much more tangential, much richer in its allusions (it assumes, as Eliot always does, a knowledge of context) and more leading as interpretation of the image. The fact that it is “caught” through exposure to the sun is also fitting the context of the text, and the image, so I felt the process and the form were appropriate.

I now wish to move on to explore the idea of “the rose garden”, inspired by TS Eliot’s Four Quartets. I would like to create a series of images, and explore further the concept of “becoming”, and need to consider appropriate materials, forms and techniques  to express a relationship between concept, form and material. I see this as a fitting summary of the work for the course, as it will start with observation- a rose bush in my garden that I have just planted- and develop into abstraction, and analogical thinking about the rose, with the rich layers of symboli that it comes with.


Author: chrisocaprintingblog

Studying visual arts part-time with the Open College of the Arts

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