Artist Research: Still Life & Landscape.

Following my previous research and gaining an understanding of the genre of still life and particular styles and techniques associated with it, I wanted to a bit more artist research. By doing so, I am able to appreciate different approaches which may be suitable for my own project and learn things from others which may influence my decisions. Some of the artist’s I have looked at were picked out from Stilled: Contemporary Still Life Photography by Women recommended to me by Anthony, whilst some others I encountered and took my interest.

Laura Letinsky.

Laura Letinsky began the series of work ‘Hardly More than Ever’ in 1997, exploring the theme of representation and “photograph the remains of meals and its refuse so as to investigate the relationships between ripeness and decay, delicacy and awkwardness, control and haphazardness, waste and plenitude, pleasure and sustenance.” (Wipnyc.org n.d.). Letinsky’s style made me think back to what I learnt about the number changes which the still life has genre encountered over time dependant on the artist, and although Letinsky has created a new perspective, there is still the occurring theme of death with the photography through decaying items. 

I particularly picked out this image because I was really intrigued by the separation of objects in the image. This contributes a lot of different ideas to the image. Firstly, by keeping each object separate, it encourages the viewer to absorb them separately as well. This means they get represented differently, as all of them together would represent a different meaning or understanding whereas this seems a bit distorted. Although I say distorted, the blank canvas and soft colours makes the overall view of the image very relaxed. The separation of objects completely spreads the balance of the visual weight of the image and with quite neutral tones, the eye does not get drawn immediately to one place but the great spaces between them allows time for the viewer to slowly read the image. This style reiterates what I previously learnt from my research of the frequent use of a plain background. I think the white is really interesting here because it doesn’t contrast greatly, rather it enhances subtly. This may be something I consider for any shoots that I do in the studio to create a gentle, calm mood to reflect emotion. This is also enhanced by the soft lighting which is directed from the right, casting soft shadows on the blank canvas. I really like Letinsky’s fresh perspective on still lives especially by keeping the objects completely separate. Although I don’t think this would be a technique which would be useful within my project, I do really like how it encourages the viewer to absorb each item individually.

ll1

(Letinsky 1999)

Helen Sear – Beyond The View.

Helen Sear produced the body of work Beyond The View from 2009-2011 and I was really drawn in by the images. Sear created the work to explore “the representation of landscape as a gendered experience. She has frequently used both the human and animal body in conjunction with, or standing for, both interior and exterior landscapes, some real and some imagined.” (Artscouncilofwales.org.uk n.d.). The images have been created by what appears a montage of a landscape and portrait image. What really intrigued me was what created the connection between the two, was this a choice made by Sear or a collaborative project?This might be a really interesting approach to take for my project especially after Emma Critchley suggested making it collaborative. I think the use of montages can be really effective and it works brilliantly here and may also work well for my project if I chose to work with somebody else, as I could combine a photo of themselves immersed in an environment that haunts them with different emotions from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I also love the beautiful contrast of colours from the flowers. I feel my images will be different to this as I can imagine the emotions I learn about will mean the use of darker environments without much colour, but this would be useful for creating strong contrasts which could create a moody effect. Even through the flowers are spread all over the image, it doesn’t feel too overwhelming or too much. It adds life and vibrance but also leads the viewer to question this person’s personality and whether these flowers reflect anything about them. Sear’s blog also features some installation images of when this series was exhibited, with large square prints framed with white borders which presents them enticingly, allowing the viewer to fully immerse themselves. I haven’t always been the most confident with presentation methods but seeing how well these worked has made me consider how important it is to get the right kind of presentation method for the images and the viewers experience.

hs1(Sear 2011)

Sam Taylor-Wood – Still Life.

I was really interested to learn about Sam Taylor-Wood’s work with still life, particularly after learning about her Crying Men series a few years ago, I thought this was quite different. It also provided the opportunity to see the still life genre through film rather than stills and found myself strangely enticed by it. Taylor-Wood set up a shot of a plate of fruit which over time slowly decays. By doing so, she is drawing on the theme of the reminder of death which has run throughout the still life genre as we can literally see each piece decaying. In a way, quite honestly it seems a bit repulsive! But at the same time, quite memorising to see it slowly turning rancid and disintegrating over time. The video is only 3 minutes 18 seconds, but it doesn’t feel like any moment gets missed in the timeline of it decaying, creating an honest representation of reality. Taylor-Wood has used a very simple set up, with the plate of fruit placed directly in the centre with no distracted detail surrounding it so the viewer is drawn into the middle immediately. However I did pick up on the pen which has been included in the frame and wondered what the purpose of this was. Throughout the film, the pen stays in exactly the same and does not change at all. This creates a contrast between the two items whilst one is decaying the pen remains constant showing the contrast of natural life and man made object. The background colours create quite a rustic feel to the set up and the natural light used keeps the textures and shadows soft. Although Taylor-Wood’s approach to still life won’t be influential to my own, I really enjoyed discovering her style and contribution to the evolving genre of still life. Interestingly, I had considered making my own video by shooting the same place possibly once every week to show the changes of the seasons over time right at the beginning of my project so I really liked this piece of work.

stw1

stw2(artforum.com 2001)

Rinko Kawauchi – Illuminance.

Rinko Kawauchi created the body of work Illuminance which became her first book to be published outside of Japan in 2011. “Kawauchi continues her exploration of the extraordinary in the mundane, drawn to the fundamental cycles of life and the seemingly inadvertent, fractal-like organization of the natural world into formal patterns.” (Kawauchi 2011). At first, I found myself attracted to this series of images through the interesting composition, creative use of light and relatable shots of nature. However once I read this short description and learnt about the intention of forming the world into patterns, the images made more sense to me and one particular image caught my eye with regards to my own project.

Kawauchi has used the whirlpools of water to create a pattern, as well as lots of different shapes and lines heading in various directions leading the eye throughout the picture. The largest whirlpool holds the lightest value of the image, drawing the eye first here and leading the viewer round the different shapes and directional water. This image of swirling water caught my eye because it seems quite rapid and rushed rather than calming, potentially representing feelings of chaos and anger. This is the way I want my images to work with the viewer being able to draw on particular emotions through the composition and representation of objects in the image. Contradicting this, is the rich blue colour of the water which juxtaposes these emotions with a calming feeling but also adding sadness. I think there are many different messages that can be drawn from this message in terms of how the viewer wants to view it or their opinions and thoughts, therefore it will be important for me to consider this when creating my own images. Although I want it to be appreciated and absorbed by the viewer, there will be an extent in which I want the viewer to draw on the representation of emotions of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

rk1(Kawauchi 2011) 

Faces – Francois & Jean Robert.

When looking for books to use as still life research, I came across Faces. Although initially it didn’t seem particularly relevant to my project, the more I admired the images and thought about them I realised how it could be. In early 1970s, brothers Francois and Jean Robert began photographing to put together the series of ‘Faces’ and have been adding to the selection every year since (book was published in 2000). (Robert and Robert, 2000: 4).

The book initially caught my attention because of the quirky, entertaining images by capturing faces through everyday objects. I feel the presentation of the book works really well, as although there are many different images to look at, everyone is unique and captivating, alerting the reader to identify the face within the object. As I am already considering producing a book as part of my final piece, it was interesting to consider how I would compare the style of this one to my own. I particularly liked the square size keeping compact and personal with most objects centralised within the image making it neat and precise. This square size may be something I consider as part of my final output which would mean resizing the images appropriately. However, the book is a little smaller than the size I would probably go for due to the nature of my images but in terms of the theme of Faces, this size works well adding to its quirkiness.

faces1

As I am focusing on aspects of nature, one particular ‘face’ which caught my eye was one of a flower. I loved the beautiful colours of contrasting yellow and purple. What stood out to me was how the angle of this image has enhanced how I read the shape of the petals, it really drew my attention to the soft, rounded, ruffled edges. The close up shot of the flower also draws the viewer to the centre where the ‘eyes’ and ‘mouth’ appear. I actually found it quite hard to distinguish the face in this image in contrast to the others, but the jagged edges of the inner pattern on the petal to me look like an angry eyes and mouth. Not only do these still life images work well but identifying the face helps involve the reader. The reason I found these images related to my project was because of how we identify the ‘face’ through a system of signs. Obviously there isn’t a face there, but the positioning of particular objects or features allow us to recognise them in the shapes we know which form a pair of eyes, nose and mouth. This is the kind of recognition I want to create with my images – by looking at the object, they will be able to recognise the emotion of the SAD sufferer and comprehend it. This idea is kind of captured through another image in the book of what looks like a folder with a sad face. Obviously there will not be something physically (like the face) to immediately recognise in my images but it has the same idea of recognising the emotion. Another presentation method I like on this page is how the black background has been applied to the opposite page as it adds to the neat ‘flow’ of the book and also highlights what I previously appreciated from David Bate (Photography The Key Concepts), how a plain background is essentially ’emptiness’ and enhances the object.

faces2

Although I really liked this book, I couldn’t help but think if you possibly wouldn’t be able to make out the faces if the idea hadn’t already been identified to you in the title. Is it possible to argue you would only be able to recognise what the object actually is rather than the face that is hidden in it? This once again highlights the importance of the system of signs/symbols and communicating with the viewer in the same ‘language’. It is crucial that I am able to make my images and the idea behind them comprehendible, relatable and simple but aesthetically pleasing and engaging. This book has assisted my potential options for the editing process and presentation of my own book.


I also thought it would be important to cover some landscape artist research, as sometimes this may be more suitable for my images than still life.

Sian Bonnell – Ordinary Magic.

Although I was initially attracted to Sian Bonnell’s still life work, I came across the series Ordinary Magic which features a number of landscape shots as well as still life, including some close ups which is a similar style I have adapted myself. Bonnell has also used aperture really interestingly in these landscapes, often with the centre in focus whilst the top and bottom of the image out which creates a fresh perspective. I couldn’t come across an artist statement to learn more about the project, therefore from looking at the images and considering the title, what I drew from was the intention to share a message of highlighting the beauty of nature and simple objects, the objects representing the ordinary and the magic suggesting their beauty. This may not be the case but nonetheless it was still interesting to consider Bonnell’s style to inspire my own. This also drew to my attention the importance of having an engaging title to also make the viewer think and if there isn’t an artist statement, how can they draw on the message from just the title and the images they are seeing.

This particular image from the series caught my attention because of the interesting perspective I previously mentioned, Bonnell has used the wide aperture to focus on the centre with either side out of focus. This draws the eye right to the centre where there is a tiny white flower. For me, this represents delicacy and a suggestion of hope and beauty within all the intwining green leaves. This may be a technique to consider for the composition of my images if someone talks to me about the positives they find whilst having Seasonal Affective Disorder, focusing on something which symbolises hope or strength. Overall, the strongest colour is green and the natural light keeps the image quite light, but as you are drawn into the centre, the darkest value is held here but this contrasts well to the white flower emphasising the concentration on it for the viewer. The angle at which the image has been taken also enhances the composition by making the leaves look quite chaotic and jungle like, whereas this flower represents the ‘ordinary magic’.

sb1

(Bonnell 2008)

Alex Saberi – Richmond Park.

This series of work by Alex Saberi, not only because of the beautiful images but the series captures “the amazing colours of autumn to the desolate monochrome of winter to the golden meadows in summer.” (Saberi n.d.). As before the project began, my very initial idea was to photograph the four seasons, I was interested to learn how Saberi had done the same, as well as whether there were any particular techniques which would help me adapt my further photography to represent the emotions of SAD. All of the images from the series capture a form of wildlife which are particularly important to the landscape as well as contributing to some really beautiful images, showing them in their natural habitat throughout the seasons.

I decided to pick out this particular image as there for me, the little blue tit surrounded by snow creates a sense of delicacy and loneliness in a cold environment, yet it is so natural and relaxed. The tight crop Saberi has used here creates main focus on the bird but also includes a small amount of surrounding branches to give a sense of the freezing environment, each branch frosted with crisp snow. The wide aperture also enhances the focus on the bird as it is in focus whereas the short depth of field means the background is out but still contributes detail and colour. Overall, the colours are quite repetitive with the white snow and green branches but this works really well in terms of making the colourful blue tit stand out more. The thin lines of the branches lead the eye throughout the image and also drew my attention to some small buds on the ends, which made me think of the spring possibly approaching and new life arising. As Saberi’s work captures how wildlife add so much to the landscape, it is not so relevant to my own project but it did make me consider his use of different lighting techniques with strong contrasts, jacob’s ladders and sometimes silhouettes to enhance the beautiful colours of the seasons, particularly with autumnal colours and how I could adapt this in my future images to create certain moods.

as1

 (Saberi n.d.)

Merve Ozaslan – Natural Act.

Natural Act by Merve Ozaslan was a really refreshing look on the use of landscape and the relationship with people. Ozaslan has creatively contrasted the use of colour and black and white in order to portray “that sense natural act appears with its all colors when our emotions are paralysed in the vital points of the cliche and dull city life.” (Ozaslan n.d.). To me, this represents how sometimes the appreciation for the beauty of landscape can be lost in the translation of day-to-day life and these collages Ozaslan has created shows how they become part of us, giving us life, particularly enhanced by this contrast of colour and black and white. This use of collages is quite similar to the style Helen Sear, both exploring the relationship between humans and landscape. Rather than overlaying one on top of the other, Ozaslan has actually edited pieces of landscape into people’s bodies, roads, windows and more. This is so creative and captivating, creating a new outlook and landscape and sharing an interesting message. I think there is also a hint of comedy too, which appeals the body of work to a wider audience and makes it relatable. 

This was one of my favourite images from the series, not only through the combination of montage but also the composition of the young child and train attendant. This has the potential to represent many different messages, such as the train attendant who has been replaced with the landscape suggests the older figure has more experience and knowledge and the young child is learning from this. It could also represent the attendant’s memories of the landscape before it became industrial and the child is already immersed in this ‘black and white’ environment and wouldn’t ever know different. It could show the attendant’s longing desire to be in such a calm, wide landscape rather than working in a repetitive environment. I like how there are so many possible ideas to draw from the image and any of mine still may not be the ‘right’ answer. Again it highlights the importance of making my project relatable for the viewer to draw their own opinions but also gently guiding the understanding of a particular idea. The colour contrasts so well to the black and white and immediately draws the viewer here first, then begin piecing the image together to draw ideas. As this use of collages has been used successfully both by Ozaslan and Helen Sear, it will definitely be worth considering whether I could adapt this to my project if it were to become collaborative as I think it could work really well by representing their personality and emotions.

mo1

 (Ozaslan n.d.)

Hidenobu Suzuki.

I came across the work of Hidenobu Suzuki through an online entertainment/communication platform which allows people to upload work and receive comments and ratings from others. Suzuki’s work particularly stood out to me as he expressed how “Japanese like to express emotions and spiritual feelings through the landscape photography….Emotional art heal people and leads the society to harmony. I took a challenge to capture emotions with my camera.” (Suzuki 2015). I thought this would be particularly useful to look at as this is exactly what I am trying to achieve with my project, expressing emotions and feelings of SAD through still life/landscape photography.

Suzuki has created a beautiful series of captivating images, vibrant with colour and life. This image which really caught my attention, I actually misread to begin with. The dark tree trunk to the right of the image, I actually thought was a dark shadow, like a haunting figure representing emotions of fear and dread amongst a soft, pink landscape. I love how Suzuki has composed the image with some pink blossom right up to the lens which has blurred with the focus centralised on the background but it creates a barrier which the viewer is trying to peak through, hence why I initially thought it acted like a protection from this dark figure. Despite this, I still think the creative composition of the image creates a strong contrast of light and dark, with harder emotions contrasted with lighthearted ones. This may be something to consider when creating my images if someone possibly expresses their story as a battle to be ‘normal’ but also fighting with the depressive feelings of SAD.

hs1

(Suzuki 2015)

Veronique Rolland.

Veronique Rolland was recommended to me by Emma Critchley. As she seemed keen for me to make the project collaborative, it was interesting to come across a particular series by Rolland which looks like she has worked with various women, photographing them naked at 4 different times of the year – autumn, winter, spring and summer. This was really useful to investigate as it allowed me to begin visualising my options by combining the changing of seasons and the emotions reflected within it as well as working in a collaboration and including this person in the image.

The series I particularly liked was of Polly, shot in Hyde Park. I liked it because it was easy to identify the different seasons. Autumn features beautiful colours like brown and yellows, whereas in winter the trees are bare and the ground frosted with snow. It is then easy to identify the next image as Spring, with soft sun shining in the background and leaves beginning to replenish the trees, finally ending on Summer with bright green leaves providing a full backdrop for Polly. Throughout the 4 images, Polly remains constant throughout, holding the same pose in each which for me drew me to notice the background more and recognise the change in the seasons. This could potentially represent how even though our surrounding world changes, we remain constant and consistent. This also reciprocates the same kind of message portrayed through Sam Taylor-Wood’s still life, as the man made pen is used to contradict the decaying of the fruit. I think this is a subtle but important message of landscape and how it unknowingly acts as such a big part of our lives. Although I don’t think this repetition of the seasons would be suitable for my project, it has made me consider how I could work with someone and then place them in an appropriate environment to create a particular kind of emotion we would both want to portray.

vr1(Rolland 2008)

Gareth McConnell – Close Your Eyes.

Gareth McConnell was recommended to me by David Rule. The series of work Close Your Eyes follows a number of raver goers in Ibiza, with some experiencing their first encounter of ecstasy. At first I wasn’t really sure why this would be relevant to me, however David brought it to my attention because of some of the vivid, blurry sunsets which are featured in the series. The colours are bold and bright, instantly recognisable through the representation of sunset colours and clouds. The scattering of clouds creates dynamic shapes and a misbalance of visual weight throughout the photograph, making it quite distorted similar to what I imagine the effect ecstasy would have. McConnell’s work is relevant to my own project as it encourages me to explore the different ways I can represent particular emotions, similar to how this sunset would have appeared to someone who had taken ecstasy. This has prompted me to consider how I could represent particular emotions more dynamically and creative, possibly through distortion and manipulation.

gm1

(McConnell 2009)

artforum.com, (2001) Sam Taylor-Wood, Still Life, 2001 [online] available from <http://artforum.com/video/id=25377&mode=large&gt; [11 February 2015]

Artscouncilofwales.org.uk, (n.d.) Arts Council Of Wales | Helen Sear [online] available from <http://www.artscouncilofwales.org.uk/arts-in-wales/inspire/make/creative-wales/creative-wales-archive/awards-2010-11/helen-sear&gt; [11 February 2015]

Bonnell, S. (2008) Ordinary Magic 2008 [online] available from <http://www.sianbonnell.com/work/photographs/ordinary-magic-2008/oml5-20120702-1439696964-1398#joomimg&gt; [14 February 2015]

Kawauchi, R. (2011) Illuminance_Eg [online] available from <http://www.rinkokawauchi.com/main/Illuminance_eg.html&gt; [12 February 2015]

Letinsky, L. (1999) Untitled, #15, Hardly More Than Ever Series, 1999 [online] available from <http://www.wipnyc.org/blog/laura-letinsky&gt; [11 February 2015]

McConnell, G. (2009) Crystal Distortion [online] available from <http://www.industryart.com/artists/garethmcconnell/closeyoureyes/101/&gt; [15 February 2015]

Newton, K. and Rolph, C. (2006) Stilled. Cardiff: Ffotogallery.

Ozaslan, M. (n.d.) Merve Ozaslan Official Homepage [online] available from <http://www.merveozaslan.com/#!collections/cfvg&gt; [14 February 2015]

Ozaslan, M. (n.d.) Passenger [online] available from <http://www.merveozaslan.com/#!Passenger/zoom/cfvg/i31qzj&gt; [14 February 2015]

Robert, F. and Robert, J. (2000) Faces. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Rolland, V. (2008) Polly, Hyde Park [online] available from <http://www.veroniquerolland.com/&gt; [15 April 2015]

Saberi, A. (n.d.) Blue Tit In The Snow [online] available from <http://www.alexsaberi.com/richmondpark/&gt; [14 February 2015]

Saberi, A. (n.d.) Richmond Park ‹ Alex Saberi Photographyalex Saberi Photography [online] available from <http://www.alexsaberi.com/richmondpark/&gt; [14 February 2015]

Sear, H. (2011) Beyond The View 5 [online] available from <http://helensear.com/2011/07/07/beyond-the-view-2009-2011/&gt; [11 February 2015]

Suzuki, H. (2015) I Challenged Myself To Express Emotions With Landscape Photography [online] available from <http://www.boredpanda.com/emotion/&gt; [14 February 2015]

Wipnyc.org, (n.d.) | Women In Photography | Laura Letinsky [online] available from <http://www.wipnyc.org/blog/laura-letinsky&gt; [11 February 2015]

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on February 15, 2015.

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