Techniques and Technologies:
iphone capture and maniplualtions
New clever and quirky...consider the value.
So....inspired by all that's exciting in the digital art world I want to see what I can do to fuse or inform my painting practice with digital production methods. I want to see what I can do between the two mediums and what compatibility or incompatibilities I find. Perhaps my analogue painting practice will be informed by my discoveries, or I will change my workflows.
I do know that, historically, using photographs has had a detrimental effect on my work. The distortions, the paucity of colour information and lack of temporal information seems to create a barrier to work that has fully engaged with the subject. David Hockney, in Secret Knowledge, rediscovering the secret techniques of the Old Masters may be right that some artists used visual aids in their workflow. However his explanation that high levels of realism were only achievable because of optical aids is not founded upon sound reasoning. Classical sculpture, with superb realism certainly predates optical aids which Hockney asserts appeared within a decade in the 1430's. One only needs to visit any one of the top figurative private ateliers or art school to see teenagers producing highly accurate paintings and drawings without a camera in sight.
Having said that there are many fine representational artists of my acquaintance who, having initially learned how to paint from life, seem to be able to use photography without deleterious effect. Perhaps the key is that you must have the experience from life in order to know what and how to replace what may be missing from your photographic reference.
A friend of mine, Marc Dalessio, (he has a great painting blog here) finding portrait subjects unwilling to sit for the length of time he would prefer, and the static nature of photographs too restricting, trialled working from a loop of video on a screen. This had two advantages over a photograph: one still working from light, two the value of life and movement on catching the personality.
My challenge is to use and integrate digital technology in a manner that enhances and supports my analogue aesthetic, without flattening or suppressing artistry. Whether I can be successful with take some time to decide.
The sequences at the beginning and end of films or TV shows offers a special creative opportunity. Often stripped of linear narrative, there is an opportunity for atmospheric and impressionist play on themes, The artists get to play!
The title sequence of True Detective ( HBO) was highly acclaimed. For me it was inspiring, as I watch it the complex layering of the characters, their broken personas echoed and reflected in the polluted landscape, I wish I had been on the team that made it.
The work behind creating these images is far more complex and sophisticated than you would imagine. The spiky heels shot, for example, was created in 3D software and built up in layers and virtual projections.
Thanks to the site "Art of the Title" for the review of design, concept and screenshots ( http://www.artofthetitle.com/)
I look at the work here and realise what a wonderful visualisation and construction tools we have with modern digital software packages. I ponder on how I can use these tools to illustrate and manipulate those images I have in my imagination and produce them as "sketches" in my painting compositional studies. Can I reach new levels of painting, without photorealistic copying ( which in my books I just cant see the point of.
I write elsewhere on the blog about how I want to make "good" art, and I am wrestling with what that actually is. The thing is....I actually like quite a lot of dark and gritty film, so what's going on?
I have an idea, somewhat unformed....about meshing landscapes with the personalities that live and work in them. Portrait/landscape fusion paintings.
I was sharing my ideas with my brother, Jonathon Sendall, a cinematographer, about fusing projection and paintings and he suggested I looked at a form called cinemagraph, which he said sounded a lot like what I was trying to achieve with my painting. A bit of research revealed some disagreement here as to whether a cinemagraph is a new form or not. They are technically very similar to animated gifs that have been around for a while, in fact many are saved in the gif format. The difference that I see with a cinemagraph seems to be one of technical quality and artistic intention.
“A Cinemagraph is an image that contains within itself a living moment that allows a glimpse of time to be experienced and preserved endlessly.
Visual Graphics Artist Kevin Burg began experimenting with the .gif format in this style in 2009 but it wasn’t until he partnered with photographer Jamie Beck to cover NYFW that Cinemagraphs were born. Marrying original content photography with the desire to communicate more to the viewer birthed the cinemagraph process. Starting in-camera, the artists take a traditional photograph and combine a living moment into the image through the isolated animation of multiple frames. To quote supermodel Coco Rocha “it’s more than a photo but not quite a video”.
Beck and Burg named the process “Cinemagraphs” for their cinematic quality while maintaining at its soul the principles of traditional photography. Launched virally through social media platforms Twitter and Tumblr, both the style of imagery and terminology has become a class of its own.”
I disagree with Coco Rocha, I think it is more than both a photograph and a video
These works sit firmly in the classification of new media as outlined by Prof. Lev Manovich in his book "the Language of New Media" and works within the digital, non-linear realm, the work can be shared and enjoyed ad-infinitum (unless of course Digital Rights Management, DRM for short, is applied).
Taking my personal experience as a figurative painter, these cinemagraphs resonate more with my practice than stills. The process of painting from life requires observation and experience of the scene and the painting over a period of time. The painting is not a snapshot like a photo, but is an a fusion of the human observation and understanding being recorded into paint in a manner that another human perception will find a resonance. This visual truth that exceeds that which can be caught by a still camera. I have often argued that my practice, like all that of representational and semi representational artists, has more common ground with film than it does with photography.
In the cinemagraph the conscious mind can isolate and animate that which can add meaning, focus, narrative or atmosphere to an otherwise static image.
Of course there is both photography and paintings that make full use of "The beholder's share" as explained by Ernst Gombrich. This is where the viewer decodes the missing information in visual images. This engagement is the interactivity that Lev Manovich states " All classical, and even more so modern, art is "interactive" in a number of ways"
In Impressionist and Pointillist paintings the eyes and the brain construct the colours in such a way they read as shimmering light, when we view the line drawing of head, our brain understands that head is separate from the background, although the marks sit equally upon the plane of the paper. When I work on piece I am constantly looking the the relationships between elements in order to communicate an image "shorthand" that another consciousness will comprehend.
Manovich is further concerned that in the digital realm we may lose sight of the richness of interactivity available to us:
“When we use the concept of interactive media exclusively in relation to computer-based media, there is a danger we will interpret “interaction”literally, equating it with physical interaction between a user and an object (pressing a button, choosing a link, moving the body), at the expense of psychological interaction. The psychological processes of filling in, hypothesis formation, recall, and identification, which are required for us to comprehend any text or image at all, are mistakenly identified with an objectively existing structure of interactive links.”
— Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media
I suspect it is this very interactivity that can make viewing works of art so very thrilling. The viewer is in communion with the artist and the image. This may also explain that whilst true photorealism can be much admired for the technical control of the paint it is generally not found to be satisfying. In contrast a highly realist piece, which may superficially hold a similar amount of detail but has been painted with a knowledge and understanding of human perception and sensibilities will prove far more arresting.
Here a photomontage called "Into the Void" creates a strong psychological response......we ask ourselves questions, we interpolate and query, we look forward in time .......just from a single image
Yves Klein, Into the Void
The Japanese photographer, Natsumi Hayashi, also creates tension and psychological interactivity with her "Levitation" series of photographs:
And now a similar idea taken (albeit a little roughly) into the cinemagraph format.
I now need to consider the implications of these discoveries with my work. I already understand the value of the interaction with my viewer, both optically and psychologically. I try to juggle eye path, chroma, value, texture, along with meaning or narrative. I can see that cinemagraphs can create another layer of interest without going into the complexity, noise and linear nature of film.
Here also is the opportunity to integrate movement into a painting without getting into the tedious and restrictive practice of animation. I can see two ways in which to achieve this: firstly to create a painting using a brief shot of film as it's basis, then use a portion of the film to project onto the painting to create the dynamic areas: secondly, paint in traditional media, and then digitise it and integrate the filmed portion digitally. Experimentation to come!