Before reading what I have prepared I want to share a comment by one of the organisers, Christine Cherry Jones; she commented how little time viewers give themselves to take in an image; they walk past, some spending more time looking at the label! I have noticed this too and given it some thought; perhaps some of the following suggestions will help.
Original Cape art is hosted by a group of artists who hold exhibitions in this venue twice a year.. There is a core group who exhibit regularly and new artists are invited to each exhibition. All the artists on these shows are professional in the sense that they have been working continually for a few years and exhibit their work when ever possible.
It is difficult for me to talk about the artists and more difficult in fact about the work; this is where the attention should be but in group exhibitions like this one it is not possible. This is not a themed show; it is with out a title and it is not curated. I will try and talk a little about image making in general so that you can apply some of these ideas as you wander around the exhibition. It is obviously important that you engage with each image, see it and process the experience. This requires experience in observation that takes time to develop but also a confidence in trusting your intuitive response; if you hear yourself say, I like that… then let your eyes tell you why you have responded in this why. Some times you want to walk past an image but your eyes don’t want to follow your feet; I suggest you stop until you have seen the image in time. This in some way helps us to make sense of the world; making sense of the world is why images are made, primarily; it is an attempt to communicate a deeper meaning, even if this is just for the artist.
A clue in my opinion is that an image needs to be intelligent; it may have one of the many intelligences, emotional intelligence, historical reference, technical experience…visual intelligence or visual logic, humour, sceptical intelligence; visual literacy is important. There are too many images around that are accomplished or expressive and that’s it; they would be more engaging if there was some experience or intelligence innate in them. Simple questions in a seascape; if I climb over that rock what would it feel like and would I be able to go over the other side and into the sea…. This is a logic that is being asked of us; the 2D surface has to hold a believable illusion!
There are perhaps 3 levels to consider when looking at an image; these do not hold any reference to quality but rather to how one relates to what you are looking at.
Sitting in a garden using colour seeking to describe foliage; Sitting on the beach, alone and isolated except for the gulls and wind with the intention to simply tell a story or record your experience, to show others the place you have found your self in; “look with me at what I have seen”.
In this exhibition artists have worked from various sources; drawings or studies. From memory or “on site” and from photographs. Working from photographs is tricky and the trick is to paint the photograph/ is a painting of a photograph. These various approaches need to take into account the format, scale and composition; all pointing to an ability to draw.
The trick here is to paint the photograph and not the portrait.
The first of these three levels; the image is literal, a fact stated, a story told, a description given. A rose on a 2 d surface; does it have a context or is a botanical study….the answers lie in the observing of the rose and how it is presented in the painting.
The 2nd level; an image can comment on an issue; it is conceptual before it is experienced, researched or explored. It has a meaning that has to be seen, a comment that needs to be made. It is part of a general perception. A painting of a boat on the sea at mid day…. You look for history or narrative to take it further; did they catch a fish, did they get caught in a storm? Does the boat have a name etc. The literal of the first level joins with the conceptual of the second level and you have an image that is recognisable generally, and it has a context, historically, culturally, politically; there is a knowledge base which can engage the imagination.
3rd level; this is where you are permitted an insight into the intrinsic meaning of the image. It reverberates with ones own experience, it has an integrity in the making… medium is not used to describe something, it is used to manifest a metaphor. This is when the medium is not a tool it is part of the development of the image. The experience becomes transformative, it allows or unleashes the imagination, touches your heart and often comes back and back to you.
These points are over simplified and need conversation to gain greater understanding.
Many of the images around us are saying; I am here; I may be far away from you and perhaps I can’t tell you about my circumstances but I am here because of this image I have made. There is something restoring in this encounter between the artist, the image and the viewer. History is going so much faster than we are. A simple image located in the literal, perhaps with reference to a context; perhaps even with the third level in evidence where it reverberates; these images may carry a nostalgia that assists us in being present in the image; not caught up in technique, value, analysis; but to be here now and encounter/locate reminisce, remember, feel with in yourself, a place. This is what the artists are asking and what the work achieves on various levels.
Looking at an image; there are those who say the image holds the whole story, the content is in the painting and others who say the viewer meets the painting and shares what he/she brings with the painting. All these ideas are after the very fact of the sensation that we feel when observing the painting, drawing, surface, mark, colour, memory….reflection.
Looking back at ourselves looking at an image often tells a story in itself!
A line from a poem, the good morrow, by John Donne reads; “for love…makes one little room an everywhere”.
An image can do this too.
Please enjoy what has been generously and boldly presented.