Sunday, October 9, 2011

"The Drama of Objects"

 (I confess I am playing catch up with some of my posts!)
In August of 2011, I attended the Art Gallery of Ontario's exhibition "Abstract Expressionism" and while I knew there would be painting and sculpture to view, I was not prepared to see photography. I don't think one thinks of photography when they think of the Abstract Expressionism period.

Needless to say, I was stopped in my tracks when I came across the works of Aaron Siskind. (1903-1991) Siskind, like myself began his foray into photography at a later age. He was given a camera in 1930 as a wedding gift, and began taking photos on his honeymoon.

In the early 1940's he increasingly started creating abstract photos of forgotten and discarded items, facades, graffiti,and isolated figures. Like myself, he was drawn to the things that are abstract in our environment, lines, shapes and texture.

A major difference of course is that he was using black and white film, where as today I am using a digital camera. In his 1945 essay "The Drama of Objects" he asked the viewer when looking at his work to "Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around to the right. Watch them grow large as you approach, group and regroup themselves as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge and sometimes assume themselves with finality. And that's your picture."

I was inspired to once again go back to my earliest group of photographs that were taken at a time when I had done little research or exposure to any of the 'greats' and was just learning the ins and outs of my camera. I then took it one step further, and keeping in mind his quote from the essay, removed all the colour from my images so that it is only the texture, lines, and patterns that you now see.

I was immediately taken back by how much the colour had played into my original emotional reading of the photograph, and now I have to re look, re think about these images taken from the streets of Toronto. At first glance, one might overlook them and write them off as boring. But if you do as Siskind asks and approach the images from different viewing points, you may find that the image becomes more layered in emotions.

Finally, I want to end these notes with another quote from the Abstract Expressionist painter Adolph Gottlier:

" I frequently hear the question "What do these pictures mean?" That is simply the wrong question. Visual images do not have to conform to either verbal thinking, or optical facts. A better question would be "Do these images convey any emotional truth?"
***The last three abstract photos are Siskands.***

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