Experiment on images
I began with overpainting the images on magazines, then cropping, making collages, and blurring. Most of my image resources are from the Vision magazine. My principle of choosing the images is to find the emotional portraitures. Gerhard Richter said that he avoided to use photographs that has theme by itself when he's painting over the photographs. However, for me, I want to focus on making images that have their own "temperature". A warm or cold feeling will be deliver to people, ideally. Although an abstract painting can be emotional and powerful indeed, but I preferred to play with portraiture at this stage.
I found the result of overpainting on magazines particularly successful. The image was already there, so I don’t need to start the sketch by myself. The process was more like adding textures and paint marks to the images. Rather than choosing the colours, it's more about mixing the origin colours on the image. I think it is an interesting mixed media method which has lots of potential which I can use in the future. For example, I can do another painting in a much bigger canvas from the overpainted images. Making collages first than overpaint them can be another method. Also, I want to produce digital overpainting on edited photographs.
The overpainting above has a creepy atmosphere. At first, I thought this is because I made the eyes quite hollow. However, the image still looks creepy even when I cover the eyes. Now I feel like it's the paint marks make it look stranger, because the origin image was a portrait underneath the water, and the water makes the image looked twisted and psychedelic after the paint marks were added. When I was overpainting it, I avoided making the painting too detail. Therefore, it is more different with the origin image.
My inspiration is from a series of old photographs of cutting off some specific figures from group photos or family photos. In the past, it's more complicated to take photographs. For instance, a figure might be cut off in a family portrait when there was a divorce. I'm interest in the hidden messages of an absence, a departure, a blank, and a lose.
I used two methods to cover the faces. For the woman on the right hand side, I intended to blur her face in the image. As a response to Gerhard Richter's Table, I want people feel curious about want is underneath the paint. I use very thin acrylic paint to cover up the figure, let people able to see through but not completely, just as looking through a veil. In my opinion, it suggests the process of forgetting someone, and the faded memory.
For the woman on the left hand side, I used black ink pen to draw messy lines to cover her face. The messy line is more anxious and emotional, comparing with blurring. This piece is more like a experiment on different ways and effects of covering the face. It continues the idea of "overpainting the image", and starts to add stories to the image.
I made the decision of different ways to cover the faces by colour. The origin image was a black and white photograph in warm tone. In conclusion, the left part is mainly white, and the right part is mainly black. In order to ensure the visual aesthetic, I use black ink pen to draw on the left and use white acrylic on the right.
Note: Reality, Realism & Hyperrealism
In 1839, faced with the invention of photography, French history painter Paul Delaroche said, “From today, painting is dead”.
“If the man who paints only the tree, or flower, or other surface he sees before him were an artist, the king of artists would be the photographer. It is for the artist to do something beyond this.” – Whistler Nocturne
Social realism ≠ Socialist realism
Robert Ryman is a realist although he is often classified as a minimalist.
Photorealism has focusing point – Chuck Close
Painting in relation to digital media
History of photography
Historically, the earliest photographic technology is seen as an easier way to create the image of people, places and architecture accurately. It is a substitute for the more complicated process of painting. Then photography started to be engaged in the lasting process of experimentation, and it changes the how we take pictures and how we create images with it in post-production. Photographers and editors are able to change the way how we think the “truth” is, and it helps them to decide how the final work was to be viewed.
Turkish police officer carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi
"Aura" - Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin, a Jewish philosopher in German, cultural essayist and cultural critic, written an essay called “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in 1968 that discussed how history changes the art development in the modern age, in which the theory of aura was brought forward.
Aura theory by Benjamin explained that historically, works of art had an “aura”, “an appearance of magical or supernatural force arising from their uniqueness”. The aura of work is what gives them the quality of authenticity, which cannot be reproduced. It is argued that those work that has been originally created by the artist has been taken care by a so-called aura. He wrote, "even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be." Therefore, painting is always recognised as the highest level of art since it is not reproductive.
I researched on Robert Ryman and tried to imitate his way of applying white paint. I think, if a painting only associating with its process can be seen as realism, then a real object is certainly realism as well. Therefore, I sticked a plastic packaging of single-use cups on my sketchbook. It is totally conceptual. I always want to develop varying pathways while I'm doing my project. Therefore, my next step was to simply try different ways of applying paint, without any possible concept.
Different ways of applying paint
After researching at Robert Ryman, I did more experiment on different ways of applying paint. It was purely about the techniques, without any concept. I used acrylic paint to do them. It was fun to create the paint marks and play around with colours.
I found the red monochrome page especially powerful and conspicuous, reminds me of Yves Klein's blue. The monochrome doesn't allow any other colour to exist. Therefore, it was harmonious with itself. I will discover more about red monochrome images afterwards by using photography later.
Wrongly processed film
My friend once showed me his film photography which developed wrong. As a commercial photographer, he didn’t appreciate the result. However, I was impressed by the natural and inartificial leaked light on these images. The images have a spooky and uncanny feel. The ordinary and banal is part of this.An idea of “capitalism is weakening single individuals’ meaning” appears in my mind. An amiss film is not welcomed by capitalism because it has no commercial value, but its value must be existing somewhere, for someone.
Another idea is about the fabricated truth. A real paint mark of Robert Ryman can be seen as realism. However, the realness of any documentary article and photography might be questioned. Even a photograph of a street without any people walking around, the street can be very crowded in fact. The person who took the photograph avoided the people on that street, and capture the moment of on one in the viewing frame. Is the photograph still realism? The only thing I know is the fact: the film above was processed wrongly, It is the truth. It is realism.
I start considering of what other kind of images might have the similar quality. I think the overpainting work I've done in the beginning does have similar quality with the photographs. They look very different because one is portrait and the other is landscape, and their media is different. However, the ghosty atmosphere is what they both have in common. Also, they both have the shaded element. In the overpainted images, faces are shaded by paint. In the films, the shades are naturally created by the leaked light. Furthermore, the images all look surreal in some ways because of the twisting. In addition, the unsaturated colour gives a vintage feeling. At least, the images are not modern or futuristic. Then I feel curious about the potential of producing uncanny futuristic images. I think digital overpainting will be the perfect media to use.
I used paint to cover the light stripe on the photograph.
I tried to print the film on different types of A3 paper: normal printing paper, glossy paper, tracing paper, and acetate. I especially prefer the effect with acetate because it looks like a X-ray film and has that mysterious transparency. Also, the black and white photograph in cold tone printed on acetate looks very similar with the origin film itself, but enlarged. When my classmate saw my printed photograph at school, she asked that are the photographs real film and I said no. I think the choice of using acetate works.
Parts of a coat stand
Initially, I wanted to display the photographs on the installed coat stand. Then I was advised that only combining the parts with the photographs will make my motive less obvious. Therefore, others will feel more curious about the work.
I tried different ways of arranging the photographs. After photographing the finished work, I found them too close to each other. The one with the circle part was especially interesting since the combination of shapes and colours was harmonious. However, when I put it with other photographs, a crowded overall visual is present. The interesting bit os therefore hided. I must rearrange them. After experimenting on arranging, I still think the initial circle piece with itself provides the best effect. So I left it as how it is and took other parts from the wall.
At this stage, the project is no longer using paint to paint anymore. I want to develop it to two ways. One is sculpture. The other is photography.
Experiment - clothing and the wall
My own work
Painting without paint - Revolving chandelier
I was advised to research on Becky Beasley. I found her work quite inspiring, as she actually made her work sculptural by the way of displaying the photographs. I bought all my materials from a second hand shop: a broken chandelier, paper in plastic bags, and a khaki cloth. I hanged the chandelier on the ceiling by fishing wire and tried to produce a finished ensemble by these items. I wanted to recover the aspect of my dream in a poetic way: unstable and dizzying. The piece is able to revolve due to the gravity, and I didn't expect this to happen. I wanted to find a way to stop this when I just hanged the chandelier itself on the ceiling, before I put other items on it. Then I failed. After the piece is finished, the revolving actually brings more fun to it. My project steps to a completely sculptural direction with movement which I am really satisfy with. If I'm doing the piece again, I will try different colour combination. For instance, colouring the chandelier white, and replacing the paper with my photography work.
I got feedback from my friend: The whole picture looks simple and tidy. The light is painted in dark green which is contrary with the wall with the white paint. Random items on the light catches my attention in the first place and the whole artwork maybe is trying to convey that “the chandelier can also be utilized as a shelf”. It's about the exchanging of functionality. It is interesting for me because I know how other people understand my personal experience. For him, the piece is more about the structure.
I used a painting software called SAI to finish the work. Originally, I wanted to overpaint on the photograph directly as a done before. Then I found starting the sketch from photographs I took of my friends provides a better effect as digital media is more flexible when making changes to any image. I focused on emphasizing the futuristic and technological feeling when I was choosing the colour and painting the details. My choice of colour was successful as the work still looks psychedelic as my previous work, but more luscious. I also focused on twisting the figure.
I used the pattern ( the cross ) on her dress, and painted the face from the photograph.
Painting without paint - Powerful Red
Digital Collage made by Photoshop
This project started because of my previous experiment of different ways of applying paint. I found the result of using pure red came out especially conspicuous and impressive.
At the beginning, I planned to use polaroid to take red photograph. I’ve looked at a series of Japanese illustration and photography of teenage girls with dark and subcultural aesthetics.
I want to discover the potential of red in photography. The reason I chose to use polaroid instead of digital camera is because of the random colour affected by the instant room temperature. For digital camera, the original colour is not satisfactory for this project. Heavy editing is needed and I want to avoid editing as much as possible at this stage. I want to see how much I can take control of the original colour of a photograph. I’ve also considered about using film, but the weather in December in Shanghai is always cloudy and gloomy, which is not ideal for film photography. Polaroid will be a good media to experiment on.
I dyed my hair red for this project, to extend red colour in the photographs.
First theme was a mermaid soaking red water. I don’t want my photographs look sweet or dreamlike. Although red has be seen as an enthusiastic colour, I want to make it cold.
Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red
“I hear the question upon your lips: What is it to be a colour?
Colour is the touch of the eye, music to the deaf, a word out of the darkness. Because I’ve listened to souls whispering – like the susurrus of the wind – from book to book and object to object for tens or thousands of years, allow me to say that my touch resembles the touch of angels. Part of me, the serious half, calls out to your vision while the mirthful half sours through the air with your glances.
I’m so fortunate to be red! I’m fiery. I’m strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted.
I do not conceal myself: For me, delicacy manifests itself neither in weakness nor in subtlety, but through determination and will. So, I draw attention to myself. I’m not afraid of other colours, shadows, crowds or even of loneliness. How wonderful it is to cover a surface that awaits me with my own victorious being! Wherever I’m spread, I see eyes shine, passions increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to live! Behold how wonderful to see. I am everywhere. Life begins with and returns to me. Have faith in what I tell you.”
One of my friend said that he was attracted by the photograph of my side face lying in the blood bags. The expression was dejected and make him want to see more of the series. Therefore, I put that particular one at first. The whore series reminded him of softcore pornography, and also brought him into a atmosphere of repression. The other told me that the red colour in my work didn't express enthusiasm to him, which is what I expect people to feel. The photographs inspired him of blood, illusion, and dystopia. The pictures are beautiful, but must have some darkness underneath the beauty.
Another friend of mine said that the keynote of all the pictures is about the theme of “color red”. The pictures are presenting in an “old-fashion” style and remind him with the pictures from 80s or 90s. The picture with the girl wearing the mermaid costume and laying in the bath tub might be the metaphor of “cage” or “trap”. The blood bag and the broken teddy bear in these images might be considered as “money” and “social class”, reminds him of the government and the society is sucking the populace's blood, and exploiting from them.
I found the feed back of blood bags and the teddy bear been disemboweled links with money and social classes. This is I never thought of when I was planning this shooting. The theme my friend had raised is just the same as my idea of the unwanted films: capitalism is weakening individual's meaning. There is an exploiting.
I should have experiment with more of different media, and this is what I’m going to continue working on. My next stage will be using digital camera to shoot and Photoshop and Lightroom to edit delicately, as the polaroid was to keep the image raw.
Also, I think the red on some of the photographs is not obvious and distinctive enough because the colour tone of the photographs is very warm already. The blood bags didn't look red in those photographs which is regrettable.
Before shooting, I only prepared 40 photographic paper which I found was not enough. I will prepare more next time.