Sunday, 31 January 2010

The female gaze

I was leafing trhrough an old copy of i-D earlier when I came across a spread by artist and photographer Collier Schorr. I don't know too much about her, other than she is an artist who was born and raised in Queens, New York, yet bases much of her practice in the German town of Schwabisch Gmund. Although she incorporates both drawing and collage into her work, it is her photography, particularly her portraiture, which I find most striking. She has been documenting the lives of German people in the town for many years now, inspired in part by the famous series of portraits taken by August Sander but also by the emergence of German photographers Andreas Gursky and Thomas Ruff in the 90s - "Being intrigued by that work, and then going to Germany and actually looking at the landscape, I imagined the position of an entitled outsider, a character who does not belong but who has assumed some kind of ownership." Like contemporaries such as Rineke Dijkstra and Catherine Opie, she has an ability for capturing the intense, self-conscious gaze of her subjects, the subtle nuances of character and body and the vulnerability one feels when in front of the camera. To me her work is stark, honest and contains a delicate beauty which I guess I strive for in my own work.

Collier Schorr's exhibition 'German Faces' opens on February 19th at Stuart Shave Modern Art.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

An evening with Mark Leckey

Last night we turned up to our Monday Night guest lecture a few minutes later than usual, and on walking through the doors of the lecture theatre wondered why it was noticeably busier than usual. It took the sight of a rather bearded fellow at the front to realise that it was Mark Leckey, winner of the 2008 Turner Prize, that was to be speaking to us that night. I was apprehensive at first, I'd always thought Runa Islam was the deserved winner of the 2008 prize and remembered not quite engaging with Leckey's installation of films at the time. Over the course of the evening I was to be proved wrong somewhat, and actually left liking the man himself and appreciating his work in a whole new light. The talk he gave was basically a summary of his artistic career so far, from his inclusion in the New Contemporaries exhibition whilst still a student at the end of the 80s, through to the beginning of his video work using found footage, which followed a period of not making art and distancing himself from an art world he felt increasingly disillusioned with. His first notable video work, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, was an homage to various subcultures and the joint euphoria of music, in particular dance and rave.

He made work related to these themes for a few years, but what really interested me was a film he made in 2004 and that was displayed in his winning Turner Prize exhibition. Entitled Made in 'Eaven, it consisted of a camera panning around Jeff Koons' famous rabbit sculpture, his circling it and zooming in and out of the reflections of his empty flat. Although projected as a 16mm film you soon realise the impossibility of it - there is no reflection of a camera recording it - which reveals the true nature of the film as being completely computer generated. Mark Leckey has explained of his fascination with the sculpture that "I like the idea of something that's almost inhuman in its perfection, like Bunny. It's as if it just appeared in the world, as if Koons just imagined it and it appeared" and that is what he is attempting to address in his film, creating something tangible yet impossible. Something he talked about was his inability to fully appreciate or engage with objects in real life, he claimed he needs to see them on a screen, part of the culture of computers and the internet, which has led him not only to his investigations into the 'long tail' theory for the internet, but also, it would seem, a growing disillusionment with the art world (again) and his purpose as an artist. After a short Q & A he concluded that perhaps making a cult would be the only true form of art left. Perhaps this was a just a humourous remark to conclude the evening, but his thoughts on the art world and his ideas about the way we receive and read images left me leaving the theatre with something to think worth thinking about.

Made In 'Eaven - a really bad clip of the film installed as a 16mm projection.

Worth reading, Mark Leckey discussing his reaction to winning the Turner Prize and thoughts on how the media receives contemporary art.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Still images

I'm sitting in foyles cafe, I've just had a tutorial to discuss my ideas and am contemplating my brief for the term ahead: independent exploration. Yes, that's right, an independently led (i.e. basically no timetable commitments) exploration (could it be more vague?) into my interests and impulses as a studying visual artist. As well as trying to work out what exactly to do with all this free time I have been thinking and reading a lot about the relationship between the still and moving image, the connotations of narrative and time associated with each, the idea of reliving the past in film and distilling it with photography, and somehow blurring the boundaries of both in my work. Perhaps inspired in some way by Chris Marker's La jetée and with the intention of creating some form of narrative or sense of time having passed, a suggestion of experiencing the moment, whilst at the same time exploring the connotations of a still image in various forms - a photograph, a freeze frame. Right now it's all just ideas and borrowed theories but hopefully soon I'm looking forward to the creative process once again and trying to transform these ideas into something tangible.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Happy (belated) new year! This is just a post to announce that my every increasing addiction to blogging (or perhaps just making new blogs) has led me to start another blog project, which can be found here. Basically as the title suggests I'm aiming to document with photographs my twenty-first year as it unfolds. I'll most probably upload pictures as they are developed, and in the meantime, let's hope the start of my third decade is a good one...