S H Bean ~ Photographer

"…within the same space the real and the abstract"

Posts tagged ‘Avant garde Photography’

The epistemic excesses of Photography part 2

Unless it is to serve some scientific purpose, for example a photograph of a landscape indicating the geology of the region, the question whether a photograph shows the highest level of fidelity is irrelevant and misleading. As, based on the Artist perception there may be an infinite number of interpretations of a landscape. The camera after all is just another paintbrush with which to probe the invisible and the resulting image must be true to the artist vision and not to the object. The Early Light asks “what do things look like when we don’t look at them” meaning of course that one should use perception and the knowledge of light and color for ‘discovering appearances’, anything less is merely a data collecting exercise.

What do things look like when we do not look at them part 2

We must ask ourselves what is meant by this statement? As I read it the word “look” seems to be the most critical, and if we revisit the difference between seeing and perceiving perhaps it is possible to find some understanding.

Of course I am only able to discuss this from the point of view of my own history as an Artist and Photographer.

Seeing is the act of profane vision: that of common sight, the kind we use when we for instance when we go for a walk in a seemingly visually stable Landscape. Seeing is the biological role of our vision. The act of perceiving is one based on prior knowledge and of experience and the level of knowledge can of course vary, and we use it to assert the colour of daylight and of course the color of shadows.

The Early Light Project explores a perceptual approach to reading the landscape and is a process, like acquiring knowledge, of searching for appearances and their imminent visibility.

“…a blissful sense of liberating non-objectivity drew me forth into a “desert”, where nothing is real except feeling..”.

Kazimir Malevich. Part II of The Non-Objective World (part of BAUHAUS book No 11. 1927)

What do things look like when we do not look at them?

If as Ruskin noted: “the perception of solid form is entirely a matter of experience” the same may be attributed to the light and color on (or around) an object. As an artist I am interested in this proposition and in the infinite ambiguity of visual information in a scene.

There is a difference between seeing (profane vision) and perception. It is perception that provides for the “gradual discovery of appearances” not profane vision and it takes knowledge or perception and not profane vision to know that in the early morning or late afternoon the “sunlighted grass is…yellow” or the shadow black.

We know that the Impressionists had great difficulty at deciding what things looked liked…..so perhaps as Berkeley said the world as we see it is a construct slowly built up by everyone of us based on knowledge and experience.

Quotes from : Art and Illusion, E H Gombrich. Phaidon 1996

On Shadows part 3: Form but no texture

As in Plato’s cave the shadow represents the object that creates it, but in the Early Light Project it is given it’s own unique qualities. It has form but unlike the object that created it has no texture and it is the lack of texture that gives the shadow its own plane. There are no clues that tell us about the hidden depths within it’s emptiness. It is normal for the artist to assign planar qualities to objects within the image, but is the shadow flat or does it have depth? It is the one great variable in a seemingly fixed and epistemically stable Landscape. Its ambiguity is a force of attraction.

The shadow is a creative act of a profane object, and it is the visibility of which I concern myself.

Exploring imminently visible realities

The images in The Early Light Project demand a special kind of attention and perception from the viewer. By exploring imminently visible realities, those outside the narrow optical window of human sight, the Early Light Project represents a break in the bourgeois response to traditional representational Photography. The biological role of our vision, that is the optical window through which we see, is to visually simplify and stabilize an unstable visual world so that objects within this environment remain recognizable even if the color, light direction and the brightness of the background changes.

It is the artist’s perceptual response to the visually unstable environment that is the source of these images, not the biological function of seeing.

 

On the influence of “Contrast of Forms”. (painting by Leger)

‘The Invisible Landscape’ and Planar forms

By separating the represented object into series of planes contrasted by — naturally occurring backgrounds and pitch black shadows, there is an inevitable and more or less consistent progression towards creating three-dimensional objects within a two-dimensional space, a progression in which shadow and object compete with one another to become “delineated planar forms”. This has the effect of creating the ultimate three dimensional illusion within the classical constraints of a photograph.

( quote from: A Rare Synthesis of Realism and Abstraction by Gail Stavitsky)

The epistemic excesses of Photography.

Ever since it was developed Modern Photography’s power came from the fact that it could reproduce what the Artist saw with more exactness than anything before it. We still hold this notion, like children holding on to a birthday present. The initial actions of surprise and covertness of the child for its present may be said to hold true for the epistemic exactness of Photography. From 1822 till now this has been the one certainty and until photography understands that in the obviously visible there is a world of invisibility it will always remain in puberty.

However as a Photographer when I perceive an object there is no guarantee of visual consistency or permanence but rather an infinite number of possibilities. If we question ( and as Photographers we should) that there is visual uncertainty of what we see in front of us and also question the biological processes that allow us to see, then Photography, more than any other art form  will allow us to reach deeper into the invisible, and move from the continuing epistemic excesses and become more aligned to the Avant Guard, more specifically Suprematism, Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism.

“…a blissful sense of liberating non-objectivity drew me forth into a “desert”, where nothing is real except feeling..”.

Kazimir Malevich. Part II of The Non-Objective World  (from the BAUHAUS book No 11. 1927)

On Shadows part 2

In these images the shadow represents the object that creates it, but its also has its own unique qualities such as emptiness. There are no clues that tell us about the hidden surfaces within it, nonetheless it is a force of attraction. It is the one great variable in a seemingly fixed and epistemically stable Landscape. It is a creative act of a profane object, the visibility of which I concern myself.

‘The visible has a layer of invisibility about which the artist concerns himself’

Maurice Merleau-Ponty,The Primacy of Perception.

Visual consistency or permanence

Our vision is very limited, we only see a minute part of the world in which we live in. As a Photographer when I perceive an object there is no guarantee of visual consistency or permanence. I am constrained to rely exclusively on how my visual experience, my perception allows me to extract what is otherwise invisible. The thing that interests me is that these stones, just profane objects really, are there in the environment but they are in a state of visual flux and the Early Light Project explores an alternative approach to viewing them, one in which one could NOT be certain of visual superiority, in a sense to add flux and ambiguity and remove the certainty nearness.

The ‘Optical Window’

The ‘Optical Window’

The ‘optical window’ of profane vision creates real world problems for Photography (also for Art in general) and for most of the time the general public are not aware of them. What is the correct brightness of the scene in front of me, is that the right colour? It is this invisible world that I am interested in. How can we accurately see using our eyes?
Our vision is very limited, we only see a minute part of the world in which we live in and that through the limitations of an optical window. This window is designed to help us make visual sense of the world. It helps brain to see the world as visually stable, even though the sensory (visual) information is typically rapidly changing. A sheet of white paper will, within reason, eventually look white under any lighting conditions.
As a Photographer when I perceive an object (rather than using profane vision) I understand there is no guarantee of visual consistency or permanence but rather an infinite number of visual possibilities.

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