Thank you for looking through some of my pictures. I hope you find them engaging, and through that, some beauty.
When we look, what we view is not quite what we see, is it?
I think these all matter in their own right: the choices we make to look, of what to look at, and what to see. They also matter through how they inevitably affect each other. As a picture maker though, my main concern is with what you see, and I would like that to be as enduring and true as possible.
Sometimes we can find the absolute in the ordinary, a kind of truth through synthesis that happens through our looking, where the stage is the cinema-of-the mind, the neuro-image (see e.g. Patricia Pisters if you are interested in this).
In programming there is the idea of overloading certain things, allowing different inputs and outputs from the same thing. Layering images through, for instance, multiple-exposure photography allows something similar – not unlike the holographic character of how we, I believe, experience and use memories, thoughts, feelings, emotions, sights, scents and what not.
Photography can arguably be a point-of-departure rather than only a destination. Instead of aiming to capture a moment, it can become a vehicle, create space, and through that facilitate a freedom and ideally – ultimately – agency.
Developing an aesthetic language of its own is one thing, what it allows to be said through its grammar, what poetry it affords, is arguably much more important.
In every-day life, and especially in these times, it is all too easy to become so wound up in ‘putting out fires’ – in the pathogenic perspective that our cultures are arguably most steeped in, that one neglects ‘planting the forest’ – the salutogenic perspective – which means looking towards the creation of wellness. The scientist Aaron Antonovsky says in what he called the theory of Salutogenesis: a framework for health and wellbeing, that wellbeing results from the ‘sense of coherence’ that emerges from the realisation of meaningfulness, manageability and comprehensibility. Artworks also have those dimensions: meaningfulness, manageability and comprehensibility. If beauty entails some of that, and if we recognise that those elements are not static, do not function in isolation, then how does one achieve that in a static image?
herri has kindly selected a few of my recent figure-study-based works to show. Why do I create human-figure based works in the way that I do? I prefer to photograph subjects while they are posing for figure drawing sessions that I facilitate. Among the reasons for doing this is that it creates a different relational dynamic compared to the typical model posing for a photographer setup. In the conventional model photo-shoot contexts, the model is arguably focused on the photographer and the artifice afforded by instantaneous photography and the photographic studio context – it is a context that is conducive to illusion and pretence. Life drawing on the other hand, at least at its best, is a space of honesty – for the model, who is subjected to sometimes challenging postures for extended durations while being acutely observed, and also for the artists who encounter their own limitations and shortcomings. The subject is not posing for the camera, yet there is still a transactional dimension of consent that is arguably absent from, for instance, candid street photography.
My work is influenced by ideas like autopoiesis (cognition’s role in the self-organisation of living systems, see e.g. Maturana and Varela), self-determination theory’s emphasis on autonomy, competence, and relatedness (see Deci and Ryan) and e.g. Piaget’s constructivist ideas’ (e.g. our ‘knowledge’ being the intersection of ideas and experiences), and more (yes, I do like layering A LOT). I try to expand the authorship of ‘my’ works in a direction that counter-points my technical proclivity towards the generative in order to avoid what to me seems like the clinical, even dead, aesthetics of generative aesthetic process that seems to so easily degenerate into banal data-visualization or formulaic rendering while trying to also resist the allure of the romantic idolisation of the whims of the artist and art establishment (neither of these ideals ultimately being completely achievable but that does not negate the value of trying). I like what Kandinsky has to say about the role the elements of personality (let’s call it ‘spectacle’), style (‘fashion’) and artistry (a.k.a. ‘care’ in my reading) in Concerning the Spiritual in Art – but I am not an academic. I make pictures.
There’s a lot more to the tradition of the human form in art but enough written and said about that elsewhere. Suffice it to say here, layering multiple photographs of typically the same person in different gestures allows creating a space that implies a space of time and meaning, that can be as complex as the theatre of the mind allows it to be, yet also as simple as an incidental impression of an-other. It suggests narratives that are at once both impossible to grasp, the subject’s actual histories and experience, and the alienation of being confronted by that and its ambiguity, yet mediated by the reality that we can recognise only by that which we know, that which we impose.
How beautiful is intimacy? Can art be intimate? Is intimacy possible without honesty and consent?
(…roughly translated might mean : life first, community, dismantle domination.)
Sunday, 2022-05-15, Kensington-B, Gauteng, South Africa.