I decided to test my experiments in visual language at a meeting of the Thames Valley student group. It was a very valuable exercise, and these images here are a reproduction of part of what I presented. The initial images were the photographs I made from a few visits to the grounds of Blenheim Palace, I have been looking in a relatively small area – about two hundred yards nearby the lake but off the beaten track as I have found it easier to locate traces and marks away from the main thoroughfares.
Initially I looked for obvious, overt marks which I found quite easy to locate and I became aware that a lot of these marks were signatures, some simple signs of affection or simple statements of being there. I found both of these signs interesting; to want to ‘mark’ a presence in a formal and elevated place, maybe associating oneself with the place? I also wondered about the notion of marking one’s love for someone by coupling names together on a tree, which in all likelihood would out last the relationship – leaving aside the likely the statistical likelihood of a relationship lasting until death.
These two monochrome images had an echo in them – I felt the ripples left by diving grebes and the fleeting sun on the truck of the tree seemed to align and help make the pairing. The combinations of imagery took some time to develop. I decided to reduce some of the narrative layers by editing all the images to square; some of course were square to begin with being 6X6 medium format film photographs, but the digital, all of the colour photographs are digital capture, and one or two of the monochrome were cropped to comply with a single format type. I then edited the images with a text in mind. The handwritten text (including it’s colour) stems from a quotation by Saussure which I found apposite to the experiment I was undertaking.
I broke the text up and then spent a good deal of time coupling image pairs – and in one case a triple – that made some kind of sense to me. This process enabled me to consider the images in different lights, I saw different ‘marks’ and different ‘traces’ as I went about the work. I felt, for example, that the light became in one sense a ‘Mark’ or perhaps illuminated a ‘Mark’, but in other instances it became a ‘Trace’ – I do wonder of light can be seen as a ‘Trace’, I think the ephemeral nature of it suggests that it might? Something to consider.
The square images were relatively small 3.6cms on a side. I think I chose that scale as I have been exposed to relatively small prints lately; the Kenna images at Stowe School and the Francesca Woodman work in the Victoria Miro gallery. Of course this image size would be very difficult for a gallery wall, but for the student exercise it seemed to work, the students being close enough to work out the image content and to read the text – I had laid the images out in a sequence that privileged the text.
It is of course difficult to tell, but my feeling is that the form of the second presentation of sequenced images, albeit paired (or tripled) couple with the text enabled the viewers to seek or perhaps eke out some of what I was requesting them visually to find, namely ‘Marks and ‘Traces’.
There can be no doubt that my vocabulary isn’t anywhere near sophisticated enough to leave images untethered by the anchorage of text. Even if it were I am not sure I would necessarily want to leave my viewers, at this stage free to roam. I became very aware that care must be taken to engage the viewer visually as well as narratively, so my work in the image couplings was well spent, even from a limited set of edited visual phrases. I feel that as I develop my vocabulary, and hence my voice, viewers to my work will find it easier to discern a sense narrative form – even if it isn’t the form that I had when generating the piece of work. I was very pleased that the Thames Valley students were all prepared to engage with the work and start to embellish the images with narrative structures, which because of the scant nature of text must surely have been anchored in their subconsciousness’.
I need to do more work to develop my phraseology and think very hard about the narrative that I want to develop. And then try to develop a contextual referencing to situate the work.