Artist research

After assignment four was submitted my tutor has suggested some artists to research and consider. Rafeal Dellaporta’s work, particularly the Antipersonnel series was suggested as another approach to my own in the presentation of artefacts. Dellaporta, in his work of deadly devices, describes these still-lifes in a beautiful chiaroscuro light against a black background. The background elicits the notion of preciousness, as if they were jewelled treasures from an auctioneer’s catalogue, the accompanying text though firmly places these objects as if from a manufacturers’ catalogue:

“Antipersonnel Bounding Fragmentation Mine

V- 6 9 Italy

The V-69 antipersonnel bounding fragmentation mine can be set off by footfall pressure or through a tripwire. When detonated the fuse sets off propellant gases that fire the mine’s inner body 45cm above the ground. This explodes sending out more than 1,000 pieces of chopped steel. Between 1982 and 1985, its manufacturer Valsella sold around 9 million V-69s to Iraq. The mine was given a nickname by Iraqi minelayers: the “Broom.”

  1. 120 mm wght. 3,2 kg”

The disembodiment of the treacherous device from any sense of context, its complex beauty transliterating from purpose to object d’art is the beguiling device Dellaporta uses to conceal the artifice. The indexical properties of a photograph, which might catalogue both the device and the mis-en-scene of its designated purpose come together off the page. Nowhere in an armaments catalogue would the collateral damage be available for viewing. These objects aren’t typologies in the Becher tradition, though they are imaged in a very similar construction, distant from their purpose yet imbued with menace by the accompanying textual referencing.

The artefacts in my work were conceived to the distant, their emotional presence distanced by, what I have hoped is a forensic aesthetic methodology. The visual rendering of the images is as wide as I could make it; I wanted as little information as possible missing from the frame, from the artifact, the whiteness suggesting a clinical presence. Perhaps that’s the key differentiator – black versus white, or vice versa – Dellaporta’s work draws one in whereas my imagery holds the viewer from the frame.

Also mentioned was Celine Marchbank’s work ‘Tulips’. This work is a very tender rendition of the artist’s mother decline through cancer to death. I suspect it was mentioned to me because of the imagery within the images, clearly very personal and it reminded me of fellow student’s Penny Watson’s work about her Nanny as well as Colin Gray’s work ‘In Sickness and in Health about his mother’s decline, I wrote about it here. I hope to meet Colin in Glasgow when I attend the FTN event on the 20th November as he is part of that collective.

Also suggested was Laura Larson’s work ‘Hidden Mother’ which I think has a lot more going on, archive clearly with its concomitant historical perspectives, but also about representation and motherhood. I’m not sure what relevance this has for my work, but I am intrigued and will come back to it when I have more time.

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9 thoughts on “Artist research

  1. Trying to get my mind around the significance of the background colour for the still life shots. In a catalogue one would expect a white background generally I think. Certainly this would be the background of choice for forensic photography. Black evokes by definition a darker mood. Black backgrounds are often associated with men, white with women. Men are dark and characterful, women are pure and angelic?? The association of black with men might also be linked to power and menace (which might be appropriate for your work…). For me Dellaporta’s still life’s seem to be floating rather than grounded. I wonder if this might also be appropriate for your images as they refer to fleeting, uncertain memories. Just a few thoughts….

    • Always good to get your view Keith, thanks! Whilst I am happy with the background for the artefacts, considering the effect of another binary depiction is interesting. Black is more expensive to print though ha ha!

  2. Thanks for referring Penny’s book, it had been featured on the website before I began studying with the OCA and I had missed it (there is a Stephanie on the comment box but it is not me!).
    Everything seems to be heading in a promising direction John, that’s inspiring!

    • Penny’s work is beautiful and tender and has always stayed with me since I first saw it. I do feel some momentum now which is fun/scary/exciting. Thanks Stephanie.

  3. I certainly recognised that link with Dellaporta’s work. To me the mention of Celine Marchbanks and Laura Larson appears like a counterpoint – about tenderness and caring. You have written about ‘love’.

    • Marchbank’s and Larson’s work present different visual strategies, surprising as it might sound I am starting to think about what my next project might be. It will be about love, but in what form I’m not sure. Thanks again Carherine, envelopes came today – they are very red!

  4. For what it’s worth, John, I have used both black and white backgrounds in the ‘still life’ images for ‘Textbook’. I hadn’t really analysed the choices of which/where until reading your post but I’ve just been back to it and, almost without fail, the white backgrounds occur where I have deliberately evoked the ‘forensic’ whereas the black tends to be where I’ve moved towards the ‘surreal’ or ‘unreal’ (in line with Ken’s ‘floating’ comment, I think). Perhaps the answer is to try it and see what you think.

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