Mia/ Project proposal Final version 2019

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Project proposal FINAL TEXT (10. 11. 2019)

I wish to explore in depth the practice between photography and gestural mark making by further development of 'Trace' and 'Drawing Camera', projects that I set up last year and would like to build from in the following months.

I notice that in my recent practice, the element of gesture is what reveals to me the bridge between drawing and photography. I understand the gesture as a recording of a hand (or material itself) in movement and as such a constitutive element of drawing. Philip Rawson beautifully describes that the essential feature of drawing “'remains that something /…/ has made a mark that records a two-dimensional movement in space'”. This very mark interests me in drawing as well as in photography.

I first embodied this interest in the photo-books 'Trace 1' and 'Trace 2'. The basis for it is an ongoing photographic series, in which I capture marks of use, scratches and strokes in my surroundings. I transformed myself into a hair-splitting observer, looking through the analogue camera on a hunt for marginal marks of use. Instead of actively leaving traces as a painter, I became alert to be able to run into interesting, painterly fragments. As mentioned, the series is continuous, meaning that I am still taking more pictures for this typology. In the following months, I expect to enrich the repertoire and make a few different selections to produce 'Trace 3' and 'Trace 4'. I envisage the selection for each next book to fall under a certain category, based either on the formal aspects of the photographs or the types of marks captured (e.g. dark marks on light background and vice versa, textured or smooth surfaces, accidental vs. deliberate marks etc.). I want to experiment with the colour-inversion of the books I am to make (black book placed on white chalk dust) and with other means of presentation the series could take (e.g. wallpaper or even flooring that people could walk over leaving footprints etc.). I regard this series as an ongoing process or a parallel project, simple/spontaneous enough to serve as a sketchbook or diary of my fascinations.

See prototype wallpaper here

On the other hand, I explore gesture through the hand-made 'Drawing Camera' I designed last year, and now that I know how to operate it, I am going to explore the possibilities it offers as a tool further . Rather than striving for particular imagery, I am currently more interested in the process itself. By process I mean making the camera, handling and modifying it and lastly using the darkroom as a camera. The camera-building process proved to be very open-ended and stands as an answer to the mass-production of image-making equipment which is - especially in photography - becoming increasingly complicated and non-transparent.

The next stage was modifying the ‘slides’ – compositions, drawn onto the plastic foil which I slide in the camera-body to take a picture. As stated before, the gesture does not only indicate the recording of a moving hand but also of the substance itself. From using the pens to make mostly linear drawings, I then shifted towards tone and texture-based marks made with acrylic paint and ink, using different implements as well as my fingers to draw, stamp, or scratch out the form. Stamping, pressing or dripping the paint makes gestures that record the movement of the substance itself rather then follow a moving point. This physicality of the material is something I am to explore further, as I see a possibility of literally stamping parts from my surroundings to create new slides and thus new directions the pictures could take. I want to experiment with stamping dust, dirt or other marks on a piece of tape that I can apply to the plastic and insert in the camera. This way, I come back to the idea of an index, so very present in the Trace series.

Whilst working with the 'Drawing Camera', I rely on intuition and creation is a very spontaneous process. With the collection growing, I then retrospectively analyse and group the images based on the analogies in relation to form and subject. Thus, I have recently printed two clusters of 'Drawing Camera' pictures, one outlined as landscape and the other as abstract series. Selection is an essential aspect of the process which I wish to lead more meticulously. As I end up with many pictures, I set myself the criteria to categorise the outcomes. In abstract series, for instance, I considered texture, contrast in form and tone, layering and degree to which the photographic projection merges with the reality of substance present in the drawing. The more graphic the photograph, the more I found it fascinating (hence the choice of black-and white film). On the other hand, while selecting for Landscape series, I was mainly looking for analogies (or contrasts) between the facets of nature (e.g. tree bark, water, treetops) and marks I made with acrylic paint (e.g. amorph shapes, branched patterns, rock-resembling form). Generally, I could say that the harder it is to distinguish both layers, the more convincing I find the picture. That is what I mean by ‘exploring the gesture as the bridge between photography and drawing’ and this is what I propose to dig into in the following months.

Concretely, the next step is the materialisation of existing images. I wish to try out different supports such as textiles, papers and plexiglass, and printing techniques (both digital and analogue) to be able to compare and think about the connotations the materials carry. I am considering participating in the EYE project and turn my pictures into a moving image piece (but the idea is still too vague to delineate).

See prototype prints on fabric here

As mentioned, I consider printing in the darkroom a way of working with the camera. The negative serves as a starting point, a new motif which can be cropped, darkened, masked, resized. In a way, I am making a new picture out an existing one and I feel this is finally the moment of bringing it into existence. Just recently I printed the above-mentioned 'Landscape' and 'Abstractaparat' series. I printed on fibre-based paper I have never used before, but surprisingly, the experience proved to be very much familiar. Soaking the exposed paper in the chemical solution, agitating, rinsing, pressing it in-between blotting papers and finally drying the prints felt exactly like etching process I used to engage in. The feel of wet prints and observing tone-changes as they dry reminded me so much of printmaking that I immediately understood how printmaking is in fact a bridge between photography and its predecessor drawing. As I enjoyed darkroom printing very much and see a direct relation to the conceptual questions I have with my work, I find it a crucial step in my future 'Drawing Camera' practice. I wish to expand it into the territory of photogram and chemigram which provide much space for exploration of gesture. However, print making does not only manifest as a link at a technical level, but is also implied in my works conceptually - to leave a trace is to imprint. Thus, it is an aspect I wish to investigate as my practice develops.

See prototype fibre-based prints here

Mostly, I wish to focus on the creative processes that address the question of how I can develop the practice which merges photographic and drawing principles. The process is open-ended and will probably result in a photographic (or partly-photographic) series which is not limited to the pictures hanging on the walls, but could be an object, a spatial installation, or a moving image piece.

My background is strongly rooted in drawing, painting and printmaking, where I was mainly interested in the formal aspects of the medium in combination with appropriated or recycled imagery, resulting in collage or mixed-media works with abstraction as an important mechanism. I did not have much experience in photography, however, since I feel that especially analogue photography is in many ways similar or shares some principles with hand image-making, I regard it as a natural continuation of my practice. By photography I am mostly focused on analogue or even early photographic processes. My exploration of these is centred around the same fundamental concepts as my previous practice - what is a mark, an index, a print, what is a gesture, surface and layering - which results in the formal similarities between recent and previous works.

In terms of practice I see the relation with camera-less photography of for example Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer, who is using the darkroom as a camera to ‘paint’ with light directly on paper and her work often takes a form of a landscape. Furthermore, I was inspired by Pierre Cordier, who developed the form of chemigram – a picture produced without the camera, only by using developer, fixer and other photographic chemicals. Among artists who explore the characteristics of the photographic medium are also Juliana Borinski and Tacita Dean, with whom I feel related in the aspect of collecting (in my case traces, in her case for instance postcards, old photographs etc.). Thinking about the photobook 'Trace', I came across few examples that share basic principle of the work – one by the artist called Claude BLO Ricci, who made a publication Pictures Born in Chaos, a collection of ever-changing surfaces of his direct surroundings. Another example is a zine by Czar Kristoff: New Refuge who collected, enlarged and bound together the scribbles customers make in stationary stores when testing pens… I created a wiki page for further reading on the artistic practices that influence my work here.

Furthermore, reading about theory of photography and drawing serves me as inspiration and provides me with conceptual support. I am interested in the discourse about painting’s relation to photography, as for instance described by Martin Jay and Susan Sontag. As I am questioning the borders of the medium, I found Rosalind Krauss’ text A Voyage on the North Sea very relevant as well, while reading Duchamp’s vivid description of creative process in The Creative Act resonated with my own approach to making. Currently I am digging in the theory of drawing, especially in its fundaments as for instance discussed by Philip Rawson’s book Drawing and I will continue with Deanna Petherbridge’s The Primacy of Drawing.

I explore mark-making between photography and drawing because it seems to me that there are fundamental similarities between the marks we leave in general. I believe this kind of traces are something we all have in common. They are in fact predecessors of (visual and verbal) language and belong to the very human nature which fascinates me. I am attracted to the fundamentals of both means of image-making, photographic and gestural and I think they are tightly related. In fact, in the early stages of photography (which is a much younger medium than drawing and painting), similarities between them were much more obvious and visible. On the one hand, photographers were trained with a painter's eye and on the other, painters would adopt photographic understanding of flattened space. The relation was thus reciprocal, sharing principles in composition, methodology, colour, understanding of space etc. With the development of (digital) photography, the latter seems to differ from hand-made gestural image-making, and I wish to bring attention to the principles they still share (I explore these issues in greater depth in my thesis).

Planning – timetable and support:

  • October&November: 2 exhibitions (Pivka and Kranj - to try out a couple of ideas, as prototypes)
  • making another photobook
  • darkroom experimentation
  • December and January: EYE project (moving image)
  • Then … where the practice leads me

Tutors and peers help me to meet the plan with analysing my works and bringing another view on what it means. I asked Sonia, Bojan and photography teachers in the station (Meno and Jeroen) for practical matters of actual printing, working with fibre-based paper etc. Sonia is an experienced photographer, also interested in formal and inherent qualities of the photographic medium and I find discussions with her most fruitful as we share our references, readings and experiences.

References:

1. Duchamp, M (1961) The Creative Act, Lecture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York

2. Flusser, V (1983) Towards a Philosophy of Photography, London Reaktion Books

3. Jay, M (1989) ‘Photography and the Mirror of Art’ in Salmagundi No. 84, (pp. 14-23)

4. Krauss, R (1992) The Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition, New York Thames and Hudson Inc.

5. Rawson, P (1987) Drawing, Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press; first edition published in 1969 by Oxford University Press

6. Sontag, S (2005) On Photography, New York RosettaBooks LLC (electronic edition); first edition published in 1973