Mental Models – Source Images / Photographs / Flickr and an Atlas

:UPDATE:

Interesting thoughts about photography over here at prison photography, et al… (particularly that the image must now in these times of visual record overload be accompanied with an appropriate caption…)  Perhaps, if the idea of sharing the image is to convey a particular circumstance in a particular situation…  but I wonder, has it been any other way?  Caption as filter that is ?

Original post: Aug 8th, 2007:  After seeing all the responses to Alec Soth’s recent post questioning “where are the great pictures on Flickr?”... I found myself serendipitously picking up my copy of Gehard Richter’s “Atlas” and leafing through the various images that are collected and reproduced in a chronological fashion as his Atlas. It’s interesting and probably just a coincidental circumstance to consider. But I’ve been thinking about the “mental model” lately and what influence that has on the kinds of images one might try to make.

I’m not saying that Flickr is – or even equates to – what Richter’s Atlas is to his paintings… The difference is all about a careful and conscious awareness of intentionality on behalf of the collector / artist… It’s just that there is something profound that I can’t quite fully articulate just yet that has some similarity. Maybe it just a human condition trying to make some sense of the world. Flickr is a wonderful example of both conscientious and unconscious image making.

I think for me, it has to do with the collecting of the images of our lives around us. Whether we make them ourselves through our cameras or find them through some other means of appropriation, these images are important enough to make and then collect. In the collection, they become representative projections of our lives, interests and the times happening all around us in which we attempt to arrange, present and tag for sorting and recollection – to what purpose (understanding?) I’m not entirely sure – but it’s clear the urge to collect and present is passionately pursued. Why else would something like Flickr be so passionately embraced?

Richter’s Atlas (previous post of mine here) is presented as a collection of Photographs, Collages and Sketches from 1962 – 2006 – which I read about in the forward to the images as a collection of “image models” or “sketches” for the body of works that sometimes result in final artistic works. The Atlas is presented as a sort of narrative story of intentionally collected series of images – which we are to consider as a “foil” against the final works. It is about an artist and his collection of models of inspiration.

As a place holder for something deserving of more thought personally…about an artistic creative process… I think it best to simply make note and to quote an entry in the beginning pages which is actually I believe a statement from the artist writings and footnoted as such in the Atlas forward coming from “Notes, 1964”, in : Gerhard Richter, Text-Shriften und Interviews, ed. by Hans-Ulrich Obrist – 1993 p 17.

“I see countless landscapes, photograph scarcely one in 100,000, painting hardly
one in 100 photographed landscapes – I am therefore looking for something quite
specific; from this I can conclude that I know what I want” – from Richter’s
diary dated 12 October 1986.”

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A Picture of absence and a youth’s portrait

Gerhard Richter, Jugendbildnis

Gerhard Richter, Jugendbildnis, photograph by Joachim Schulz from the series “aura”.

A couple of years ago I noticed a series of photographs named “Aura”  by photographer Joachim Schulz.  I have off and on remembered these pictures, but couldn’t remember who had made them.  I came across them again through the site GALERIE POLLER . What appealed to me about the pictures then and now is noticing the trace left behind – and about the possibility of art to transform place … to create a certain collective recollection of events…

Youth Portrait by Gerhard Richter

Jugendbildnis (Youth Portrait)

Gerhard Richter, 1988

67 cm X 62 cm, Oil on canvas

Who is this that the painting depicts ?

“She is a student from the 60s or 70s, a soulful look in her eyes, her hair over her forehead; the painting plays up the innocence of the pose. This is Ulrike Meinhof.” source

ulrike_meinhof_als_junge_journalistin

The painting of this youth looking innocent enough – harmless, sentimental, benign even – but then again -looks can be deceiving as Richter perhaps points out with his series October 18, 1977.  Ideology and the accompanying “isms” often get in the way of really seeing…

I went back and looked at the other pictures of missing pictures of the series “Aura” wondering if another thread might help me to appreciate the series – perhaps something about why these particular photographic situations – post hanging – might be of worth to photograph.  It’s not immediately apparent to me other than perhaps the pictures are all relatively well known – or by well known artists….    While I like the conceptual idea alluded to in the text describing the series, it leaves me wishing that the photographer Joachim Schulz, might have embedded more into the work – by choosing certain specific absent art pieces to tell a story.   Either way,  along similar lines  checkout more of Jachim Schulz work here – the curtains are very nice…

783 sheets (and counting) – Richter’s Atlas

I’ve finally had a chance to look through some of Richter’s Atlas (published by d.a.p.)- and with so much imagery – so many photos, sketches, models, I am amazed at the sheer volume – 783 sheets so far. It is a wonderful book – a glimpse into the images about / around / behind /before / after the painted works…

One of my favorites is at the Des Moines Art Center…

But, I wonder what is the atlas really collecting and what’s the purpose of publishing it as a body of work ? Memories and reasons for paintings?

Some of the photographs are so well composed, I have to wonder if the desired image was already formed in the mind and the photograph is a way of testing it out – before it is transformed into a painting.

I find it interesting where the impulse to finally paint an image comes from – the creative tipping point. Photographs are like rough drafts. A collection of image models. Or, as the introduction suggests, a way of filtering all the possible images to locate the “right image”.

Of interest are the photographic experiments – double exposures and self portraits – sometimes labeled “for prints”.

I don’t know that there are any Richter photographs that are themselves catalogued as finished work. It would be interesting if there were – would they look like Richter’s paintings or be something else?

Where a painting is a “one of a kind” object – existing as its own image – Photography is always of something – and can never seem to escape that … Both involve the hand of the artist – decisions, exclusions, technique, product are all employed to produce – to create “the image”.

“One only makes a photo to make a photo, and if you’re lucky, you will discover it later for a painting. – Gerhard Richter”

Reflecting on self – finding a voice on ideas / craftsmanship

What about “style” I wonder… (ramble?)

How does it relate to determining your voice and articulating that voice and allowing others to find it – to be recognizable. It also has me thinking about how other artists look at themselves – through the democratic machine – the camera…. More about idea and technique (or maybe craft?). What role does style play?


Self-Portrait Three Times
24.1.90 Oil on Photograph
Gerhard Richter

Suppose a painter appropriates photography – to loosely record an image of self – three times. Is it a photograph (or just a narcissistic snapshot) or a painting? What might it say ? Richter’s self-portrait is more than just a photograph – not really a snapshot – after all. It does more than merely record. What transforms it ? The image or the stuff of the image (oil paint) ? Is it pretty? What is it that makes the object interesting to me – What provokes me to think.

In Richter’s self-portrait above – I visually I go back and forth into the image (the realness represented by the photo – yet recorded three times over) and then back to the physicality of the surface and the actions of the artist recorded at yet another time of the artist’s intention – an application of tool and oils… a layered time record. I think Richter represents both idea and craft in the image and I like it for that depth. But it’s all about the artist and his struggle to justify his painting right? But the craft is sort of only represented – not really embodied in the particular portrait example.

Consider another artist:
Chuck Close - Big Self-Portrait, 1968
Chuck Close b. 1940
Big Self-Portrait, 1968
acrylic on canvas
107 1/2 in. x 83 1/2 in.

Suppose an artist appropriates the photographic self portrait in a photo-realism sense -(beware ideology of “isms”) Close makes it his own I think by the fact that he painted it by hand – his hand – as opposed to the machine image – (and he does it again and again in different media over a long , long time )- but the image tries hard to be real – really real. It tries to be like a photograph record. But what is recorded here? Where do you go when you look at an image like this – where does it take you – admiration of craftsmanship – no doubt. Appreciation of artistic labor – and as I become more aware of this artists “body of work” a certain tenacity and an appreciation for change (physical aging / changes) over time. It’s old news, but I enjoyed looking again over the interview – “Navigating the Self” associated with Chuck Close’s show “Chuck Close: Self-Portraits 1967-2005” – at the Walker last year… Chuck Close closes the interview with:

. . . I think if I had been one of those smooth-faced pretty boys, I would
not have done a lot of self-portraits. I don’t think it would have been very
interesting.

Here’s a link: Chuck Close Opening Day Talk at the opening of his Retrospective at the Walker Art Center.
This melding of photography / painting is of more interest to me in particular than the question of projecting an image over a canvas to assist in producing an image – but an interesting post is presented here – on Alex Soth’s archived blog… provoking how one decides upon a content of the image – basics – I suppose on composition / content. Maybe I just don’t get it…About “style” and “categorization” by photographers and by lovers of photography – for me anyway – what seems to come of this is nothing more than galvanizing me on my opinion that it is good to avoid a recognizable style (at some point) but this probably puts at risk a weak reception of work. Just how important it is to be recognizable and therefore more saleable? Very important problem and a question – if you are trying to support yourself through your art. On one hand this is troubling. It parallels the problem of educational pedigree as a ticket to serious consideration. I wonder about questionable motivations. I guess I have a thing for amateur works.

A sense of voice is important to develop – but determining when that voice is your own is excruciatingly difficult – and who gets to decide anyway? The buying public? How easy it is to fall into a mimicry – style and all. It takes a lot to figure out a direction – and to make it your own.
Perhaps my own view is a warped and narrow view – but that’s where I am at the moment. I think finding a tone in your voice is key – but how to do that? I hope to move beyond questions of style – maybe it’s just a matter of accepting style as a given (by others) and working with it as kind of constraint. It is just a matter of doing the work.
1981
Oil on linen
Gerhard Richter
© 2006 The Contemporary Art Institute
Maybe Richter has found a way to keep from getting caught up in style – by showing how irrelevant it is in his work – Something to think about.

Spiegel
1986
200 cm X 180 cm
Gerhard Richter
© 2006 The Contemporary Art Institute
Maybe it’s a good exercise to try an make a self portrait ?