Art through observation

One role of art is to highlight particular facets of the world around us, for us to contemplate and use as a springboard to reconsider certain aspects of ourselves, others, our world, and the relationship between them. The artist’s role then, is to notice things that many of us might miss; essentially be an observer.

The possibility exists to fulfil that same role, not by creating through the act of producing an art piece per se, but through recording the world around us, but with the same critical eye as the artist.

The following pages have diverse series of curated images grouped into abstract types, collected from observing the world around us with this same critical eye. As contrast, below are a number of formally produced works.

Carceris | 1962 2020 | digital

David Bailey Jean Shrimpton Vogue 1962 Marc Furnival 2020 horiz

The most striking feature from the original David Bailey photo, the apexes of the angled limbs touching the edges of the frame, forms a springboard for the impression of entrapment and incarceration. Not only the individual subject but also invoking elements of gender issues and more specifically how women are viewed, not only through the prism of fashion models but also the concomitant wider dilemma of perception, projected onto women in general.

Whilst a relatively obvious interpretation and addition of the original photo, its validity is confirmed as the broader issues around both gender and ethnicity have come, significantly and rightfully, more to the fore during the intervening 50 years.

‘If women aren’t perceived to be within the structures of power, isn’t it power that we need to redefine?’ – Professor Mary Beard

Sky | 2020 | digital 293 x 293 mm

With good reason, usually we seek the most beautiful, which can often translate as the most extreme, be it the most beautiful sunset, highest mountain or most lush forest. Sometimes life can seem a little tedious, and this is how we bring relief and add variety. But by looking anew at something we often do not notice, although we have it around us every day, we can also find beauty.

All photos were shot during one single day, 28th April 2020, and in the same location, the historic market town of Cangas de Onís, Asturias, Northern Spain, towards the end of the COVID-19 quarantine.

Trammel | 1996 | 452 x 302 mm

4339 Trammel

This early work looks at how as we advance through life there are periods in which we feel somehow trapped in the cycle of work and responsibilities, both personally and at a societal level. Feelings of the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ notwithstanding, increasingly people are taking stock of the nature, basis and direction of their life.

More people are defining a variety of ways of moving away from the restraints of a more commonly defined existence, which can often be self imposed albeit partly through unconscious peer pressure. Despite certain responsibilities, such as children for example, we can still make structural decisions about how and where we live, and the qualities of life that would bring, whilst still fulfilling our responsibilities, albeit in a reconfigured way.

‘Eventually it’s possible to escape from of a labyrinth, but from a straight line never’

Ages | 1996 | 732 x 557 mm

4366 Ages alt

This piece, also an early work, explores the life themes typical of the issues that become more important as people enter their late twenties. Notions of increasing responsibilities and career direction, and what that may bring; life beginning to feel ‘real’ as the seemingly infinite potential and ‘immortal’ sensations of early twenties begin to fade.

The newsprint text montage forming the background clearly shows The Times (UK) Wednesday April 17 1996.

4345 detail quintych Ages

Je rentre dans | 1990 | 367 x 263 mm

4337 Je rentre dans

This piece was acquired privately in New York in the Winter of 1992. (Memorable as there had been a particularly severe snowfall.) Although the piece is dated 1990 and is signed, the signature is not fully legible and the artist is unknown. However it would be recognisable to someone who knew it, if anyone could provide further information. On the rear is pencilled ‘Je rentre dans’, I come in, assumed to be the title.

The sombre colour tones render the overall scene as if from a theatre work with anthropomorphic forms being characters in the play. And as in a theatre play, this work is clearly open to a number of interpretations. Looking at the central figure, one interpretation gives us themes of castration and consequent frustration. However, whilst the facial expressions of the two apparently female characters either side of the central figure do allow for this interpretation, there is enough ambiguity for multiple interpretations.

Despite the protagonist position of the central figure, further emphasised by being more brightly ‘lit’, the two figures either side have rich, multi-layered expressions, including fear and embarrassment, as well as coyness in the left hand figure and worry but with a smirk in the right. But there is also a sense of also dominance, as if the apparently male central figure were a lesser being or some kind of pet figure. This is further emphasised by their razor sharp horns and ‘trapping’ the central figure between them, returning us to the initial interpretation, as if the castration had possibly been their handiwork.

4340 Je rentre dans signature