Photography ... astronomy ... art ... design ... technology
(... and the odd rant)

All of these make my world go 'round, to some extent, and they will all be found here at some time or other. Some of the photography can be purchased from my Redbubble site. I can also be found at Tempus Fugit (no longer being updated).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Can I be an artist please?

I’ve been taking photographs for many moons now (or to put it another way, more than a full orbit of Saturn). In that time, I’ve exposed many frames of film, and printed more than a few boxes of paper. I started with a Box Brownie, moved on to my Dad’s Yashicamat, then on through a succession of 35mm, rollfilm & 5×4 cameras of varying quality and pedigree. [The largest camera I ever used was 48 inches (1.2 metres) in aperture, and took thin glass plates 14 inches (356mm) square … the UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory. However, as you can’t actually look through a Schmidt, it is technically just a big camera.]

Professionally, my work was scientific in nature, while my spare time interests were more creative. I have produced some right old rubbish, and a few more memorable and enduring images. My aim was always to produce something that I’d be happy to hang on my wall, and which would be a pleasing image of some sort. Apart from a few years in a camera club, almost at the start of my involvement with photography, and a couple of later low-key exhibitions, I never seriously contemplated the possibility of providing my photography for wider consumption. Redbubble, however, has been influential in changing my mind on that.

For much of the last 15 years, my photographic effort has been almost nil. I seemed to have lost touch with my muse. Some time within the last 5 years or so, I did start playing with images again – initially just dabbling with low-res digital tweaking of some of the few pics I had taken. Gradually, I started feeling the desire to do more than this, and as my PC systems were upgraded, was able to work at higher resolutions until I could handle poster-sized images without too much difficulty. But still I wasn’t shooting much to speak of, so the end results were little more than just stretching my photographic muscles again, so to speak.

I dragged myself out of hiding to take part in a fun photographic event hosted by the Regional Gallery, where photographers were invited to bring along a BW image and talk about it briefly; I really enjoyed that, partly because it brought me into contact with the local art community. This is what I took along:

Pigeon Woman

For the ensuing year or so, I began to take my photography more seriously again, and wondered whether some of what I was doing might be suitable for any of the local galleries. Somehow, I always had difficulty with that – whether photography, mine in particular, could stand alongside works that were palpably more worthy of being called art. That’s just me. Somewhere, there was always a nagging feeling that I wasn’t an artist, that my reason for taking pictures was just to hang something on the wall that was nice to look at, without there being any greater substance, any social comment or underlying meaning to the images.

Then on that wonderful evening in November last year, I stumbled upon redbubble; seeing the tremendous wealth of talent out there seemed to be the catalyst I needed. Since then I have been gradually developing a body of work – very mixed, it has to be said – that might soon become something more than just a few images on the HDD. I might at last dare to call myself an artist. Maybe I’m too left-brain though, too concerned with technical quality, and not sufficiently able to let go and just be utterly creative, without always comparing with existing standards and references. I hope not!

3:58 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the regional gallery again, and found an exhibition that in itself I didn’t find particularly enthralling. The following part of the brief introduction to the work on display did catch my eye though:
  • His figures can be easily read as archetypal images of ‘man’ giving no indication of external factors, no clues, and no contextualization, leaving viewers to contemplate the trans-historical universal human.
Now, I’m curious about how many other visitors to that exhibition will have "contemplated the trans-historical" ... etc, as it hadn’t occurred to me to do so. I think that this is substantially why I have had difficulty seeing myself as An Artist. I don’t seem to understand the lingo. My more frequent reaction to exhibitions is "yes, but is it art?" Or perhaps, "why is it art?" I think I’d like to take a group of artists, critics, gallery directors and other cognoscenti, as well as the lay public, through such an exhibition without their reading the introduction, and see how many of them would actually come up with a reaction that reflected the commentary. It might be an interesting experiment.

Buy art


KazM said...

For years I wondered if my artistic efforts might suitable for public exhibition. Being unsure of my level of ability it took years and a battle with breast cancer for me to decide to take my drawing books out of hiding and more years to look for a means to see if other people saw merit in them. At I have found a supportive artistic community and a means to make my work available for sale. Now I am stretching my artistic muscles and enjoying many new experiences. It is a great way to see the talent of the world.

Duncan said...

Hi kaz, glad to hear you came out of hiding as well. I saw a quote on a bubbler's profile: "I don’t think there's any artist of any value who doesn't doubt what they’re doing." – Francis Ford Coppola. I hope that means we're artists of value!

Anonymous said...

Redbubble is a good site, but I'm a bit annoyed by the founder of the site. He speaks out against the art world too much. As an artist I dream of having an exhibit at a legitimate gallery in New York. So why does Pilgrim put that dream down? Myartspace and STUART have sent their members to major contemporary art fairs. Redbubble should do the same if they are a site for professionals.

Duncan said...

Hmmm... you'd have to show me a comment where Pilgrim has spoken out against the art world and put down your dream. From what I understand (as far as I have tried to understand the approach, rather than just using it for my own ends), the general approach is to democratise art and enable "lesser practitioners" to have a platform for their creations.

Having been using the site for nearly a year now, I think that any professional using it will do so as just one tool for promoting their art and raising their profile in general. It may develop into something that can bring in significant income, but I don't see that happening yet, which means it will likely appeal more to the amateur than the pro, for the time being.

Corryong said...

Pilgrim here and I am sorry if I have put down your dream of being in a major gallery. That is not my intent. As I have often said, I adore major galleries (I have certainly spent enough time in them) and I love a great deal of establishment art. My perspective is however that many people get intimated (rather than inspired) by this high art and don't practise their art. i believe that the art world (like the music world) can be more inclusive and there is room for many people to create (not just a few). I do think a lot of the curators and art officials make art much more intimidating than it should be.