Tag Archives: roland barthes

Through a lens darkly

Thursday 22 December 2005

My work is getting darker, more gloomy, claustrophobic, misty, myopic even. Perhaps it is the time of year – today after all is the shortest day (the winter solstice, the night of the 21st as I write), and I prefer to work in natural light. The darker it gets outside the closer I need to get to my work. I appear to be avoiding clarity in preference for an overall infusion of subdued tonalities and dissolving textures; creating a distant hum rather than a distinct sound (taking the original meaning of tone).

abstract gesso textures, paintings

I have also been avoiding the usual visual dynamic of composition – there are few if any focal points. Composition should be used as a means to guide or control the viewer’s gaze, and yet I am denying this element (firstly for myself). I prefer to let my eyes travel over, scan, survey, speculate, pause and then be drawn to or arrive at a previously ignored or unseen detail – which leads to the next stage of developmemt. My only allowance to composition seems to be in a need for symmetry or balance.

abstract textures in painting, artist studio

Little to report, only possibilities at present. These (nine in total) are very small tablets (gesso on calico on wood) at 30 x 30cm. I’m still finding my way out of the fog I’ve created.

abstract textures, gesso on canvas

Dark, fraught, an oppressive shape emerging from the right?

mixed media paintings in progress in studio

Rivulets and puddles (of paint) messily join hands?

mixed media abstract, artist studio

Is that a flurry of snow, sweeping across the fences?

mixed media abstract landscape - painting in progress, artist studio

A strong north-easterly wind ravages across the vista?

I’ve been dipping into Roland Barthes ‘Camera Lucida‘ – for the third or fourth time. I’ve never managed to read it in one hit even though it’s a slim volume; the language although lyrical, perhaps through translation seems stilted or too ‘abrupt’ in places, and his bitesize insights make for episodic reading. I’m intrigued by his notion of retracing or traversing history from the moment a photograph is taken (the moment it represents in time) – not just what led to this point, but also what became of or happened next?

Of course, photography is through a single (fixed in focus) lens and as such its part in history could be seen to follow a linear path – but perhaps not. I view the world with two lenses, and so my own perceptions (through time and memory) are more layered, varying in depth and emphasis, at times distorted or dissipated. There must be a methodology to my avoidance of visual lucidity in painting – wanting more of an overall sensation than a clear snapshot. I begin with a rough haze, slowly moving around, forwards (or backwards) to arrive at a (perhaps the original) moment of clarity or relevance.

I’m rambling again, but hey, this is a journal, not an essay. What am I asking Santa for this Christmas – a new camera?? Binoculars would seem a better option…