Round peg in a square hole
Throughout my life, I have used photography as a medium for record-making. Whether simple holiday photographs; newsworthy images; scientific analysis, or commercial photography. With a background seated firmly in the science camp, my work has always been ‘factual’: while the subject matter may prompt discussion and debate, the photograph in itself does not require cogitation or deliberation.
I am disinclined to commit too much time to any work that requires me to decide what it is. I like watercolours to be honest reproductions of the subject; statues to be life-like and photographs to be representative: classical art.
A lunch-stop on a recent school trip saw me sitting in a restaurant with a small number off teenaged boys. While enjoying the provender, our attention could not help but be drawn to the large artwork festooning the wall near us – an oil painting to which I would certainly give no wall-space. Crude daubs of colour, outlined thickly in black, with a loosely abstract appearance, yet trying (seemingly) to portray something. In discussion with the boys (all of whom study art, and one who had recently gained an Art Scholarship to his future school), decision could not be made as to whether this was the work of a novice, or depressingly, or the work of a cultured and capable artist. More time focussed upon the possibility of a subject matter and again decisions were divided. One suggested that it was an entirely abstract piece; another believed that it was a snowy mountain scene; while another thought it was a goat on the side of a mountain. Consensus moved towards the possibility that it was a very poorly conceived painting of a polar bear, but there was uncertainty about the colours at the top and bottom of the painting. These were expertly explained away by a boy who had until that point been quiet and contemplative: it is a painting of a polar bear’s head and shoulders resting on a blue pillow, with a brightly coloured (and patterned) duvet wrapped just below his shoulders. A thought-provoking painting, yes; an opportunity for entertaining discussion with the boys, yes; but ultimately, I feel cheated out of precious minutes off my life that I will never get back, spent debating ‘art work’ that was in my opinion truly appalling and should not have been on public display. I am almost annoyed with myself for not having taken a photograph of the item in question, as it does need to be seen to be believed, but I did not want to prolong the agony.
So it is that I battle with any perceived wisdom that believes that art (and therefore photography) has to be contemporary or interpretative, with little room for ‘classical’ work. ‘Horses for courses’ maybe, but I get the impression that in following my current academic path, I am a flat racer in this Puissance. Reviews, guidance and feedback suggests that rather than follow the path I have investigated and developed, I should head off in spurious directions connected by the most tenuous link that exists in the mind’s eye of the appraiser – I cannot guarantee that my work will be entirely accommodating, but through gritted teeth I will try my best.