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My DailyDeviation selections of abstract and surreal photographs for the month of April. Thank you to all of the amazing artists for sharing your visions with us. And a special thanks to all of the people who make DD suggestions, I couldn't do this without all of your help and support.
Filippo Brunelleschi is attributed with inventing linear persepctive in the 1400's. The use of opticical technology, such as camera obscuras (which led to the invention of the camera) and mirrors, allowed artists during the Renaissance to create a more "realistic" image. The celebrated English artist David Hockney spent a large part of his career researching this time period, the invention of perspective, and it's implications on art and society as a whole. Hockney puts forth the notion that when these artists sought to create a more real representation of the world, that they actually flattened the image and immobilized the viewer. The below images of Chinese and Indian paintings offer examples of a "non-linear" perspective.
The wonderful thing about this style of painting is that the viewer is able to move throughout the painting. The viewer is able to see more of a narrative, more time, and more space. Modern viewers of this art, being inundated with linear perspective imagery from the camera and Renaissance painting, will most likely view these images as being primitive or "wonky", as Hockney refers to it.
Yet Hockney feels this is a more natural way of seeing the world. He feels that our perspective as we experience and interact with the world is a "wonky" perspective. The painting below, The Last Supper by Dieric Bouts, has this attribute of a slightly distorted perspective. This allows the viewer to be close to all of the things within the image. The viewer feels that they are part of the image and not outside of it.
Above is the Holy Trinity by Masaccio. In this painting that utilizes Brunelleschi's perspective the viewer initially feels that the image looks "right". Hockney points out that this single point perspective puts the vanishing point, where all perspective lines meet, in one single place that is infinity. This freezes the viewer and does not allow them to move in the image. In life as we move through an environment the perspective points are constantly moving. Therefore infinity is all around us and in every direction, it is not a fixed point that is unreachable.
To better grasp this idea see this short video by Hockney:
The reason I chose the Holy Trinity to illustrate this idea is because of a discussion between Paul Joyce and David Hockney that really stuck out to me as interesting and unique. From the book Hockney on Art (conversations with Paul Joyce): PJ: When I left you last, you were talking about the depiction of the crucifixion. At that point you were talking about the frozen eye, the moment of death, the relaionship with photography, and the figure not moving, being pinned, like us, as spectators. DH: I began thinking about the crucifixion and how interesting it was. I now realize that you can't really have a horizontal meeting a vertical without stopping the eye dead. PJ: So the graphic representation of perspective is in a sense rather like a metaphorical crucifixion? DH: The sacrifices you make to achieve the feeling of an object in space in conventional perspective is to render everything down to a theoretical point. Effectively it takes your own body away. It must be damaging us. Cézanne noticed what happened when you look with two eyes, and doubt where something is. There is a connection between that and the act of crucifying. Crucifying is a slow death, and it's caused by lack of movement. Lack of movement is death: movement is life. That is clear, isn't it? The persepcetive picture brings us death. These connections seem so clear now, and nobody's written about them. They are our discovery.
David Hockney is most known and celebrated for his painting and drawing, but he also has an extensive use of photography in his work. It was not until 1982 however, that David realized the potential of photography. He was painting his large living room and trying to resolve the space. He instictively set the large painting into the living room and began making polaroid photographs of the entire scene. He then glued the polaroids to the wall and was instantly mesmerized by the result. He was waking in the middle of the night just to get up and go look at it. He began an intensive exploration of these polaroid composits and he refered to them as The Joiners.
The major issue that Hockney previously had with photography is that he felt it did not contain time. In drawing and painting there is time embedded into the image because we know it took time for the artist to create the image. The photograph is taken in a fraction of a second and therefore there is no observance of time. I would argue that long exposures have a sense of time embedded into them, but Hockney would likely counterargue that it is a very limited sense of time, for there is still no movement or space in the image. Things might blur, such as water or bodies, or streak, such as stars in the night sky, in the long exposure photograph. Yet the image will be inevitably still and frozen nonetheless. Hockney discovered that when he joined photographs, time was brought into the image. The joiners would take hours to complete and the viewer can see the time elapsing between the shots, as well as the photographers movement in the scene. We as viewers are allowed to see how the artist "sees" the scene being photographed.
After the polaroid work Hockney began to use a 35mm camera. This allowed for two important things. For one it was a much faster and lighter work process. This allowed Hockney to explore places in greater depth. The other important reason was so that he could leave the confines of the format of the polaroids, which dictated the layout of the images because of the white borders. This allowed Hockney to be much looser with the way in which the photographs interacted with each other. He could overlap the images, adding depth to the final piece. Depth being another thing Hockney felt photography lacked.
The below photographic collage is titled Pearblossom Highway. Hockney felt this piece encapsulated his photographic explorations in their most complete and final form. This piece at first looks like a normal photograph, but as the viewer looks more closely they realize that things are not as they seem and that the objects are very close to the surface of the image plane. The stop signs, the litter on the street, and the words on the road are uncannily visible and close, an effect that is impossible to achieve with a single photograph. The resulting photographic collage harkens back to The Last Supper by Dieric Bouts that we looked at earlier, a painting that Hockney very much adored and aspired to create. After the creation of Pearblossom Highway Hockney returned most of his focus to painting and other traditional mediums but from time to time he still works with photography.
We clearly can see through Hockney's photography that what the artist chooses to frame and photograph, how far away he is when he photographs it, and what he chooses not to photograph, gives the viewer a more "real" depiction of experience than the traditional use of photography, which is fixed and frozen. If you're struggling to grasp this idea, which I certainly did at first, think about where you are sitting right now. In order to view the space you are in you must move your head about. You will focus on individual things in the space and as you explore it visually your body will move and things will become closer and further away. The perspective lines and vanishing points will constantly be shifting. Through Hockney's ideas I quickly realized, and I hope you the reader will as well, that the act of seeing is a dynamic and interactive one. It is not the frozen place in time and space like photography and perspective painting has fooled us to believe.
For further research watch David Hockney's movie Secret Knowledge which is available on YouTube, and also the book Hockney on Art (conversations with Paul Joyce)
Secret Knowledge part 1: [link] Secret Knowledge part 2:[link]
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