Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol would use a polaroids as a template for his screenprints, taking up to 200 photographs of his famous subjects in order to get the right picture, sometimes using two polaroids to make one image if he couldnt.

The polaroids are often unflattering, capturing people at odd angles and in harsh lighting, showing the celebrities in their true state before being turned into his iconic paintings.

Warhol said himself that he 'just wanted to make people look beautiful' however the polaroids unforgiving and honest images is exactly what he liked about them saying that they always came out just right, though he never presented them as pieces of work in their own right.

Warhols fascination with others and his tendency to obsessively document and collect all that was around him is evident in his polaroid collection, as not only are their portraits but also still life photographs, his own self anaylisis comes through in the many polaroids of himself, often in drag.
I think that it was the sheer volume of them all, taking up an entire wall at the 'Other voices, Other rooms' exhibition that struck me. Maybe they would have had less impact individualy, maybe it's because i hadnt seen most of them and had only been familiar with the resulting pieces of work, but they were, for me, the most interesting work there.

Gil Elvgren

Gil Elvgren photographed and painted pin up models such as Bettie Page, working from the 1930's right through to the 1970's.

His distinctive style has influenced countless artists and illustrators, many of whom he apprenticed. Elvgrens work was made for mass production, being used in advertisements, on magazine covers and alongside short stories and articles, even being printed on Jigsaw puzzles. When looking through a book of his work i recognised a lot of it, Elvgrens paintings have become iconic and i realised I was familiar with it as it is still being reproduced today.

His illustrations for Coca Cola during the war were mostly of wholesome looking, ordinary people on the homefront or of military men, all designed to boost morale.

However during the 1950's Elvgren was comissioned to design a Coca Cola billboard featuring a scantily clad girl on a swing and many other companies used his more provocative paintings in their advertising campaigns.

These images are in stark contrast to the ideals of the decade and yet we associate the 1950's with the pin up girl. His illustrations were compiled in calenders, most likely aimed at men, but were also used in magazines such as 'Good Housekeeping' and so appealed to women aswell. This suggests that the traditional values were beggining to waver making way for the era of free love, renewed feminism and a more bohemian lifestyle in the 1960's - in which Elvgren continued to do well.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Jeff Koons

I recently came across an interview with Jeff Koons in Time Out, which focused mainly on his photographic work. In this interview he is asked how he feels when someone 'Doesn't get' his work, he says he feels like he's lost that person and that "We all have the same pleasures and desires, i just think that some people are more protective and shelter themselves from their own experiences".

It is this openess and honesty within his work that, like Emin's, leads to it often being seen as crude or irrelevant. Where Emin's work is highly personal in the way of revealing painful memories and sharing her inner most thoughts, Koons seems to want to display phsyical intimacy, detatched from emotion, where there are elaborate props and costumes and the viewer is invited into a fantasy - such as the many images of Koons and his ex wife Ilona having sex.

What i like about 'Girl with Dolphin and Monkey' (2006) is that it is not so much what is going on in the photograph but more about what is in it. Koons has said that he never chooses an object to work with, saying that it 'confronts him' and that he is affected by it - that the context for that object is created simultaneously and never created artificially.

Monday, 7 September 2009

John Tenniel

One of the best books i've ever read is Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland/Through the looking glass. When i read it first as a child, i would have been completely confused if it wasnt for John Tenniel's illustrations.

I had seen the Disney film before reading the book, and so was used to seeing the bright, colourful animation with the sweet and innocent main character, Alice.

John Tenniel's illustrations were a stark contrast, in black and white with surreal looking characters and dark scenery. Lewis Carrols Alice was an odd character with seemingly schizophrenic tendencies and Tenniels illustrations seemed to perfectly capture the bizarre world around the slightly unhinged little girl.

As the story is so fast paced and changes the scene and characters around Alice so often, it was only by looking at the incredibly detailed drawings that i was able to follow it.

Tracey Emin

When looking at Tracey Emins work you feel as though you are invading her privacy, as though you have come across a diary and you shouldnt really be looking.

Often her drawings are not observational but from memory, trying to recreate an earlier experience - as with her 1990 abortion drawings, saying that she wanted to try and draw what an abortion felt like. I think this is really interesting, rather than drawing what she can see she ''records the moment'' saying that "the emotion pulls the drawing out of my hand".

What i like about her drawings is how spontaineous they look and how some often look unfinished, It would be hard to work out what some drawings were of or about without reading the title, but i think it is this quality that makes them so appealing. In most of her installation work and photography it seems Emin is brutally honest, allowing the viewer into the most personal and private aspects of her life, whereas in her drawings, it isnt immediately obvious.

Emin has said of her drawing 'If i could just go back and start again' (1995) that
"It makes me want to jump into to the paper, grab hold of the girl - who is me - and shake her and tell her everythings going to be alright ... Maybe some drawings exsisted before they were actually made, and they just float around like ghosts waiting to appear on paper."

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Helter skelter

Alan Aldridge's work has changed in both style and purpose throughout the years, being shaped and influenced by popular culture. His work is entwined with his personal life taking inspiration from others and using his own experiences to to create surreal images that seem to define an era.

it would be reasonable to believe that Alan Aldridge has been influenced by Salvador Dali's 'Dream of Venus' where the body is used as a canvas, taking it from its natural form to a surreal representation of a story or in Aldridge's case - lyrics.

I came across this image when reading Aldridge's biography ' The man with the Kaleidoscope eye', it was part of the Beatles illustrated lyrics. It is said that it was at this point, embracing popular culture and the 'free love' mentality of the time, that Aldridge moved from a 'surrealistic style to a more psychadelic one' .

He has used a naked woman and combined the human form with a plastic looking helter skelter, reminiscent of his earlier 'Chelsea girls' poster for Andy Warhol.
Aldridge has made it look as though the Helter skelter is not merely placed on to the woman, but that it is part of her body, her skin is an unatural muted shade and her features exaggerated in technicolour.

William Eggleston

William eggleston is considered to be a "pioneer of contemporary colour photography" often capturing seemingly mundane , everyday images however it is the composition and bold colours that make the ordinary look extraordinary.

I recently watched a documentary on his work - which was described as "a photographic dream, always in colour, one picture after another". Eggleston would take his camera everywhere - even to funerals, he would often wander into derelict and run down areas concentrating on the neglected parts of a building or an object , making them the central focus of the photograph.

He would sometimes include people in his photos, he would capture a haunting moment when, for example, a person mirrors another perfectly or is looking directly at the camera giving the appearance of a staged photograph, though they rarely were.

This photograph is a dye-transfer print from his 'Los Alamos portfolio' (1965-74). I really liked the image aesthetically but wanted to find out more about it - where was it taken? whos car is it and why is it chained up?

The picture was taken in mexico but i couldnt find a definite explanation as to what is going on, only theories. One man had written into a blog saying "The devil is in the detail in this picture - the ciggarette butts and empty cans tell the real story. In Mexico it is never a bad plan to use the chain and pay a local to watch your car for a few hours, needless to say sitting on that curb can build up quite a thirst and a craving for camel."

Eggleston doesnt have an agenda behind his photos he is simply documenting everyday life, but leaving it up to the viewer to work out what might have happened or be about to happen.

I think his photographs are an acurate and honest documentation of what he seen around him but they also have an adventitious quality to them, like he has managed to capture all of them by chance, as though he had always happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Dream of Venus

Salvador Dalis Dream of Venus was installed for the 1939 world fair, he had built it in a pavillion filled with surreal scenes, he hired women to sleep in six hour shifts with 'venus's underwater dreams' shown in water tanks sorrounding the bed, even having 'mermaids' swim through them. It is considered by some as the begining of installation art. Dali created his own universe within the exhibition, hiring photographers and afterwards working with the photographs.

Rather than creating a single image on paper, he created a whole set in which people could immerse themselves before capturing the image from what was around him.
As with this image, I think it works so well as there are three parts to it - the installation and the model, Dalis apparently spontaneous painting on to the model during the exhibition and the photograph.

In this photograph you can see that the model is wearing a lobster, this is something that dali used throughout his later work; after this exhibition he hired various photographers-experimenting with 'seafood as underwear' trying to recapture the surreal nature of his installation.

I think what makes the image so interesting to me is that its not the original idea, it is more of an after thought, a byproduct of the exhibition but made into a piece of work in its own right.

J. Howard Miller

I first seen the ww2 propaganda posters in history class at school, i always liked them for their aesthetic value but it was only when i started to learn more about them that i realised that propaganda is essentially advertising - instead of advertising a product it is advertising a lifestyle or way of thinking. It amazed me how an image could be so powerful and influentual , As with this image encouraging women to take on a more masculine role, to work outside of the home and become more independent during the war.

It seemed for a short time that this new found independence would liberate women from traditional values. With new found wealth after the war there was a demand for new technology in the home and so therefore it was in the economies interest to reinforce the idea of the perfect housewife through advertising campaigns aimed at women.

This image by illustrator J. Howard Miller is probably one of the most well known propaganda posters but i think it sums up the governments brief turn around in traditional values and ideals during the war and so it is, for me, one of the most powerful images of that period as it represents a shift in society.