Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Outdoors, Photography, and Illusionism

This morning when I was making the 9x12 charcoal drawing a jogger ran by, and he said, "You and John McDonald" which I took as a compliment.  John MacDonald is a terrific painter located in Williamstown, MA.   Later in the day I went to Haley Farm, where I painted the 9x12 oil.

Interestingly, even though both works today were done outdoors, I wanted to quote from a book on the the artist Carolyn Brady, The Watercolors of Carolyn Brady by Irene McManus, which I just finished reading.   Brady did all of her outstanding work from her photographs.

"Brady's first rule is to work from camera-generated images.  The camera intercepts a reality that lies beyond the reality available to the lazy or prejudiced human eye.  In this sense, Brady is every inch the photorealist, expressed in the distortions and illusionism fixed by the camera lens.  But she is also, once again, the Transcendentalist, the American Romantic, using the scientifically or technologically established 'real' to extract the metaphysically unreal."

"Photography is one of the keys to her art.  Her color photographs (always effortful to make) are her preparatory 'drawings.'  she thinks of herself as an 'abstract realist, using photographic illusionism.  The photographic image is very powerful illusionism.  We know that now, after doing this for so many years.' The strong lights and darks of the photograph; the subtly altered color; the fiercely concentrated close-up focus, the drastic cropping of the almost always random image--all these elements tend to steal up on commonplace reality, to abstract a truth that the naked eye would certainly miss.

   Brady is committed to material reality, but she is more interested in illusionism, the intensified reality captured by the camera.  At its finest, her work achieves a traffic between  everyday reality visible to the average human eye, and a phantom reality graspable only through the lens (or deep meditation), yielding for one tantalizing instant the truth  of the substrate."

Brady consciously used photography as a means to pursue the 'reality' behind supposed reality.  I like the comparison between meditation and the camera lens.


cohen labelle said...

I like this one in particular - has v much a feeling of being in the moment - still you worked from direct observation - perhaps something to be said for that.

Bob Lafond said...

You're right. But direct observation is also suspect. The sun and clouds move, the light changes, not to mention one's feet and head. In today's painting, I knew I was looking at three separate trees, but I had a hard time separating them when they were overlapping. Maybe direct observation, and working within a time limit of one to one and half hours can make for a fresher painting. I like painting outdoors because for that hour or so, all I do is look and paint, nothing else, and that experience is tremendous.