Thursday, 16 February 2012

Personal Study Analytical Essay
Unit 4
     My initial intention was to complete an exploration of design in nature, with an investigation of organisms for purpose and how the natural world has influenced man-made creation and through my artist research and personal study, my mindset was to produce a final outcome(s) heavily centred on the scientific presentation of natural forms. With this in mind, I drew up a rough but sufficiently detailed plan to guide and record my train of thought for the span of the project. I primarily established the following chapters; A Brief History of Botany, an In Depth Analysis of the Work of Contemporary Artists, an In Depth Analysis of Contemporary Designers, followed by Extended Comparisons between Artists.  As research progressed, my ideas changed tremendously as I discovered new routes and paths of inspiration to an outcome more suited to my interests and style. In this analytical essay, I will guide the reader through my artistic journey of research and inspiration, to arrive at my final outcomes. I will focus on artists of particular importance to both my personal interest and the influence on my own artistic work.
    From the start of the unit, I felt I wanted to rely heavily, where possible, on primary source imagery; photographs I had collected first- hand, as secondary source imagery does not communicate a sense of personal involvement and ability. As a passionate photographer, with nature being my favoured subject, this came naturally to me as I began to amass a great number of images to include in my project. Throughout the majority of this coursework unit, I have used my Fujifilm FinePix S3200 digital camera, and the online editing software Picnik, where appropriate, to experiment with post photographic manipulation; adding filters, adjusting contrast etc. From my experience, Picnik is my preferred package for simple edits, and can be used to produce quite sophisticated enhancements. I found using my Blog of great benefit as a method of not only displaying my photography to the worldwide web, but as a tool to record my thoughts, criticisms, reviews, visits, ideas and experimentation. My work can all be accessed at   
      To gather firsthand inspiration for my project, I visited a number of exhibitions on related subject matter. In October 2011, following the initial planned route of investigating scientific presentation of nature, I visited the Up Close Exhibition at Blakesley Hall, which featured macro photography by Sharon Johnstone, a local artist. The series was created when Sharon began to visit the Hall Gardens in each season over the span of a year, and observed how the flowers change with the weather, are replaced by new species. I had the chance to experience the gardens and take some photographs of my own; of the Hall and of the plants that without doubt inspired Johnstone, and became the subject of her impressive work. The key intention behind the series is to record the usually undiscovered detail of the plants and flowers, at a magnified level, hence macro as the finished image is larger than the subject in real life. Johnstone’s photographs beautifully captured the colour, texture, tones and forms of the plants and flowers, in an abstract and creatively composed manner. Johnstone perfectly used the DOF (Depth of Focus) to her advantage, where specific areas of greatest detail/importance are sharp, in focus, with the surrounding background image blurred out, lending the attention to the area intended.
     This background research led me to reproduce one of the works as an acrylic study; my favourite photograph from the complete series. This developed my skills in perhaps my favourite media, and encouraged me to experiment with materials and techniques to best record the texture of the petals. Following this, I had the desire to attempt my own macro photography. Johnstone’s equipment is clearly of greater expense, yet in my opinion I achieved some pleasing shots of flowers from range different angles. In contrast, even though I used my camera’s Super Macro setting, I could not attain such a close up achieved by Johnstone’s specific macro lens, although this was as I expected.
     The element of inspiration I have taken of key importance from the photographer’s work is the idea of change with season, and following something through as time passes. This suggestion of a journey was developed upon further as I continued my photography for pleasure. My favourite place to photograph in my local area being Sutton Park, alike Johnstone’s muse being Blakesley Hall gardens, I frequently record the scenery and colours of the natural landscape, the trees, pathways, tones of leaves, grasses, fields. Each visit is never the same; always something different to photograph. I have shot a series of photographs of the park in winter, with snow to contrast with another set in autumnal climate. This without doubt relates to Johnstone’s own intention, I have recorded, not on a strictly macro level, but details of a place that are usually overlooked, but definitely taken for granted. This was the first turning point to my project, where I began to stray away from my initially planned path into a personal photography centred inspiration.
     Secondly, I visited the Lost in Lace Exhibition currently housed in the Gas Hall, of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Here, the works of 20 international artists explored a range of issues through their united use of textiles.  The display offered the opportunity to discover many new perspectives as we visually interact with the pieces, marvelling at their scale and design, intricacy and craftsmanship. Nature is taken as a starting point by each artist, and developed in a diverse range of styles, mediums and forms.  The installation of greatest interest to me was named the Jardin de Lit, and was created by a French artist; Annie Bascoul. I have explored this piece in depth in my sketchbook. Bascoul’s piece, combined with her wire based floral screen, creates a secret divide into a mystical world. The dual installation evokes a sensual environment, with hidden meaning as the pieces are studied. What struck me was the impressive use of light and dark, and the shadows cast by the wire screen.
      After viewing Annie Bascoul’s Jardin de Lit in the exhibition, I decided to further investigate her collection of artwork. Of particular interest to me are her series of organically inspired installations, in her signature medium; wire, foam, fabric and paint. These create such a dramatic effect in a room, with their minimalistic appearance of white sculpture. In my opinion the choice of using only the colour white in each installation creates extremely impressive, dramatic effects; viewed usually as the colour of a blank canvas, a symbol of purity. In my interpretation, Bascoul uses white to convey the beauty of nature, the innocence, and the fragility of life. Interestingly, my favourite element of her installations was not the work itself, but the shadows cast as a result. Shadows distort the truth and bring about a sense possible fear and doubt, giving the sculptures a greater feel of ambiguity of meaning.
     Taking inspiration from Bascoul’s three dimensional sculptures, I created a small scale piece to experiment with the media Bascoul uses and the photography of shadows created. I initially planned to paint my sculpture with white acrylic to make it more striking and to follow suit with Bascoul’s style of art; her pieces being very pure and plain in colour. However I decided that I liked the rust effect that the wire imposed on the tissue after being left to corrode, so I left it in its original colouring. The stage of the process I enjoyed the most was the photographing of the model, and the shadows that it creates. I set up an area with white paper to form a very make-shift “studio”, in which to capture the shadows best. Using a lamp, I experimented with the angles of both photography and where I lit the subject from. I used my camera on Super-Macro mode, to best record the surface detail on the sculpture. This changes the DOF to selectively focus on specific areas of the structure. I manually focussed my camera so as best to focus in low lighting conditions, and set the white balance to incandescent light, to minimise the yellow-orange cast due to the bulb lighting. I enjoyed experimenting with lighting and camera angles as it gave me a chance to trial photographing a subject I am not used to; shadows, and I particularly like the Super-Macro mode on my camera (which focuses on objects 2cm from the lens) for recording extremely fine detail. This exercise inspired me to begin a series of photographs of shadows, and the interesting subjects that form them. These could be due to people, animals, other natural forms, stationary objects, and these could be completely clear in meaning or of a more ambiguous style.  

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