Category: ASSIGNMENT 1

Assignment 1 – Combined Image

Produce a series of four to six landscape-based images based on your immediate surroundings (as with Gill’s Hackney Marshes series).

In their description of his Hackney Flowers (Hackney Marshes) series (Photographer’s Gallery 2007) the preview to the project was as follows:

“In Hackney Flowers Stephen Gill has again used his east London surroundings as the inspiration for his work. This time he has collected flowers, seeds, berries and other objects from various locations in Hackney, pressed them in his studio and photographed them alongside his own photographs and found ephemera. Some of the base photographs were also buried in Hackney Wick, and the consequent staining and decay has left its imprint upon the images, stressing the collaboration with place.”

In this work, the flowers always dominate the image, thereby becoming the subject. This is contrary to a lot of his work where he purposely does not present the subject, except in the title as his billboard project and his music (what am I listening to?) project.

I will work on similar principles within my own area, probably choosing “tiny subject parameters studied in depth”.

He is always obsessive, working until the subject exhausts him and I can certainly relate to that. Stephen Gill has learned to “haunt the places that haunt him”. He says that making pictures is much more difficult than it used to be. In the future “what we don’t photograph will be more relevant than what we do”.

The brief asks for (1) Traditional cut and paste and (2) digital montage as two separate projects so it was important to decide whether to follow this closely or whether to use one of Gill’s other techniques (overlaying objects onto a print and re photographing, placing objects inside the camera and seeing what comes out or any other).

I did not place any items within the camera but I did try the flower overlay with success.:

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I thought the idea of using brightly coloured flowers was actually very straightforward and I was really looking for more. I wanted something with a political statement which was within my own passion. So for the first part of this exercise I have decided to stay with traditional cut and paste, using my own images as the base. Found images have then been cut out and superimposed onto the base.

My final images make comment on the environmental impact of pollution on the beauty of the countryside (depicted by my pictures taken in Northern Derbyshire, close to home).

PART 1 – USE TRADITIONAL CUT AND PASTE TECHNIQUES.

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PART 2 – USE DIGITAL MONTAGE TECHNIQUES.

I considered two locations for this project:

  • Styal Country Park (literally a few steps from my front door)
  • Cheshire Ring Canals (a half hour drive from my home)

Considering the work of Stephen Gill as I travelled, it was important to establish the driving force behind the pictures. Should I work with people, reflections, overlays, plants, animals or trash?  What subject did I want to develop?

I looked closely at the work of Jeff Wall, Stan Dickinson, Peter Kennard and others as directed by the course material and then diversified to look at David Hockney and Peter Fraser. The common thread through all of these was the uniqueness of their thinking and the practitioner who influenced me the most was Peter Fraser, not so much over digital montage techniques but more because of his methodology and subject matter (more later).

I made a positive decision not to make a political statement in this instance (no missiles in the fields!)

The Styal Country Park project was working towards a fairly straight copy of Stephen Gill’s Hackney Flowers and I was looking for something more personal without understanding what it was at this stage.

On the canal walk the image which stood out in my mind and which repeated itself along the ten mile stretch was that of the view through the bridges.

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I started to develop my thinking around relationships between objects and the canal, between objects and the bridges. What was the historical significance? What story did they conceal?

There seemed to be three time zones; the present (current objects), two hundred years ago (the canal and its structures) and many thousands of years ago (the countryside).

The main thrust of my day was looking for objects, either to collect or to photograph and it became clear early on that it was the relationship between these objects which would bring the result I was looking for. So the idea developed to try to link the colours, textures, smells, shapes which I was seeing (almost in macro) with the overall scene:

  • The rust on the bridge metalwork
  • Tree stumps which describe the age of the vegetation
  • Places where some very new addition has been integrated into the landscape.

I photographed flowers, rubbish, archaeological features, rocks, dirt, birds, fences, people.

At the stage when I had seen a number of people, I was tempted to make work about people on the canal, the odd-balls, the friendlies, etc. There was a story there to be told  but I was still strongly driven by the idea of integrating objects with the scene. The people were very keen to have their pictures taken but I could not get away from the idea of documentary and that didn’t work for me.

Peter Fraser has always interested me and from the book by David Chandler entitled “Peter Fraser”  (Chandler, David: Peter Fraser, Tate, St Ives, 2012) I have taken examples for this and previous projects. I experimented with his theory of photographing from the unconscious mind and in some way I followed this by allowing my mind to stop over-ruling the photographic choices, similar to Stephen Gill’s idea of allowing the camera to do the work.

During post production, I started by simply superimposing pictures of the objects onto the bridge photo.

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With further experimentation, I found that by overlaying rather than inserting and then reducing the opacity of the overlay, I could create much more evocative images. This bringing me much closer the goal I had set.

The technique ended up being extremely simple, unlike the original manual cut and paste technique and so I was grateful for the power of digital manipulation.

The choice of format took a lot of consideration and I finally decided on a wide screen landscape format which looks well as a series of mounted photographs.

The six images I have chosen follow and have generated great excitement not only for me but for friends and family who have helped in the evaluation process.

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A very useful reference to hold my work up against was the lecture by Rachel Smith during the recent ‘Photography Matters’ conference held by the OCA in Doncaster. Rachel showed some images prepared in a similar manner to my own and then went on to talk about a number of artists and their work in relation to materiality. This has given ideas for future work:

  • Gerhard Richter – Overpainted photo series
  • Wolfgang Tillmans – No camera, no lens
  • Ann Collier
  • Anastasia Samoylova – Landscape sublime
  • Sally Mann – Rejects digital form
  • Sabato Visconti – Glitch art.

In order to help with the creative process it is useful to bear in mind the quotation from Elizabeth Edwards. ‘An object cannot be fully understood at any single point in its existence. It should be understood in a continuing process of production’

One guiding light through all of this was a passage in the “Peter Fraser” book, p.149.

Fraser talks about the “filing away of memories for future use” and this, to me is how photography often happens.

Quotation by Virginia Woolf from “Sketch of the past”  Ref: Chandler, David: Peter Fraser, p.149, Tate, St Ives, 2012:

“I was looking at the flowerbed by the front door; that is the whole, I said. I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves; and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was a part of the earth: that a ring enclosed what was the flower; and that was the real flower; part earth, part flower. It was a thought put away as being very useful to me later.”

The quotation seems to refer to the integration between the view and the objects which I have created and I came to thinking whether my result had been pre-determined and ‘put away as being useful for later’, then coming out of the unconscious mind. Or was it simply spontaneous and from some void which opened up for me that day?

Exercise 1.3 -A Short NarrativeSeries

 

Make a short narrative series of four to six collages based on a recent or contemporary news event.

I have taken my influence  mainly from John Heartfield in that a lot of his work is political and I wanted to make a political statement about a current high profile character.

Heartfield was himself influenced by the Berlin Dada Movement whose art was provoked by the first world war. His work mobilised photomontage as a political weapon, in his case to support the communist cause, by showing the Weimar Republic to be a “disorderly verbal-visual cacophony”.

Also the influence of Peter Kennard’s work, in particular “Haywain with Cruise Missiles” appealed and accentuated my desire to do something political.

There was an obvious subject to consider and that was the relationship between David Cameron and George Osborne in relation to the European Referendum. I tried a few ideas for this but did not get where I wanted to be. At that moment, the foibles and innuendos of Donald Trump came to mind.

Donald Trump is an outspoken character and in recent months he has made statements about immigrants into Europe, students in China,  building a wall between the USA and Mexico and many other subjects. His popularity, in my mind, equates him to Hitler’s before the second world war and I believe he is equally as dangerous.

Trump is intolerant of many of today’s current values. His intent on curtailing human rights (ref his outspoken words about immigration – an intent to protect the boundaries between whole nations such as Europe and the middle East and the USA / Mexican border) leads me to believe that he is unsuitable as a world leader.

My computer generated collages have been produced to help to strengthen this argument:

 

TRUMP AT TIANANMEN SQUARE

Trump Tiananmen-Square

 

NO EXPLANATION NEEDED

Trump Hitler]

 

NO EXPLANATION NEEDED

MIDEAST-CRISIS/BRITAIN-JIHADIJOHN

 

BUILDING A WALL

Trump Great Wall

 

THE SNAKE VIDEO

Trumpsnake 1

 

CAN HE TURN ON THE LIGHT?

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Trump has run a successful campaign so far but is unlikely to make it all the way to the White House.

Exercise 1.2 – Existing Work of Art

1 Discuss a photograph that takes an existing work of art as its starting point. Write a 500 word reflection.

 

Following a visit to the exhibition at the National Gallery (2012) entitled “Seduced by Art – Photography Past and Present” one image, by the Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra, stayed with me. This image took its ideas from “The Birth of Venus” (1862) by Eugene-Emanuel Amaury – Duval.

The Birth of Venus

Dijkstra photographed a series of adolescents on a beach in Poland and simply titled them by their location and date.

This picture entitled, “Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26 1992,”according to the exhibition’s write up on this subject,

“shows the same heightened realism as that seen in Richard Learody’s ‘Man with Octopus Tattoo”

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This was shown very close to Dijkstra’s portrait.

The cold rawness of flesh is very different to the idealised alabaster smoothness of Venus but to the author this is the more real. The placement of the subject is however comparable. The bather stands out against a neutral background. Fill in flash is used to brighten the body, pulling it forward towards the front plane of the picture.

Both figures display a pose called ‘contrapposto’, in which the body’s weight rests on one leg , throwing the torso into counter pose. This creates an uncomfortable feeling for the viewer. This is contrary to the feeling displayed by Duval where the painting was allowed to be somewhat more unrealistic where the pose is more of an affectation than a reality.

Djkstra took a number of pictures of young girls and boys in exactly the same pose and these seem to ask the question “Is there a difference?”. Personally I cannot see a male / female divide.

Dijkstra also speaks on the subject of nakedness and unlike Duval’s work, her subjects are not naked but she feels that they have been subjected to the same pressures as a naked model. “Naked but not nude!”

This picture is part of Dijkstra’s most famous series, Beach portraits (1992 – 2002). The camera catches a passive stare, is shot from low down and studies the condition between youth and adulthood, showing intense vulnerability and awkwardness.

I have been working recently to try to show, in the studio, various states, in particular the total natural relaxed pose and this gives me a cue to also try to demonstrate vulnerability.

I think the motivation for this photographic exercise was to study time and change. This picture is provocative and could almost have been produced for an unacceptable part of the sex industry.

The painted study of Venus is also looking at a specific time in a woman’s life. The motivation for the study of Venus, however, seems completely different. It is more of a picture for the male gaze before the introduction of photography as pornography. It is softer and more acceptable.

Although the picture is being considered here as a single item in comparison to a painting, it is very much part of a set of carefully balanced compositions, defined by the central presence of the youthful subjects.

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De Panne, Belgium, August 7 1992 1992 Rineke Dijkstra born 1959 Presented by the Patrons of New Art (Special Purchase Fund) through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1999 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78328

 

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These adolescents are not at one with themselves, they are unsure of their place in the world. This leads me to consider whether “The Birth of Venus ” shows that same vulnerability. I think it does. There is a slight tension in the body which the artist has chosen to portray rather than disguise (only slight). In painting it would have been easy to disguise it whereas in photography that option is not so easy to achieve.

The subjects remain anonymous to the point that each one is only identified by its date and location so if seen in a list it would not be possible to know what the subject is going to be. However, each picture has a certain tenderness (beauty) which one would have expected to be drawn out within the title.

The beach portrait photograph is printed 117 x 94 cm, somewhat smaller than the painting whose original size is 196×109 cm but still quite large and imposing.

2 Re Make an existing work or art using photography.

 

The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano

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Jack Vettriano is a Scottish artist (originally Jack Hoggan until he adopted his mother’s maiden name). I use the word artist purposely here because I am aware that there are many experts who do not regard his work as art. According to The Daily Telegraph he has been described as the Jeffrey Archer of the art world, a purveyor of “badly conceived soft porn”. There are many other similar references but my own personal view stands “that he is a prolific artist, admired by thousands if not millions. He is a household name”.

The Singing Butler is probably his most well known work. It measures 910mmx710mm and sold in 2004 for £744,800. It has stayed in my mind for many years.

I produced my version of this picture in 2012 for the module “The Art of Photography”. Since then I have moved on and the reason I am bringing this picture back is to look at it in a different way, as a piece of art rather than a study of colour which was the subject at the time.

The Singing Butler

I chose three people, including myself, rather than four, with the intention of portraying a slightly different image of the individuals. I was looking for a sense of fun using older people to see if I could portray the same sense of glamour. The original is more formal and more passionate but it was not my intention to ridicule the passion. It was a positive intent to show something slightly different, not literal.

The weather conditions were completely different and the natural light on the day was intense and full of contrast. This, I thought added to the bright cheery atmosphere and I regarded this as a positive.

The technical quality of the picture was not perfect and I have been advised by experts to improve it by post production, perhaps add an overlay, but for me this picture is intensely personal and exactly as I wanted it to be.

I have the shadows, the effect of a windy day and an a formality of dress which in both cases describes a quality of life to be enjoyed.

Exhibition – Performing for the Camera

The Tate exhibition “Performing for the Camera” provided a wide variety of inspirational sources. Narrowing them down to the relevant was difficult owing to the vast amount of information available at this tremendously popular event.

Works were exhibited by:

  • Harry Shunk
  • James Kender
  • Charles Ray
  • Kiyoji Otsuji
  • Don Graham
  • Marta Minujin
  • Stuart Bailey
  • Nadar
  • Merce Cunningham
  • Eikoh Hosoe
  • Andy Warhol
  • Man Ray
  • Jimmy De Sana
  • Erwin Wurm
  • Keiji Uematsi
  • Ai Weiwei
  • Boris Mikhailov
  • Samuel Fosso
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Arthur Wojnarowicz
  • Jeff Koons
  • Hannah Wilke
  • Joseph Bouys
  • Sarah Lucas
  • Linder
  • Dora Maurer
  • Nario Imal
  • Jemima Stehil
  • Lee Friedlander
  • Tomoko Sowada
  • Amalia Ulman
  • Romain Mader
  • Martin Parr
  • Hans Eijkolbroom

I have written this list to help myself in future research. Following on from the exhibition, I have  continued to research a few of the photographers who caught my eye but to do the exhibition justice would have been a lifetime’s work. The other interesting thing about the exhibition was that quite often the performer was more important than the photographer, for example, Yves Klein, Niki de Sainte Phalle, Yayoi Kusami (an artist in her own right) and many others.. My prime interest was the work of the photographers and my conclusion was that as time has moved on the photographer has become more important.

Whilst touring this exhibition, I had in mind the artist Idris Khan, tabled in exercise 1 (the last blog) who had superimposed all the JMW Turner postcards in the Tate to make a composite. Why this thought carried with me, I am not quite sure but quite often I considered whether the same approach could be applied to some of the artists in the exhibition, for example Martin Parr’s series of self portraits and the work of Samuel Fosso, portraits in the style of famous people.

There is a short video by Simon Baker, the curator which describes the exhibition well.

It can be found at:

http://players.brightcove.net/1854890877/default_default/index.html?videoId=4767204754001

 

Romain Mader

I was fascinated by Romain Mader whose wedding photo is on the front cover of the exhibition book and on all the advertising but there was no obvious reason why?

Mader is Swiss and studied photography at the University of Arts and Design Lausanne in Switzerland.

This is a six minute video on Vimeo of the build up to his photograph entitled “Ekaterina”.

 

The video explains his obsession with a Ukrainian girl, Ekaterina, during his first visit to Kiev. The array of still photographs together with a few video clips of this first visit strike the viewer with the range of ideas of this young photographer. His composition breaks all the rules but the pictures strongly represent the story. There were no tourists in Kiev so he had to make his own entertainment visiting bars and places where he was likely to meet girls. When he found his goal, he became obsessive. On return to Switzerland he agonised over the style of portrait he would send to her. He then returned to re -find her. There is an intense sincerity in the images but just occasionally humour breaks through as in the video of him trying to dance. All obsession is directed towards Ekaterina. Finally he finds her and after a while, invites her to Switzerland where he asks her to marry him. Hence the photo of the bride with him in the foreground. He always makes himself the focal point.

An example of one of the stronger influences in this exhibition is:

Is this simply because he is so egocentric that the face of the bride is not required or is there a deeper meaning? Was he alone when he put his head behind the screen?

Other work by Mader includes:

Aliona (2014) in collaboration with Nadja Kilchhoffer

Aliona

 

De Nouveaux Amis (2011)

De nouveaux amis, 2011

Moi Avec Les Filles (2009).

Moi avec des filles, 2009

 

Man Ray

A portrait of Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy.

Rrose Selavy was used as a pseudonym for Marcel Duchamp and over a period of time Man Ray produced a number of photographs of him. He used it from time to time, in particular in a title for one of his sculptures.
Jemima Stehli
This series of self portraits demonstrates man’s reaction to her ‘Strip’ performance. She has selected certain art critics to press the shutter when they wish but she is more interested in their reaction (shyness, bravado or whatever).
The style of woman in these pictures resembles those in some of Helmut Newton’s photographs, strong, muscular and overbearing. It is interesting that in this instance the male (Helmut Newton) and female (Jemima Stehli) interpretation are similar.
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Samuel Fosso
Fosso is an African photographer working in Africa. His well known work is a series of self portraits taking on the personality of various well known African characters. My interest here is to look at different ways of taking self portraits. I know a little of Cindy Sherman’s work on Film Stills but so far, Fosso is a new find for me. This idea will go forward into my future work in some way as yet undefined.
The portraits are all serious works with a political slant / motive.

The works are not quirky, they are straight head and shoulders shots and the most difficult part in analysing them is to believe that they are not real people. In my case when viewing these pictures, I felt that they were all people who I had seen before in the media. How wrong I was.

Ai Weiwei

Finally the three pictures by Ai Weiwei of the dropping of a 2000 year old Han Dynasty urn:

These three black and white prints were produced in 1995.

 

Weiwei collected old urns and painted them bright colours. Also in the exhibition, “Ai Weiwei, According to what?” at which the above picture was shown, an array of repainted “Han urns” were shown in front of the triptych. The urn which was smashed in 1995 was said to be worth in excess of £1m.

This exhibition inspired a man called Maximo Caminero to destroy one of Weiwei’s brightly painted urns on the grounds that he disagreed with the idea of painting these valuable objects and spoiling them. He claimed to destroy Weiwei’s work, not the original pottery masterpieces. This sent the art world into turmoil. Whose art work was he destroying?

Weiwei is a prolific tweeter and I found the following quote on his Twitter page.

“It takes a wise Chinese man to remind us of the human tragedy that is playing out daily at our borders.”

This demonstrates that Weiwei’s thoughts are highly political and reflects his views on current Chinese politics.

“Art is the most peaceful and proactive form of change we have in this world”

This shows his devotion to art and starts to describe how he uses it to inform the world. He has created an extremely wide audience.

Ai became widely known in Britain after his sunflower seeds installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2010. Since then he has had various major exhibitions in the U.K. including at the Royal Academy in London.

He has a studio in Beijing, set up after returning to China from the United States in 1993. He is currently working on a number of large scale works using everything from marble and steel to tea and glass.

“Art Review” magazine branded him as “China’s most dangerous man” for his social politics. “New Republic” called him “a wonderful dissident and a terrible artist”.

He certainly turns heads at the Tate Modern.

Conclusion

This is a very brief summary of some of the works exhibited in the “Performing for the Camera” exhibition at the Tate Modern. It highlights the role of photography in making a permanent record of an ephemeral performance.

By carrying out this review I have increased my knowledge of a number of artists but also logged the fact that I will be returning to some of these groundbreaking experts for more assistance with my photography development in the future.

Exercise 1.1 – The origins of Photomontage

Exercise 1.1

Esther Teichmann

Corinne Vionnet

Idris Khan

Helen Sear

Using the list of artists given above as inspiration, create a series of six to eight images using layering techniques. To accompany your final images, also produce a 500-word blog post on the work of one contemporary artist-photographer who uses layering techniques.

Images

 INFLUENCE OF HELEN SEAR

I was interested in Helen Sear’s works showing minimum information about a person with an overlay of some environmental interest (flowers or whatever). This is my own take using a photograph of mine from a recent James Bond shoot and experimenting with a number of overlays in my collection until I was happy with the change which the overlay created. The person is clearly recognisable.

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INFLUENCE OF ESTHER TEICHMANN

Once again I have used my own found images to create this scene in Cambodia of a tree at Ta Prohm temple with the overlay of a figure at the scene. Moving away from Esther Teichmann’s technique, I have used an overlay on the second picture to add atmosphere in a style which suits my photography.

 

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INFLUENCE OF CORINNE VIONNET

Fascinated with the results shown on the internet for Corinne Vionnet’s work, I have produced an image of Trafalgar Square using six layers. The picture shows Trafalgar Square in different seasons, including a Christmas tree, a fountain and, in the background, the National Gallery.

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INFLUENCE OF IDRIS KHAN

I have written later in this blog of the work of Idris Khan which ranges from Monochrome images to moving pictures and finally to sculpture.

Inspired by his work photographing pages of a significant book, I came to the conclusion that the most significant book in my life at the moment is the course content for “Digital Image and Culture”. The first picture shows the twenty pages which make up part 1 of this course “The Constructed Image”. Most of Khan’s work is in monochrome and this was certainly most appropriate for my work.

The second image follows my love for self portraiture where I am striving to present my work by showing an ordered approach (also in monochrome).

 

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MY OWN PERSONAL WORK

Having worked on a number of overlay pictures “In the Style of” various artists, my thoughts turned to my own personal style. The technique I used here is attempting to demonstrate clarity of the inner self. There is only one focal point for this image which is what I wanted.

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This image is more of an indulgence. The person on the old photograph is my father (now deceased) and I tried many different ways of representing him with his mathematical instruments (he was a scientist). This picture was not my favourite of the series but it does show an interesting use of the overlay technique.

 

 

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The work of Idris Khan

Idris Khan is 38 years of age.

Khan first caught my eye when I read about his work entitled “Six Suites for the solo cello”. The work was created by photographing the pages of sheet music from all Bach’s cello suites and digitally layering the images so that the whole suite is on one page. He did the same with Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart.

There were differences and the purpose was to bring a spectrum of feelings, warmth, humour and anxiety to what was a cool aloof image.

Khan draws his inspiration from music and the history of art together with theological and philosophical ideas. He investigates memory, creativity and experience.

Khan admired the fluidity of Cy Twomby’s work and this can be seen in his own pictures.

Mark Duerdon had an influence when he said that “your art should be honest and aware of its influences”.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with using the ideas of another artist or philosopher as long as you understand where those ideas are leading you.

Idris Khan regularly works with composites of 1 to 2000 layers. Apart from his work with sheet music, he has produced a composite of the whole of Camera Lucida and the whole of Susan Sontag’s “On Photography”. A lot of his work is scanned.

Other works include:

  • Bernd & Hilla Becher’s water towers
  • All his holiday photos for the entire trip
  • All the images by Nicholas Nixon of his wife and her three sisters (30 in total)
  • Every JMW Turner postcard in the Tate
  • Every Rembrandt portrait
  • The last fourteen of Caravaggio’s paintings
  • The Quran (114 Chapters)
  • Paradise Lost

Today, a lot of Idris Khan’s work is branching out into film and sculpture. He has been influenced by Sarah Warsop (Siobhan Davies Dance Company). He creates movement by thinking about nostalgic places to develop the rhythm of the dance. There is always a story behind every piece of work. In his photography he dislikes the gap between camera and object and attempts to correct this mismatch.

Khan’s mother was Welsh and his father Pakistani. He was the only mixed race boy in the mosque. His father was strongly influenced by the Kaaba, a small stone building in the great mosque at Mecca. It contains a sacred black stone and is the goal of Islamic pilgrimage and the point toward which Muslims turn in praying. Idris Khan has produced a sculpture showing 144 graphite pieces (copies of the stone) in a 12×12 formation with the same prayer written on each. He has been nervous about producing this work but states that it is in no way intended to dilute the meaning of the Kaaba.

The work of Idris Khan is moving all the time and at the age of 38 he still has a long time to continue with the changes he has been making but I think his work will always be  founded on certain fixed principles, searching for feelings, warmth, humour and anxiety.