A couple of years ago whilst studying English Literature at university, an essay title that was proposed to me suggested exploring the relationship between visual and literary art. Far from cowering away at the thought of finding a link between two very different concepts, I must have sensed my career in contemporary art awaiting me, as I took on the task at full force. To kick-start my creative process I headed down to the Turner Contemporary Museum in Margate (the only glimpse of modernity in what I would call a time-warp town), leading to more ideas than I could have hoped for.
Displayed in the museum were exhibits by Rosa Barba, called ‘The Personal Experience Behind It’s Description’ alongside ‘The Indifferent Back of a View Rather Than Its Face’. Her works show how words are able to be pieces of both visual and literary art, as the actual words within the artwork are not of main importance; it is the shapes of the words and the experimentation of materials used that makes the final piece.
This got me thinking: what other connections are there between literary art (poems, books etc.) and visual art? I decided that the best way to explore these links would in fact be to consider how a piece of literary art examines the art world within it’s text, and I suitably chose Frank O’Hara’s poem ‘Why I Am Not a Painter’. My first thought after reading his poem was that there are similarities in the initial processes involved in the act of creation. The first stanza explains the process of creating a painting by describing how ‘Mike Goldberg / is starting a painting’ and ‘[t]he painting / is going on, and I go, and the days / go by.’ This demonstrates how visual art, including painting, is a progression that requires a longer amount of time to complete, showing how an initial idea is built upon gradually turning into a series of ideas.
This is paralleled with the process of creating literary art; the similarity of the two is shown by stating ‘I write a line / about orange. Pretty soon it is a / whole page of words, not lines. / Then another page.’ This portrays that the act of creating a work of art, whether it be a painting, a sculpture or a mixed media exhibit, goes through the same stages as writing a piece of text. Each act of creation has a starting point that is based upon an idea, which is developed to produce an end result. The development of both these arts are continuously changing, highlighting the flexibility that writers and artists possess in order to achieve their final piece. Thus the emphasis here is placed not on the end result, but on how the concept of art is also the creative process that the poem and the painting endure to get to this ultimate stage.
By highlighting the importance of the creative process, the difference in the end results and the similarity in the starting points are made more apparent. Both literary and visual art start with a ‘blank page’; in the writer’s case this is a sheet of paper (or in modern times a ‘blank document’ on Microsoft Word) and in the artists’ case it is often a canvas. The separation of the two arts occurs primarily with their use of differential palettes, which are the medias used to form their works. The two have originated from the same concept, which is using a ‘blank page’ to express a single idea, however in ‘Why I Am Not a Painter’, O’Hara is also able to show the similarities of the end results - the ‘artist’s’ original starting points are not displayed in the outcome. It is expressed within his poem that Mike Goldberg’s painting SARDINES ‘is finished’ yet does not display a sardine in a shape or form, and that O’Hara’s poem ORANGES ‘is finished’ but hasn’t ‘mentioned / orange yet.’ This shows that both literary and visual art are equivalent in how they are able to stem from and depict entirely different results than what is first intended, and that the title of a work is merely the surface to the creative process consisting of the finished set of ideas that have been developed.
What strikes me whilst writing this though is that I cannot ignore how similarly to O’Hara poems, I have deliberately shaped my placement of words so that this post is aesthetically pleasing, in order to invite you, the reader, to start reading this blog. And furthermore, I can produce an image displaying my work that is in progress, thanks to the technological genius of screen printing. Am I not creating my own form of art work then, that can be perceived as visual? Rosa Barba has commented that her ‘work can’t really be defined by just one thing’ and after consideration, I believe this statement is relevant to literary art in whatever form - it is indefinable and can be perceived as more than ‘just / letters’ on a page.
Squeezing through windows, crawling under fences, climbing scaffolding and sneaking past security guards – if the intrigue surrounding the actions taking place here is hard to bear, then you will be truly captivated by the occupation about to be described. Indeed, these are just a few of the risks that photographer Gina Soden takes in order to capture her beautiful composites, and Eye Like Gallery are delighted to announce that we will be holding a solo show for her in September!
Gina lives and works in Reading when she is not travelling around Europe photographing her locations, and for the past few months, travelling and photographing is precisely what she has been doing. To begin to understand Gina’s work fully, it is fascinating to convey the background behind her pieces, the emotional, physical and technical elements to her work, that lead to the creation of astounding pieces.
Picture this; Gina is walking past you, dressed in regular clothes, and happens at that precise moment to have a fully packed rucksack with her, hitched firmly upon her back. It may seem that she is taking an ordinary trip out, but in fact this appearance is often the normality when she embarks on her photographic trips. The only clue that she may be participating in an activity out of the ordinary is the feature of a telescopic ladder, an aid that is often crucial for the photographer. This relaxed appearance does not begin to convey the amount of preparation Gina has taken beforehand however – copious amounts of research takes place into underused and abandoned locations throughout Europe, in order that each of her trips abroad gives her a fruitful amount of sites to photograph. Even once her venues are established, preceding the approach into the specific location she is required to examine if there are any homes, or people, nearby that may catch her working.
It is this capturing of spaces that are in decline that gives an element of danger to her work; she is constantly on the lookout to avoid being caught in these properties as she is technically trespassing, which may lead to her being removed from the area. This rarely occurs however, which is lucky as that would not be ideal for Gina or us for that matter! If that isn’t enough to get your heart racing, the risks of entering her chosen locations are equally matched by the hazards of the properties themselves. Each building Gina enters that is suffering from decay comes with the worry associated with deterioration, for instance broken floorboards and smashed glass. Less thought of though is the problematic situation encountered by Gina on one of her trips when faced with a homeless individual, who was taking shelter within one of the buildings that was due to be photographed. The language barrier could have led to a communication error between the two, alongside the threat of an unknown personality and character; nevertheless Gina’s urge to capture the images outweighs the risks involved and likewise gives an aura of mystery to her pieces. She is often the only person who knows which locations she chooses and how she advances into the sites, yet she delivers the final image to us with an overwhelming clarity and beauty.
This photographic precision is achieved through numerous techniques and equipment. When photographing her locations Gina uses a tripod and a tilt-shift lens, most commonly associated with architectural photography. This lens allows her to keep the image vertically straight in comparison to a wide-angle lens that would distort the perspective of each wide scene. Now if you’re as clueless as we were at the first mention of a tilt-shift lens, the mechanics of this works by the actual lens coming away from itself and physically moving up and down within the lens frame- clever I know! For each piece she takes 15+ images at 6 different exposures, capturing the top, middle and bottom of the chosen composition - it is these blending of images and colour toning at different exposures that causes her compositions to possess more detail, and even at some angles look as if they are paintings rather than photography. All of these elements take place within a scope of 5-10 hours of shooting, an incredible feat considering the entire time she is aware that she may be interrupted and stopped at any moment!
Amongst Gina’s numerous achievements is the success of her work being acquired by The Groucho Club, and also being selected for the popular exhibition ‘Things I Love at The Fine Art Society’ by Sir Peter Blake. It seems only natural then, that she should be awarded the Emerging Artist of the Year in October 2013 by the National Open Art competition, with the award being presented to her by Gavin Turk and Ronnie Wood. Her importance in the art world is highlighted further by her emergence in the media, through a highly anticipated appearance on the BBC One television show ‘Inside Out’ in September.
Gina’s prestigious reputation only exemplifies how lucky we are to be presenting some of her newest works, along with some familiar favourites, to you in September. We at Eye Like are thrilled that owing to Gina’s solo show, unable to access these places in reality, the viewer‘s imagination will be transported to the settings enabling each individual to see the magnificence that comes alongside decay. In fact, her work demonstrates how each location becomes accessible once more; they are no longer places that are shielded from society, but instead each property is introduced once again to the public eye, their emergence allowing the idea of beauty to be re-configured.
Gina Soden: Emergence at Eye Like Gallery 5th-26th September
Private View on Thursday 4th September 6pm – 9pm
Eye Like Gallery.