My Degree Show, June 2013
“Life communicates itself to us through convention and through the parlour games and laws of social life. Photographs are ephemeral images of this communication…. Being painted, they no longer tell of a specific situation, and the representation becomes absurd. As a painting, it changes both its meaning and its information content”
– Gerhard Richter, 19631
This series of paintings is based upon family photos of the first two years of my life.
The original images may be blurred and poorly focused but the cost of taking and developing them, plus the significance of the ‘first child’, meant they were considered important enough to be carefully mounted into an album. These “devotional pictures” (ibid.) are very much traditional family photography, instantly and universally recognisable and invested with a sense of nostalgia.
I chose these particular images because while they are intensely personal they allowed me to have some objective distance from which to approach them – I cannot remember these scenes and any memories I have of them are likely to be false. I was also interested by the element of the unintentional and chance within them – the stereotypical family poses, unfocused baby snaps, the effect of time on their colour balance – that have lead to painterly visual effects.
The original images have undergone a transformation from family snaps to carefully crafted paintings as a result of a close contemplative study of the images and an exploration of the formal qualities of paint in conjunction with collage and print. They seek not to be an accurate representation, but to reflect the myth and memory of these events, to be “totally painting” (ibid.) and create a tension between paint and their original physicality as photographs. My physical engagement with the image through application of paint has meant I have forged a connection with the original photographs and conducted a new subjective exploration of my personal history.
Richter said about his photographic paintings “I blur things to make all the parts a closer fit. Perhaps I also blur out the excess of unimportant information”(ibid.). I have combined representational and abstract elements and used a limited common palette to change the images’ focus and emphasis and to reflect the remembered and the forgotten. These paintings have become substitute memories, documenting the process of ‘re-telling’ or reconstructing the memory based on the photographs and the contemplative process of interpreting them in paint.
The original photos will never change, they are permanently frozen. These paintings detach the images from reality and create a new narrative that remains instantly recognizable to an audience yet is intensely personal.
1 Richter, Gerhard (1995), The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, Britt, David (Translator), London: Thames and Hudson in association with the Anthony D’Offay Gallery, pp.31-39