When a picture is made a construal is fixed. Temporally tethered, and as we revisit the image we are told a story. That story continues to cement the conditions of our experience. Looking at something over and over rehearses the structure in us. When I draw, whether from life or photographs as is the case with this pastel, I confess in a sense what has just happened to me in my encounter with a scene. Not only am I confessing something of that encounter, but I'm telling you about my past. Undoubtedly I have subconsciously built in visual cues and historic hints to the formative forces in my life. One can conclude with a high degree of certainty, things about me like my socioeconomic condition, my place in history, the artists I've viewed and the imagery I value. For example; people beset with constant worry about procurement of basic necessities, working 16 hours a day 7 days a week, aren't often preoccupied by artistic pursuits such as pastel. The pigments in use are a product of industrial, chemical synthesis, and widely available to those of middle class standing. In my drawing I reveal more than my affinity for color and composition and that I am taken with landscape.
I've always had mixed feelings about drawing from photographs, perhaps because it was so heavily condemned in Art school. Recently I see the value in doing so because I am able to "revisit" scenery not accessible directly. Not only that, in working from photos (often the ones my Mother takes) I find myself gaining more insight into the vision and values of another. But this "walking in the shoes of others" has its limitations. I am not privy to the totality of the experience and lo my own tendencies of looking set in, directing the visual experience in a predictable fashion unless I am intentional about seeing differently (which is rare). There can't be a one to one correspondence between the world pictured by a photo and that in a drawing or painting. There is minimally some continuity of the message from source "material" to product. Something is "lost in translation" to invoke the cliche. Trying to explain a work of art is risky, because a different language/form is being used to attempt a communication of something. A word, mark, note or texture all carry with them something different and true and appealing, but they appeal in/on different "terms." Each mode lands differently or registers in a unique way to those impressed upon.
Often works done from so called "masterworks" are said to be "after" such and such an artist, like "after Picasso" (incidentally, on the occasion of a visit to the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia in 2005, I did a small unauthorized sketch of a Picasso Painting, which later inspired a silk screen print, which I might feature in a future post. Galleries and Museums are real tight-asses when it comes to copyright, and the hired hands will quickly shut down your sketch if you are seen violating "the rules"). My pastel was "painted" after my Mother took a photograph. There is a sense in which the first artist (in this case, photographer) paves the way for and makes possible the second image. What can be thought of as a temporal/visual reverberation. To the extent that the image is re-imagined and interpreted, to that extent it gains spatio-temporal momentum, an enduring experiential ecology.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.