I’m looking at the only Rococo painting I could find at the AGO and doing some non-academic writing about the colors. This one is a Boucher. 1768.
These are dirty colors. The description right next to the painting stated that Boucher used bright colors – and I do see a lot of pinks, blues, grays, greens and brown but there is a dinginess in all of them. There are no hard flashy colors here, everything is soft and creamy and a little bit exhausted. Chewed gum. Low flavor. A little yucky. The sky is not blue – it’s a grimy blue with grey and gloomy pinks and it looks like old bath water…filthy and cold. The landscape is not a lush green and brown …but khaki brown and green, army colors…grungy. The fabrics appear rich and colorful but there is something dingy about them.
The skin tones are not as gloomy as the rest of the scene. They glow. Especially the woman who is white and untanned. He skin is a baby pink, plump and doughy. There is a healthy pinkish tone under the skin surface which probably has to do more with the throbbing and flirty content of the painting.
All these toned down colors are offset by bits of bright highlights. Sparkly bits here and there. You see it everywhere: in the dark clouds, the fabrics and the foliage there are little pick-ups of light. So I think this fools the viewer into thinking that the artist used bright colors.
Despite the fact that I was only able to find one painting in the collection at the AGO, this one has been recently restored so it was well worth looking at.
I have always been attracted to French painting but never really explored the colors and so I never positioned my work with this research. I think there is more to explore here. And I really enjoyed looking at the work live, and writing in a non academic format, so I think it would be worthwhile to find more works in public collections and continue. Looking at my own work which uses a lot of pastel and flirty colors, I have often toned down the saturation with greenish casts by shooting in the reflection of a mirror, or simply added a mucky cast in Photoshop. I would like to experiment with this further by adding bright highlights over some of the dingy areas.
Notes: Exhibition Opening and Artist Talk Last Night at the AGO.
TALK: Anne Collier in conversation with curator Michael Darling from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The conversation was part of the opening of the exhibition at the AGO on Collier’s work from the past ten years, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and touring with a stop in Toronto. Some interesting comments that I want to remember include her own observation that the works could not be discussed as individual pieces but as groups of works tied together. Also, commented on the nostalgic images she collected and felt that she was rescuing the image to a place where it can be taken seriously. Collier identified the album cover art as a place where photography was first introduced to her. A great talk -just what I needed. I had an extra ticket for the event.
EXHIBITION INSTALLATION: I went to see the exhibit before the talk and found Collier’s work to have a great impact because of the scale and the installation. The works were installed thematically in different rooms. The different spaces worked well to bind the relationship between specific works. I liked that. Also, Collier’s works were framed in simple white frames and installed on white walls and this worked well to remove anything distracting. The works seem to float into the space of the viewer, rather than being confined within the parameters of a frame. So they almost appeared frameless and this worked well with her deadpan aesthetic. I liked this too.
OBJECTS + PHOTOGRAPHY: Collier works with photo objects. Collecting from thrift stores and ebay, she seems attracted to photo based works such as album covers, tear sheets from magazines, calendars, and postcards. Sometimes she uses her own photographs as in the photographs of her eyes or her hands holding photo objects. In both cases, and with all of her work she re-photographs them which bring attention to the fact that they are objects. Yeah, she re-photographs her own work – again suggesting that the photograph is a thing/object. Other works include objects such as cassette tapes or file folders that have been photographed and configured into new meanings.
AESTHETICS + STYLE: Collier approaches her work with a documentary style; it’s clean, cool and deadpan. The works are large format, approximately 50 x 60″ ranging slightly in sizes (which she described as intuitive to each work). Although she appropriates imagery she uses space (floor and wall) when re-photographing them which isolate and add psychological drama to the image/object. I would say that these are still life images.
THEMES: The themes in Collier’s work range from images and objects of women holding cameras (reversal of the male gaze), pop psychology, commercial photography and self help themes. But the work is personal and is about self-reflection.
It’s really difficult to decide which works I enjoyed the most so I won’t make that decision. There is something compelling about her album covers and the photographs of her eyes that are re-photographed in a darkroom developing tray or sliced in a paper cutter. I get that. What I found exciting about her work was how the work was personal but didn’t come across as narcissistic. There was enough room for the viewer to interpret it in their own way. I loved her dark humor – that cassette tape labelled “problems” with the tape spewed out and tangled. Funny and sad. Of course, I’m interested in her work because of the genre of still life which brings me to love the way she uses photography and representation to say that this is how we come to understand ourselves.
Notes on a very good meeting with my mentor Dana Hoey:
PROCESS + CONCEPTUAL + PERFORMANCE: Discussion about how my process of making work is part of my work. Consider the process more deeply and bring that process into the work not so directly in showing camera etc…but explore and bring “how you are doing it” into the work. Not pushing me to be a conceptual artist but improve the conceptual component to contextualize the ideas. Performance also related to my process.
ARTIST + WRITING: Explore the work of Sophie Calle and look at how she shows the process. What you like + what you don’t like in her work is important to consider. Also to explore are the female driven performance pieces. Review and think about these to have a clear sense of my work in relation to these.
READING: Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector. Refusing the narrative. Direct presentation of material. After discussing the feedback from the first residency about the lack of narrative and refusing to give into those original suggestions. This is good.
COLOR + LOOSE WRITING: Combination of 1950’s plastic kitsch and 1800’s French painting. Look at the aqua and pink color palettes that are mixed with the less satisfying browns. Frothy. Lush. A little yucky. Go and physically see some of these works like Fragonard, Boucher, Watteau and Chardin and write a loose automatic personal page about the colors. Think closely about the dull browns and grays around the lush pastel colors. This is an extension of pushing the grotesque that was discussed and encouraged during previous residency critiques.
PURSE DUMPING: I discussed my curiosity about what women carry in their purses and how I have been asking women to dump the contents of their purses so I could photograph a quick still life arrangement. It’s been giving me some great inspiration for the still life arrangements that I’m working on in the studio. Dana suggested to consider the process more deeply.
I’ve been thinking about the importance of titles in a work of art and I have been looking at antigrams for some of my smaller works that use figurines and mirrors. I have used palindromes before but I think the reflection of the mirror plays nicely with antigrams and the meaning of the work.
An antigram means the opposite of the original word or phrase; so far I think these are witty:
Listen = Silent, Violence = Nice Love, United = Untied, Misfortune = It’s more fun, Honestly = On the Sly, Antagonist = Not Against, Within Earshot = I won’t hear, Restful = Fluster.
I really like using the objects and playing with their reflections in the mirror. The mirror fills the space and adds a seductive glow around the objects, and the idea of the real versus the artificial is played out. I’ve been playing around with the positioning of the objects so that the reflection is inverted and changes the meaning, just like the antigram.