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Painting With Light

Painting With Light
by Rick Doble


Around the year 1900, Einstein, Freud, sophisticated photography and the advent of pervasive technology and machinery signaled a distinct change in human civilization. These radical ideas and technology were a clear break from the past -- a world of farming, horses and disease. This new manmade world required a new vision - the work of modern artists.

The new expressive photography that I am proposing in this online exhibit can learn and gain inspiration from modern art in general and the following modern artistic movements and modern artists in particular.

Artistic Movements

Abstract Art:
Pure abstract art has more to do with design, color and sense of space rather than emotion or expression. However, in a sense, abstract art never existed in this pure form. Abstract imagery has been around for some time in photography, such as the work of Aaron Suskind. However, the new imagery I am proposing with slow shutter speeds and blur makes for some particularly powerful abstract images. Since there were so many branches of abstract painting, I will include links to major early abstract painters rather than the movement itself.

Abstract Expressionism:
Founded in New York in the forties and fifties the work of Pollock, DeKooning, Rothko, Kline, Frankenthaler, and Hofmann (just to name a few), combined the inner feelings of the artist with an abstract image. Again photography has the ability to add the feeling of the artist to an abstract picture. I have been told, for example, that I was "action painting with a camera," an idea that I agree with.

I believe that both cubism and futurism were deeply affected by Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity which was published in 1905. This theory linked time and space together as a basic foundation of physics and the world in which we live. Cubism broke away from the three dimensional space that had controlled art since the Renaissance. While the imagery and colors were quite limited in cubism, the space created was a new way to see. For example, with a portrait it was as though the viewer could see a person from the back, front and side all at the same time or perhaps see that person from different times all at one time.

"Relativity teaches us the connection between the different descriptions of one and the same reality".
Albert Einstein

While figurative, the expressionists wanted to express their feelings about a scene rather than depict the scene accurately. This led to distortions, unusual perspectives and primitive imagery. Digital photography can now achieve these expressionist effects. Digital photography can render subjects both realistic and also somewhat abstracted or smeared or vibrating (however you want to think of it). It can also create unusual perspectives.

I believe that both cubism and futurism were deeply affected by Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity which was published in 1905. This theory linked time and space together as a basic foundation of physics and the world in which we live. The goal of the Futurists was to include motion (and therefore time) in a painted image, much like the cubist wanted to include multidimensions in a portrait. Many of the images created in this online exhibit are similar to Futurist paintings.

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."
Albert Einstein

Light and color were suddenly freed from their realistic chains by the Impressionist. This came about because photography could render a realistic image quite easily, so painting had to branch out on its own. Instead of a real image, the artist created an impression. After years of living with these images, many people would agree that these impressions were more "real" than the realistic imagery they replaced. In any case, the Impressionists changed art forever. Their movement was the beginning of Western modern art.

Although originally conceived as a vehicle for poetry, it was visual imagery that gave surrealism its true voice. Andre Breton, the principle founder, fashioned a number ideas that were to characterize surrealism such as "pure psychic automatism," which included an acceptance of chance and accident and a "mental vantage-point (point de l'esprit) from which life and death, the real and the imaginary, past and future, communicable and incommunicable, high and low, will no longer be perceived as contradictions." His ideas led in several directions such as the almost trance like state that Pollock used to start his paintings and the dream imagery of Dali or Magritte. The new photography I am proposing in the online exhibit can make use of both ideas: 1) photography can mix a realistic image with a less sharp one and combine this with an unusual angle to create dream like imagery and 2) the photographer can relinquish some control and accept chance and accident to be central at times in the creation of his/her work.

Truth To Materials
(not exactly a movement, but more a way of working); these are some artists who used that approach:
Please see my full essay on this subject

Artists Whose Work Has Directly Affected My Digital Photography

Bacon, Francis:
His self portraits have a power and honesty that is hard to match. Showing himself in a very unflattering light, his smeared images are quite carefully done. His expressionist and blurred self-portraits are similar to what I was able to accomplish without realizing that he had done such self -portraits.
Francis Bacon Self Portraits

Calder, Alexander:
While others tried to depict motion, Calder created things that moved. From his circus to his mobiles, his art described space and time in a new way. If you look at a Calder mobile for a while, it appears to carve out the space in its path and that empty space, that it can enter and leave, becomes part of the art work.

DeStaŽl, Nicolas:
As I wrote in a companion essay on this site, DeStaŽl's quest was to find that point in space and artistic vision that encompassed the real and the abstract at the same time. Since photography starts out by dealing with the real world, it can then abstract a real image with a slower shutter speed, for example. See the essay I wrote about DeStaŽl.
Unfortunately I could not find one site that concentrated on his work, only sites with posters for sale.Žl

Gorky, Arshile:
Gorky is considered both a surrealist and an abstract expressionist. I often think of Gorky's paintings when I am composing. His figures merge and blend into each other to form more of a fabric than a figure-ground relationship. For example, I thought of his compositions when I created the dance pictures that are part of this online exhibit.

Kandinsky, Wassily:
He was the father of abstract art and also a major expressionist. The depth and range of his body of work is hard to classify because it kept growing and changing. It includes a number of distinct periods that produced quite different work and visions. Obsessed with the "spiritual in art" he approached the visual image in a number of ways to tell his basic message - that art was primarily concerned with the spiritual aspect of humanity.

Muybridge, Eadweard:
Muybridge is probably the most important little known modern artist of the last 150 years. His work in fast motion photography led to major developments in still photography and painting plus the invention of motion pictures. In addition his images of people and animals in motion forever changed the way these figures were viewed. His work led to the invention of the cinema and directly affected Marcel Duchamp and others at the turn of the century. I have studied his work carefully for over twenty years and made my own gallery of his work in a revised digital format (in the early 1990s with an 8-bit computer). You can look at my exhibit online.
at the Kingston Museum in association with Kingston University

---Rick Doble's Woman in Motion - Muybridge revisioned

Pollock, Jackson:
Pollock's overall compositions, sense of space and depth as well as his incredible understanding of line and the directional force of line are all quite appropriate for some of the new photographic images that I am proposing in this online exhibit. Like Kandinsky, his work was concerned with a spiritual resonance. This spirituality often gets overlooked in favor of his radical technique of splattering paint. Yet this method was really just a means to an end; many of his paintings, both early and late, were not painted in this style.

Art and Four Dimensions

To see one conception of a four dimensional supercube or hypercube in a two dimensional drawing:
Click Here
To read a discussion of how various modern artists such as Duchamp and Picasso used the fourth dimension in their work, go to:
Click Here
Click Here
Or the 4D Web Page with lots of links:
Click Here

On a personal note:
I, Rick Doble, have been wrestling with the notion of four dimensions most of my life, ever since I read George Gamow's book One Two Three...Infinity at the age of 13. These drawings are from a notebook that I made at that age and were essentially copied from Gamow's book.
The drawing in the middle is a four dimensional supercube: the small cube in the middle of that drawing represents the beginning of the cube at its creation, the lines represent the time the cube existed, and the large cube represents the cube at the end of its life

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