Thursday, October 26, 2006

Photography and painting

click photograph to enlarge
A few days ago I was in the Tate Gallery, London, looking, again, at the collection of paintings by J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851). As I moved from image to image and room to room I confirmed in my mind what I had felt for some time: namely, the paintings that I like best are his preparatory sketches and his later, freer works where the texture and luminosity of the paint are as important as the structure of the work. And, that the actual subject matters not at all.

That train of thought set another one going. Do I feel this way because I have drawn and painted, and have felt what it is to translate arm and hand movement to paper and canvas? And if that's so, do people who haven't done this feel the same about works that emphasise the movement of the artist's hand? In my younger days, when I was studying the history of art, I had a particular liking for the work of the American painter, Franz Kline (1910-1962). He was associated with the Abstract Expressionist group, whose members included Jackson Pollock. And, because his paintings are bold, spontaneous, and focus on the stroke of the brush as much (or more than) the subject, like Pollock, he attracted the label of "action painter". What appealed to me about his work was the boldness of his images (often done in black and white), the texture of the paint, and the fact that you could see the motion of his hand in his paintings.

When I looked at my photograph of a fence extending into the edge of Derwent Water in the English Lake District, it put me in mind of Kline's paintings. Let me be clear that I make no great claims for this photograph as art! However, it does rely on bold, black and white contrast, texture and simplicity. Who knows, perhaps the photograph was subconsciously prompted, in part, by my liking for Kline's work. I used a zoom lens at 200mm to focus on a section of the fence and its reflections, and was pleased that the early morning light and wind gave an interesting rippled texture to the water. The shot is in colour - in this instance, conversion to black and white seemed pointless!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen