Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Chinese lanterns

click photo to enlarge
Sometimes it's all about the colour! I learnt this many, many years ago when I first studied painting. At the time I had decided ideas about what I liked. From the twentieth century I favoured David Hockney, Franz Kline, Victor Pasmore, Graham Sutherland, Stanley Spencer (yes, I had a liking for English artists!), and from the past, J.M.W. Turner, Cotman, Goya, Chardin, Vermeer and Gaugin. I was equally unequivocal about what I didn't like - Rococo painting!

Its origins in the decorative arts gave it, to me, a frothy insubstantiality. All those satin ladies, fine gentlemen, luxuriant foliage, shiny silk and mythological characters seemed like so many staged scenes from lightweight plays. Then my eyes were opened by "The Swing" by Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806). On the face of it this painting represented everything I disliked about the work of that period: a flimsy young woman in her bouncing dress, showing her legs and petticoats to her foppish lover, as her dainty shoe flies off, set in a sylvan glade with stone cherubs looking on. No, not my cup of tea at all. But, I was bowled over by the colour. Pink set against turquoise (the delicacy of which is hard to reproduce across the internet!), with shades of each colour multiplied across the painting. It made me realise that the force of a painting can exist independently of its subject.

That can be true of a photograph too, though many amateurs are unaware of this important fact. When people say to me, can you recommend a book on digital photography my stock answer is "No, they're a waste of time: read a book about art or art appreciation instead, you'll learn much more." Today's photograph is all about the colour: orange set against blue/green, with a little deeper black. It shows "Chinese lanterns" (Physalis franchetii) in a vase. It's a still life, the second I've done this week (see "The beauty of flowers"), where the colour was more important than the subject.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f18
Shutter Speed: 2.5
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.3EV
Image Stabilisation: Off