Degree Show Opening Night

Degree Show DisplayOn our opening night of the degree show I had received some interest regarding my work. Some just general questions and I had a couple of discussions around the theme of it. But I was surprised to speak to a curator I had worked with previously, not knowing he would be turning up to the exhibition. Two years ago I featured in the 2012 Daegu Photography Biennale, in the young international photographers exhibition. The curator who had selected me to be in this exhibition appeared at the exhibition and seeing as I had only ever corresponded with him via email before it was nice to be able to put a face to the name.

When speaking to him he told me he liked my work and would be interested in potentially exhibiting it in the future. He will be traveling home to South Korea next year where he will be curating two exhibitions and wants to consider me for both of them. We had traded contact details and I intend on contacting him to follow up on this opportunity, but also to keep the lines of communication open as I am aware the exhibition isn’t in the near future.

photo(3)At a later point in the evening it had come to my attention that someone had placed an application form next to my work for ‘New Arts West Midlands’. Which I am taking as a subtle hint to apply, but this has also given me the inspiration to seek out other competitions and to contact curators and galleries. The interest that has been shown in my work from this opening night has given me the motivation to try and get my work into other galleries. But if I am going to do this I need to carry on and develop my work even further. I already have ideas of where to carry on and I would be interested in further developing the photogram series. Seeing them mounted and exhibited as they are encourages me to produce more.

Giving Context To My Work

Referring back to my proposal the whole intention of this project was to reach out to people who weren’t gay, connecting with them on some level, as the that would be a much larger audience to reach out to. Because of this I have chosen subjects that aren’t typically linked with homosexuality. This being a tactic that the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres used in his own work. Although Torres created work on the topic of homosexuality, he didn’t want it to be an easy target for anti-gay viewers to dispute, on the grounds that it depicted iconography of homosexuality or typically homoerotic imagery, such as Robert Mapplethorpe’s work or Touko Laaksonen’s (more commonly known as Tom of Finland) sketches of gay fantasies. An example of one of Laaksonen’s tamer sketches is shown below. But because Torres used sexually neutral objects, such as his installation of two clocks (below), he was able to infiltrate the subconcious of anti-gay viewer.

Tom of Finland

Torres ClocksBecause I have chosen to depict objects that appear unrelated to homosexuality, as a way of avoiding anything stereotypically ‘homosexual’, I have to frame the viewers understanding of the work to some extent. I don’t want to explain my reasoning behind the work to intensely, because I want the viewer to read interpret it freely. This being said I will have to give them some context to my work, at least enough so they understand what has informed my work.

I believe this can be achieved with a text panel next to the work. I don’t want it to steal focus, so I will keep the information concise with just a line summarising each key point. My work is heavily reliant on the viewers interpretation and perhaps they won’t get everything because the concept has been abstracted quite a bit. But at least if the text panel can inform the viewer that this work has been created in response to discrimination against the LGB community, they will make the association between this topic and the objects they see everyday such as the keys and insects. The result may only be small but at least this way these issues can begin to invade the consciousness of the masses.

Below is the text I haven written to summaries my whole project:

“Far and wide the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) community face varying degrees of discrimination and abusive attacks. In some cases cultures are encouraged to express hatred towards this community, offering no protection from local authorities and likening them to pedophiles and ‘perverted sum’. Within a relatively more progressive society, public figures are making oppressive comments. People that could one day hold enough power to destroy the progression and equal rights acquired by this community.This work is a response to these issues, offering a window for the viewer to hypothesize about the way of life of others. It describes the fragility of this minority within society and the degrading perceptions some people have of them.”

 

Considering The Presentation

Now I am at a point where I have produced a series of different work that address various issues and concerns I have, but I need to consider how all the work will be displayed in a way that looks like one cohesive body of work. Taking a step back from everything I’ve produced I have realised I have 3 main sections to the work I want to exhibit, as listed below:

  1. A series of photograms – These offer more of an objective view of the subjects I am depicting within the image. When I initially started the project I want to use objects that were universal to a wide audience outside of the LGB community, as a way of addressing issues that face this demographic. Photograms have been a very appropriate medium to this with, as Gerry Badger described them being both “figurative and abstract at the same time”, a contradictory statement that works well for my intentions. The objects that are shown within the photograms are easily recognisable, yet the process of making a photogram out of them has abstracted them far beyond anything from real life and the object therefore takes on a new purpose. The keys conjure up ideas of domesticated life, of security and of accessing a space that is secure, something that is denied to many gay and lesbian people. The insects inciting a sense of phobia in the viewer, an analogy for what message the Russian government are feeding their society, by banning the propaganda of homosexuality and punishing anyone that promotes a positive message of this lifestyle.
  2. A series of seascapes – Taking inspiration from Hiroshi Sugimoto and using how he has defined the seascape to inform my own work. A peaceful, safe and secure environment that is void of human intervention and unchanging, an environment that activists and charities, such as Stonewall (a leading charity for gay rights) are striving to achieve. And with recent progression within our own culture, such as the legalising of same-sex marriage, that environment seems ever closer. But the inclusion of the boat to disrupt this peaceful horizon within the series is representative of the oppressive figures that still linger and pose a threat to the progression of equal rights.
  3. I series of photographs – Which are an extension of the photograms and the insects that feature within the work. They will be included as a way of stimulating more of an emotional response from the viewers. I think the photograms are appropriate but lack the same stimulus that the photographs offer.

These are three different pieces that are linked together by a common theme, so I must design a layout that when exhibited they appear as one body of work. Below is an initial attempt at a layout, which doesn’t work but has raised several points that I must consider.

Whole Layout Low ResWhen discussing this layout with other people they pointed out that the insect photograms surrounding the larger photograph was overwhelming. They need to be separated because the eye can not really focus on either of the works and they steal attention from one and other. Also the colour’s seem to drastically different, with the blue strip along the bottom of the layout, which looks separated from the series and looks as if it doesn’t belong. Taking this into consideration I will re-arrange the layout so that each piece can stand alone, I wont attempt to force them together as they addressing different issues. In terms of the colour’s I have changed the seascapes into black and white as a way of matching them visually with the photograms. By doing this I have managed to increase the contrast between the sky and sea, resulting in a much more dramatic effect and this emphasizes the horizon.

There are more photographs I want to include in this series such as the two below, but in order to match them visually with the photograms I have cropped them into a square format and they will be printed to the same size.

Lee_1Lee_2

Another point I have considered is how they are mounted. I decided I am not going to frame them any of the photographs because there are a lot of small individual pieces, therefore the frames may dominate the wall. This leaves the option to mount the work onto a rigid, flat material. Initially I had considered foam board, but I wasn’t convinced that would be visually appealing and over time it would deteriorate quickly. I explored other possibilities such as MDF and alluminium, before settling on dibond which is reinforced by two sheets of aluminium. Unfortunately I didn’t find a printers that would mount on this material, so I had the dibond cut to size and I mounted the images myself.

photo 2

photo 1

 

Rinko Kawauchi Influence

In an earlier post I was talking about the photogram’s I have created in relation to photographs, such as the one below. I was wanting to include some photographs because I think they add something different to the body of work that photogram’s don’t, which is more of an emotional response. The photogram’s are clinical in their appearance whereas the photograph here creates more of a reaction.

Lee Hassall Image 1This idea of using a series of photographs to stimulate emotion as a way of telling a narrative, is something I experienced at an exhibition of Rinko Kawauchi’s work a few years ago. It was at the photographers gallery, when Kawauchi was nominated for the Deutsche Börse photography prize 2012. The body of work featuring in this exhibition was ‘Illuminance’, which has also been published within a book format. I thought the experience of viewing the book was translated successfully into an exhibition display, as in the book there are pairings of striking photographs, a mixture of abstract and figurative subjects that take the viewer on a rollercoaster of emotions, which was apparent in the exhibition as well. One moment you may be looking at an abstract image that has a soft colour palette, causing you to transcend into a dreamlike state and in contrast to this you are met with a grotesque picture of bloody eye balls pulling you out of this peaceful state.

The writing accompanying the photographs in the book talks about how Kawauchi’s photographs are reminiscent of a child’s curious perception of the world. Focusing on small, easily overlooked details within life and bringing them into question, presenting the viewer with a dilemma as to how something as repulsive as a dead bird could look beautiful at the same time.

Kawauchi 3

So I am going to try and replicate this method Kawauchi has used as a way of stimulating emotions out of the viewer. For example I have taken another photograph (below), which I would like to include in the series as I think it says something different to everything else I have at the moment. The bird appears quite majestic and hopeful, something I think will be read similarly by others as it’s quite a universal sign. It’ll be an interesting contrast within the body of work that is all about the discrimination of a demographic.

Lee_1

Seascape Series

In an earlier post I discussed a diptych I had created (below), which was inspired by the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes. Originally I thought the boat disrupting the tranquil, secure environment of the seascape (as Sugimoto describes it) was an appropriate analogy for the way countries such as Uganda are hindering the progression of equal rights for the LGB community. But recently I have noticed more disturbing oppressive behaviour much closer to home.

Seascape Diptych Low resFormer Labour minister David Lammy responded to numerous homophobic and racist comments coming from the UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) members, Lammy said ‘the country was “on the cusp of a serious bit of self-mutilation”in backing UKIP. “Many of its candidates are saying terible things about people who are gay.”

One of the first oppressive comments that I came across from a UkIP member was from UKIP counciller David Silvester who had blamed the storms across Britain earlier this year on the governments decision to legalise gay marriage. But the most recent comment made by a UKIP member was from Paul Forrest, a local election candidate in Liverpool, who had ‘linked homosexuality to pedophilia’. Forrest had said that ‘gay men are “ten times more likely” to be child abusers than “normal men”‘. Not only has this candidate made oppressive comments regarding gay men he’s also targeted religious groups, describing the catholic church as “the antichrist” and the “end of Islam is coming and that it’s followers who refuse to turn to christ will be gone”. It has also emerged that a stockport UKIP candidate refereed to Islam as ‘evil’ and “Pakistan should be ‘nuked'”.

UKIP MEP Roger Helmer has consistently made homophobic comments, stating that same-sex relationships are not worthy of the same respect as ‘traditional’ relationships and that the public should be aloud to openly dislike gay people. Roger Helmer says “marriage is defined by history, culture and reproductive biology and deserves special respect in society. (I am) perfectly relaxed about other relationships but they don’t justify the same respect”. Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader, has attempted to defend the views Helmer has about homosexuality. The reason for this being that ‘”most” over 70’s feel uncomfortable about gays’. Farage has attempted to justify Hemlmers comments by saying grew ‘grew up with a strong christian bible background’ and that he grew up in a time when ‘homosexuality was actually imprisonable’.

For the leader of the party to try and excuse these comments made by an MEP is quite worrying for the LGB community, especially as they are growing in popularity. It appears that these comments are being overlooked  and brushed aside, seeing as they carry on to gain power. The affects of a political party who have these views gaining power would be devastating to gay rights in this country.

In response to this I have developed the diptych above to the series of photographs below. Extending the seascape so that this horizon is exaggerated, as a result exaggerating the secure environment as described by Sugimoto. But still having the boat within the scene to disrupt the seascape’s clean, perfect horizon. I’ve decided to print the photographs small so that the viewer is tempted to step in close to the photographs and become immersed within the seascape.

Panaramic View

I have also experimented by making an animation with the two original images in the diptych, as a way of representing this coming and going of a secure environment. But I have decided to use he series of photographs to address the topic discussed within this post.

Frame-animation

 

 

Man Ray

Dadaism is an art movement that developed after the first World War. It was a time when the world appeared to be unstable and this movement was a response to a chaotic society, ‘the world had lost it’s mind, so art would lose it’s mind’. This was achieved by the dadaist’s rejecting traditional conventions about creating art, by creating surreal ‘anti-art’. There aren’t any defining characteristics of the movement, but collages were prevalent during the movement, such as Hannah Hoch’s photomontage’s and Man Rays photograms (below).

Man Ray

Marcel Duchamp, a key figure in the dada movement, created ‘readymades’ which were found objects the artist would take and present them as art. This subversive process was a method Man Ray used quite often in his own work and in the creation of his photograms, or ‘Rayograms’ (a term he created, after claiming he had accidentally discovered the process of making photograms), by overlaying found objects onto photographic paper to create complex patterns. Man Ray perfected the composition of photograms by understanding the shadows objects cast when overlapping each other “making a significant contribution to the dada’s integration of materials from everyday life into artistic process and to it’s endeavors in abstract imagery”. It is this abstraction of objects into complex montages that is recognisable in many of Man Ray’s photograms, which were “acclaimed by [his] fellow-dadaists because of their anti-artistic and apparently casual technique.”

It’s clear to see that Man Ray’s photograms were a prominent icon of the dada movement. Because of this I have a strong association between photograms and dadaism and this is what has led me to produce a series of photograms for this project.

I see similarities in how I am responding to contemporary issues as the dadaists responded to issues of their time. Post World War I society was fragile and chaotic, which is how I see the issues facing the LGB community currently. So for me the photogram is an appropriate medium to use when expressing my response to these contemporary issues.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes are a peaceful vision. Very simple photographs made up of just water, air and a horizon the divides the image in two, this is the entirety of the image.

Seascape 1 Seascape 2 Seascape 3

“Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract
attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence.
The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth: Let there water and air. Living phenomena
spontaneously generated from water and air in the presence of light, though that could
just as easily suggest random coincidence as a Deity. Let’s just say that there happened
to be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the right
distance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly
inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe,
we search in vain for another similar example.
Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I view
the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a
voyage of seeing.” – Hiroshi Sugimoto

In this quote Sugimoto talks about the seascape having a calming secure affect on the viewer. About knowing you are safe and belong in this place because the conditions on this planet are perfect for our existence.

The part ‘I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home’ refers to the seascape as being fixed in time. It remains a constant throughout time and is the same sight that the ancient world looked out upon and remains undisturbed.

I have recently visited the North East of England, staying in a place not far from the coast. Seeing the seascapes here reminded me of this series by Sugimoto, and that calming security that is conveyed in his work.

This seemed appropriate to include in my own work, as advances are being made in our society where it has become easier to live openly gay. Yet this isn’t a progression that can be seen in other countries that seem to be taking a backward approach to the liberalisation of the LGB community.

This report from The Guardian shows anti-gay activist celebrating the passing of anti-gay laws in Uganda. This ‘Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act’ sentences gay people o life in prison, within this bill the death penalty was first proposed before settling with life imprisonment.

This is why in the seascapes I have taken (shown below), I have included a disturbance upon the horizon. As a diptych you get that sense of a wide open, undisturbed space with this slight imperfection to the right of the horizon. Within this almost empty and peaceful image that tiny imperfection is magnified by the fact nothin else in the frame distracts from it.

My interpretation of this seascape is that it is peaceful and comforting and that ship on the horizon is a distraction from the security the seascape offers, as described by Sugimoto.

Seascape Diptych Low res

 

Photograms of Insects

Following on from an earlier blog post I have carried on an idea, which has led me to create this new series of photograms (shown below). It was inspired by the photograph below it. This photograph had reminded me of the way in which homosexuals are portrayed within Russian society. Being an inconvenient pest, that are treated poorly and have very little rights.

Insect Grid

Lee Hassall Image 1The reason for choosing to create photograms is because I feel it offers more of an objective representation of the subject, free from a photographers vision. It’s a lot simpler and standardised in how it is represented.

Gerry Badger describes the photogram as being both “figurative and abstract at the same time”. What seems like a contradictory statement actually makes sense. The forms of the subjects depicted in the photograms are familiar to real life objects that we can recognise as being insects, yet the harshly contrasted black and white aesthetic of the photograms are far from being realistic.

This departure from a photographers interpretation of the subjects, I believe offers more of a clinical distant view of the subject. Whereas the photograph below the photograms provokes more of an emotion out of the viewer; it appears sad, isolated and insignificant, which I don’t get as a reading from the photograms.

The photogram and the photograph offer different things, which I want both of in my final piece. I want the objective, universally recognisability of the photogram and I want the emotional reaction you can get from a photograph. It is because of this I am now starting to consider exhibiting a mixture of photograms and photographs in my final piece.

Eva Grubinger: ‘Dark Matter’

‘Dark Matter’ is a series of sculptures by the artist Eva Grubinger. The body of work was exhibited at the Baltic center for contemporary art.

Dark Matter 1

Dark Matter 2

The work raises the question ‘what does power look like?’. Within society there are dominating figures that control our lives, and this body of work explores the artists interest in power and surveillance. Our spending habits tracked, our journeys documented on CCTV, but the people monitoring this surveillance remain hidden and so answering the question of what power looks like seems difficult to answer.

The title ‘Dark Matter’ is taken from the theory in physics, where dark matter is a term given to something that is detectible and yet remains invisible. A metaphor for not being able to answer the question ‘what does power look like?’.

The sculptures consist of an over sized headset, mirrored glass, a control tower, a cooling tower, an atomic reactor and a tower block. Although deciphering the meaning of the sculptures may not be apparent at first, what they represent within today’s society is a little clearer. Metaphors for power, which can be likened to ‘statutes of goddesses of war, eagles and lions’ that were symbols of power hundreds of years ago.

The objects are familiar to us, which is why the artist chose to use them in her work. We all will have experienced them and Grubinger is using these universal experiences as a way of visually representing the mysterious shape that power could take the form of.

Grubinger is taking a complex political issue, something that is difficult to imagine and picture visually, but is still taking the issue and distilling it into a series of objects. Jan Verwoert wrote about this work stating that ‘as long as reality is only arbitrarily experienced, it wont occur to anybody to become politically active’. Taking this into consideration we can see what Grubinger has done is organised a series of objects, (that at first appear unrelated to each other) which all represent power in one way or another. And it is this collection of objects representing power which gives weight to Grubingers metaphor, that this is what power looks like.

This work is something that will inform the production of my own. The objects I am using will be recognisable to everyone.They may appear arbitrary at first, disconnected from the issues that they represent, but will become clearer when united.

 

 

In an earlier post I discussed the conditions within Russia. How hatred is encouraged to be fueled towards the LGB community. This being done in several ways, for example the outlawing of making neutral comments about homosexuality and only allowing negative expressions to be made about the sexuality. Or the fact that homophobic attacks go unpunished, making it appear acceptable to abuse people from this community.

Russia intends to depict homosexuality as scum, pests, insignificant beings worthy of extermination. Something that can easily be exterminated, a pest within society. So if you think about their hierarchy of society, homosexuality (like insects within the food chain) are at the lowest level.

Lee Hassall Image 1I came across this image I have that reflected this issue to me, how insignificant a life can be treated. It’s easy to almost miss the bug, and could easily be mistaken for an imperfection within the image, a smudge on the lens perhaps. Once realising the subject, you notice how fragile the insect is, and even though you notice it’s life has left it you feel very little (if any) sadness, because it’s so insignificant. It’s life is not worthy of any emotional remorse.

The cold distant response I get from the subject in this photograph is how I feel the conditions are currently within Russia. A similar lack of respect for this insect reflects the lack of respect for people within the LGB community. The casual act of exterminating a pest seems reminiscent of the ease in which homophobic attacks are carried out in Russia.