In these past few weeks I have been continuing my “Double Exposure” project; using white paint markers of varying thicknesses as well as standard black fine-liners in lieu of embroidery. With this relatively limited palette, I wish to add a second layer on the pages from David Hamilton’s Souvenirs and replicate in drawing what it feels to be distracted by negative information about an author when viewing a piece of art.
The first time I remember being in a situation where learning unsavoury details about an artist stopped me fully enjoying their work was in secondary school. Like any budding painter, around the age of 13 or 14, I idolised Picasso. Sure, I thought the Guernica was great, but what I was really obsessed about was his blue period. Learning about his chauvinism and the questionable treatment of the women in his life, made me both angry and embarrassed. How his behaviour was tolerated if not fully expected from a successful male painter was beyond me. I replaced him in my heart with the drinking-with-the-boys Frida Kahlo. How much did that really change the expectation my teenage-self had about painters is open to interpretation.
With age and a bit of experience I have learned to accept that idolising as well as detesting a stereotype of a person is not productive. By ignoring the whole production of Picasso, for the sake of argument, because he was a royal self-obsessed arse, would not do you any favours. On the flip side, sweeping any problem under a rug hardly makes it disappear. Perhaps we ought to be more mindful about past prejudices and negative attitudes embedded in creative work, have it be visual art, music, drama or literature… and strive to do better in the future? Besides, by choosing to appreciate artwork only from the “Greatest Hits” shelf of art history leaves you missing out on not just great art, but great stories of artists less know than Picasso or Kahlo.
To return to “Double Exposure”, pretending the sexual abuse allegations against David Hamilton do not affect the way his work is perceived would be an understatement. This is partly explained by the subject matter itself – what was seen acceptable in the 1970’s is more widely condemned and disapproved today, even when suggestively posed pre-pubescent children are not involved. What intrigues me is how difficult it is to separate the art from the person who created it. Like a window that gets dirtier and harder to peer through with the passage of time, it is difficult observe Hamilton’s photography in earnest without the cloud of accusations obstructing the view. Following this line of reasoning, I begun to draw with a view of obscuring, but not entirely covering the pages of Souvenirs – to physically replicate this effect on paper.
These drawing attached in today’s blog are just a few examples of my progress so far. With over a hundred photographs to choose from, my biggest challenge will be selecting the most successful pieces and curating them into a coherent work of art.