Project 3.4 – Ex. 3.3: The mirror as a stage
a screen of actions
acting through cutting space
a virtual in physical
a state of place
placing in relationship.
The mirror as an object is rarely seen as such – similar to the surface of a painting – it is ‘within’ the mirror where the ‘image’ appears, invisible without, kind of affirmation of being. And one wondes whether that appearing image is inside or on the surface of the mirror, or just floating above?
The mirror took its stage already in the previous part of my course, as an object of fetishes on my ‘fetish wall’, a black mirror, one that I made earlier one for PoP1. First as a tool to discern tonal values – ended up as an object of identity..
Two other kind of mirrors were taking my attention: water reflections (as seen in one pic on Clare Price’s IG account), besides a reflection of the ‘invisible’ window also a spatial extension/expansion of the studio space into the painting. The other one relates to my personal project: the small viewing mirror inside the head coil of an MRI scanner (as experienced myself). The first as a visual device to reflect back the environment, the latter as a communication device between patient and operator . The first a painterly perspective, the latter perhaps more conceptual. The first seeing the ‘virtual’, the latter seeing the object for seeing.
virtual reflection – visual communication
Based on my previous works and my ideas for my assignment derived from my embodied enactment screen-box, I am more intrigued to follow the fluid idea of reflection. The flatness, screen like, visually expanding into depth – as if looking behind the glass. For me, this resonates with how I do see medical imaging techniques. Interestingly, from a chemo-physical point of view glass has some characteristics of a liquid, a fluid state (Krämer, 2017). Overall, my main interest resides in the visual expanded space as a mediation of the separate physical spaces: the space with the mirror aka reflective surface located, the space the reflection is showing. Open question: where is the viewer? (a question that was tackled differently in art history as my contextual research showed). And it is light that illuminates the surfaces and let us to discern shapes, forms, memories.
Exploring staged spaces:
Building on the previous observed ‘staged’ reflections (as partly captured through video in Hand-Catch-Screen and Hand-Catch-Screen-Performance). I am interested to explore those moments of chance and interactions on surfaces
I became more interested in the patterns inside, or behind the screen, especially when looking closely. The reflections (Fig. 1) through a plastic foil rather seen as an obtrusion, or as an interference like in one of sketchbook explorations? Wondering what will happen if I put more focus on the surface itself alongside the ‘bouncing back space’. To take the box with me?
working from a flat box, a simple spray painted frame (stenciled) – a framing device, contained (Fig. 2).
Some aspects I learned from experimenting:
- reflective surfaces: playing with light
- framing: playing with context and containment
- layering: physical vs digital (and composites of both)
- scaling & composing / placing
- reflection: more than reflective images (‘mirror with no image’ – I feel some thoughts of Derrida coming in)
=> getting more concerns about the collaged hand, artefact and memory from work before. But necessary? Index of my interaction? Would gestural marks not be able to serve the same ‘purpose’? But it might be also a visual cue for the viewer to engage personally – versus my gestural marks just my own ‘narrative’?
Playing with light
media used: day light, studio light, light beam from projector; frame paper, reflective materials, cut out pieces (see Ex 3.2); simple photoshop images (geometric shapes); recorded videos
Exploring performative reflections with my self-made devices (Fig. 5):
I tried all kind of variations with the light beam, at daylight and at night, with reflective and non-reflective surfaces (Fig. 5). From all images I took, a selection of those that I find most intriguing in a painterly sense (Fig. 6).
… and a for most remarkable and unexpected video – in a sense a remake of a double reflective projection (by projecting the video Pull #02 onto reflective surfaces=- unframed. I made it rather by chance coincidence – intrigued by the unfolding ‘performance’ in-front of my eyes while searching for reflective patterns.
Video 1: Performance – Unframed #01 (0.22 min)
=> there is a sense of dislocation, ‘unframing’ and at the same time a containment with an ambiguous sense of space and surfaces, multiple physical surfaces together with the projection I find the text from the protective sheet on the perspex fascinating, as it advances the text more than the reflection, (painted black at the backside to act as a mirror for projection). My hand, flipping the physical book ‘Pull #02’, becomes an actor in the projection. fragmented and dislocated. I made another video, focusing more with a close up view on the high reflective surface and color creations (Performance – Unframed #02). There is a strong sense of disruptive space, edges that perform in ambiguity. Is this working better in moving images or could this be translated into painting? If yes, a flat painting as illusion (as the video is about illusion) or as a sculptural painting to play with a more tactile sense of disruption?
Overall, it is all the performative reflections through projection and light modulation – kind of prisma of white light splitting into all spectra colors (bringing once more to my attention the idea of spectrum in my research on Jaqueline Humphries and her ‘Black Light Paintings’)
Painting performance – reflective performances
I worked with my ‘tools’ (Fig. 5 & 6), observed and painted the staged performance in front me: projections as light performances, framed, unframed, and reframed. I decided to work on smaller scale, a watercolor pad of 24×17 cm and a bit larger of 28×35.6 cm. To focus on smaller areas, possibly with more close up views, inspired by the close up paintings of folds of Alison Watt (though her paintings are rather large scale).
Staging Reflections #1 – #12 (click on image to see in lightbox view)
Fig. 7 – Fig.18: all watercolor and black gouache on paper (24 x 17 cm)
At some stage, I was facing a much troubling phenomena of double image: kind of duck-rabbit illusion, a Gestalt, when one can see either one or the other, but not both images the same time. In my case, the patterns on the reflective surface and the reflected image. Where to look when to paint by observation? I found it quite hard to do so, as my painted surface never seem to reflect that phenomena (#14). Why is it so hard to make a duck-rabbit painting? It felt so frustrating – but on the other hand so exciting. An area I would love to explore further – without knowing how. In a similar way, I found it tremendously difficult to paint those multiple reflective surfaces: patterns projected, patterns physical on the surface (see Fig. 5), and patterns in-between (#4 and #10, #11). Eventually I decided to make first a line drawing of main highlight areas, to paint around, and only at the very end after the watercolor was dry to add some final color washes (#12).
I discovered how fascinating the disruption of the picture plane became when projecting the images not on one but on multiple staggered surfaces. My ‘fingers’ seem to cross boundaries and performing on multiple stages the same time (#6 – #9).
Staging Reflections #13 – #14 (click on image to see in lightbox view)
Fig. 19 – Fig. 19: all watercolor and black gouache on paper (28 x 35,6 cm)
At the end, I found that a more loose approach and gestural interpretation of observed reflections could be more successful, e.g. as I started to explore after #5 with the more freely painted version #6. To consider focused observation only as an intermediate step for my assignment work.
I consider the more successful paintings: #6, #7, #8, #12, and #14. Mostly for the more intriguing space ambiguity and more convincing painted patterns as well as better range of tonal contrast.
Overall, I find my paintings of combination of abstract color patterns and figurative fingers intriguing. They seem to be more engaging, possibly due to the human body inclusion. An aspect the viewer can relate to first and continue deeper.
Reflection in context
With respect to the screen as mirror I feel reminded of my recent read in the British Library: Helen Chadwick’s book ‘Of Mutability’ (Chadwick, 2011 and James, 2017). She talked about her project based on photocopies and using the photocopier as a camera. Everything – and mostly her own naked body – was placed onto the glass plate of the copier and those copies resulted in large composites, a mosaic of hundreds of pieces. Oval Court, 1986 was a result to this process work, inspired by Rococo sensibilities as ‘constructed fantasies’ (Racz, 2017). Chadwick described her intention that the audience should experience the work not as a ‘voyeur’, but through a ‘kind of mirror identification, where the symbolism and language were broken down ‘ (Racz, 2017:70).
I can see a relationship between screen imagery as I explored in previous exercises, my bodily enactment and performative painting, and the media for viewing (mirror, glass plate, photocopier, water surfaces). Media that are informing the work and eventually do perform on its own, e.g. the projector beam and the TV-box.
framing – staging – screening – performing
Rather by coincidence I discovered the work of Penelope Umbrico in context of TV and reflective screens: found images of TV sets on TVs from Craigslist (2011). With a closer view she felt intrigued by the rather unintentionally depiction of context (room) when the owners took a snapshot for posting on Craigslist for sale (of the TV set). Later she posted her photographic images on the same platform for the same price as the former owner set it for the physical TV set. A loop from physical through virtual back to physical etc. She developed other works (all photographic reproductions) eg Broken Sets / Bad Display, 2011 with a colorful, rather painterly aesthetic appeal reminding me of Hito Steyerl’s short video ‘Strike’, 2010. The screen either as a rather passive reflector with an eerie element of revealing or as an active performative surface embracing serendipity. It feels as if the mirror, glass, a fluid medium with some liquid characteristics is looping back, to liquid crystals in the form of LCD displays. A whole territory for visual exploration as it was a major topic in the April 2018 issue of Journal of Visual Culture with some inspirational pictures of Esher Leslie, composites, at time with text as a kind of visual narrative (Candela ed al, 2018).
What does it give me? A deeper interest in exploring materiality and painterly performances of the boundary of a screen, in a wider context – getting excited to explore it with my hands on the paint.
From above reflections and the question which ‘mirror’ to take, I will just continue with the flow of my explorations of my hand, the TV, the screen, and the projection. I will leave the water pool and head coil mirror aside, find them too literal right now. They will come back if required – or not.
One other reference came to my mind looking at painting and projection: works of the artist Naomi Kremer called ‘Hybrid Paintings‘, e.g. Riverine, 2017-18, paintings with overlaid projection specifically made for each painting.
Another link that I find relevant related to reflective surfaces are some photography works of Sara Naim, very much resonating my my observations, e.g as sketched in no.12
- Collaged pieces of human body, my hand versus gestural marks – both could serve the ‘purpose’ of index and my presence. Is one better than the other? Which narrative would unfold: mine or the viewer’s?
- Performative reflections in a wider sense: projection and light modulations alongside disruptive space appearance. Something I find very intriguing to build on further.
- Presence of human body parts seem to be more engaging.
- Painting multiple reflective surfaces with reflected light and physical surface patterns seem to be like a duck-rabbit illusion, either one or the other, not both. Certainly, a skill I need to learn much better if I want to move further that direction. To look up artists who paint in such a manner.
- Once more I experienced that to make paintings in series, party parallel, opens up doors to new knowledge and insight, new possible directions, and new sensibilities. My hand and my mind are involved in observing, painting, abstracting, and reflecting.
- Candela, E., Cubitt, S., Dicker, B., Drew, B. and Leslie, E. (2018) ‘Liquid Crystals: A Roundtable’, In: Journal of Visual Culture, 17 (1) pp. 22-67.
- Chadwick, H. (2011) Helen Chadwick : of mutability, [Rev. rep.] ed. Edited by James, N. P. London: Cv Publications, c2011, c1989.
- James, N. (2017) Helen Chadwick: Of Mutability (1989), Cv/Visual Arts Research series, [audible book], Cv Publications, 50.
- Krämer, K. (2017) ‘Glass should be redefined as a liquid’, in: Chemistry World. [online].At: https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/glass-should-be-redefined-as-a-liquid/3008199.article (Accessed on 28 Dec 2018).
- Racz, I. (2017) ‘Helen Chadwick’s Of Mutability: process and postmodernism’, in: Journal of Visual Art Practice. [online]. 16(1), pp. 61-76, At: https://doi.org/10.1080/14702029.2016.1206442 (Accessed on 08 Jan 2019).
- Umbrico, P. (2011) TVs from Craigslist, [online], At: http://www.penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/tvs-from-craigslist/ (Accessed 21 Dec 2018).