Thursday, 13 December 2012

Seduced by Art: photography past and present - The National Gallery Study visit

I attended the OCA study day at the National Gallery last week. The show was, "Seduced by Art: Photography, Past and Present." The aim of the exhibition was to show how the tradition and culture of painting has affected the development of a photographic aesthetic in photography since its invention in 1839. The day began with a lecture that really helped to put the exhibition into context and allowed for discussion on some of the work that we were to see exhibited later in the day.

Eugene Delacroix, "Death of Sardanapulas."

Historical works of art were hung side by side with photography to illustrate the flow of ideas and in one of the examples a Delacroix painting, "Death of Sardanapulas," was hung with the work of contemporary photographers, Jeff Wall and Sarah Jones. Both of them have used the Delacroix painting as their reference point. In the case of Jeff Wall, it is his, "The Destroyed Room," and for Sarah Jones, her work, "The Drawing Studio (I)." It was an eye opener to be made aware of these connections. I would never have worked it out alone. For one, I am not familiar enough with traditional Western art painting. I've not seen the Delacroix painting before and the tale of the impending destruction about to happen to the king and his harem was not an obvious one for me. Also the content of the painting and the two photographs are vastly different but I could see the connection once I spent enough time analysing the works.

How many of us have been brought up with a deep knowledge of classical history, myths and painting though? I can see how Post Modernism evolved and gained a foothold now. Our own experiences in a modern society through television, film and the media, seem much more relevant to me. I'm not dismissing the referencing of art in photography. I still enjoy it. I'm just making an acknowledgement that more work is required to understand it.

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