Thursday, 24 January 2013

Photographic Abstraction

[see also my earlier post on Photographic Abstraction July 2012]

Let me define Photographic Abstraction as "an abstract image which incorporates photographs". This is to distinguish it from Abstract Photography and Photo-manipulation, all of which I will discuss here.

The image I have chosen to illustrate this piece, which I claim is an example of Photographic Abstraction, is based on a photograph of a sculpted piece of fat, although I don't really want the observer to see it as that. I was trying particularly to construct the pattern that appears near the top edge of the image, not that it reminded me of anything in particular, but because I found that part of the original photograph attractive.

Other examples of photographic abstraction are shown below (at the end of this post), each based on a photograph, or photographs, and each being abstract in a sense that I will define.

Art is often described as figurative (or representational) or abstract. Abstract is taken to mean that the art does not represent anything real and is presented for its inherent beauty or effect.

Paintings are sometimes described as photo-realistic, where the artist has achieved an image that is so close to a depiction of reality that it could be a photograph.

Photographs are sometimes described as abstract, where the image, while possibly recognisable as a real object, is presented primarily for its pattern or colour (one thinks of photographs of fishing nets, chains or attractive surfaces). Abstract Photography in this sense is photography where the subject is not journalistic or memorialist.

Photo-manipulation is a common post-processing that we apply to digital photographs to carry out the darkroom processes that analogue photography used. Cropping and enhancing are commonplace even for journalistic photography. However, most photo-manipulation software allows a degree of artistic enhancement, through filters that process images by, for example, altering the colours. So grass can be red and the sky can be yellow, or the whole image can be altered to look like it has been painted with a brush in, perhaps, an impressionist style.

Photographic Abstraction is an extension of these ideas. The artist has in mind some image that they want to create and consider a photograph, or photographs, as being a sensible component either because they realise the colours that they want or the shapes that they imagine. The resulting image will be abstract but the method of its construction will include the manipulation of photographs.

My own personal take on this process is to apply systematic, geometric transformations to photographs. I usually have in mind to achieve an effect that is reminiscent of art that I have seen. Earlier posts have shown images that I have made in the style of Mondrian, Richter, van Gogh and Rothko, always based on original photographs. Some of these are repeated below.