Week 55: 30th September – 6th October
This week I headed over to Wakefield for the bi-monthly Artwalk. The Artwalk happens on the last Wednesday of the month and consists of all the various art spaces and galleries opening to members of the public till late. The event is a good opportunity to see new artworks and meet the artists involved. It promotes a grassroots ethic to support engagement in the arts by and for the local community and is promoted and managed by The Arthouse, which incidentally was my first stop for the evening.
We Gathered our Photographs and Left
Upon arriving at the Arthouse I was immediately confronted by 2 large scale wall mounted photographs by artist Bob Clayden. As he explains in his artist statement: ‘The images in this exhibition were made over a six month period in and around the former library on Wakefield’s Drury Lane, as the building began a gradual transition from library to art space. Made using a solargraphic technique, pin-hole cameras were placed inside and outside the building to record the changing architecture and sky in single long-exposure images.
The images show the trace that the sun makes in the sky, changing each day as the earth rotates and rising as the seasons pass. By looking at the finished solargraph individual days can be seen, just as years can be identified in tree rings. The images have been combined with diary entries and library lending statistics to emphasise this passage of time and mark significant dates in the life of the artist. They echo our love of creating and keeping memories as photographs, whilst also making the passing days visible in a single still image.’
Part artwork, part informational diagram, the photographs seemed to be trying to express many different ideas at once and could perhaps have benefited from being produced as separate bodies of works. However, I was struck by the idea of a contemporary version of a solar chart, where events are calculated and divined by their relation to astral activity, so I decided to stay for the artist talk to find out more.
Bob began by giving a very practical introduction to the way that the images had been made by explaining the process of using a pinhole camera and showing us the cans that he’d used to create his images. Rather than calling them cameras however, he referred to them as ‘solar collectors’ to stress the difference in the way that they recorded images. It was interesting to see the material objects behind the development of the work and I wondered if that was something that he could include in future exhibitions.
However my main interest was in how he created the aesthetic of the images. After exposing the image to photographic paper for the desired length of time, he removed the paper from the ‘camera’ under darkroom conditions, and then instead of using chemicals to develop the work, he scanned the image into the computer. This process created a colour negative of the image which was then inverted in Photoshop.
This process of combining primitive photographic techniques with modern technology suggested a further level of alchemy that I was keen to pursue in the reading of the work, with its references to solar collection and astrological patterns. However, when I questioned the artist about it, he was reluctant to address any sort of alchemical or early modern scientific interpretation.
I started to consider the possibility that I had begun to interpret any images I saw in reference to my research and interests. Despite this concern, it seemed like a pertinent suggestion, particularly in context of the earlier photographic experiments of Sigmar Polke, Susan Derges and Anne Hammond, etc, so I decided to reflect on the material processes of the solargram in relation to using it to create images for artist books.
Images & processes: