Advent Calendar: 10

It seems I’ve been more exhausted than I thought. Today was really the first day since Thursday when I’ve actually felt up to doing any serious work. So I spent the day at a friend’s chatting, doing Christmas baking and making origami snowflakes. As you do 🙂

At any rate, it was a lovely, relaxing day – and relaxing in a restorative sense, rather than in  an “I’m so zonked out I can’t move” sense. I think it was really good for me. I was still knackered when I got home, though, but managed to take the Ansel Adams exhibition catalogue to bed with me for a bit of a read and flip through.

I think those photos are actually having more of an effect on me in the catalogue than in the exhibition, which is odd, but I think it’s to do with only having one or two in your field of vision at any one time, rather than being aware of so many landscapes all at once – it gives me a chance to really focus on a single image, and there really are some stunners there.

This particular piece is probably the one I’m having the most trouble starting too, probably because most of the others I’ve had some ideas about, but this one all I have is a mood and a single opening texture, which isn’t really enough to build a whole piece on. I’ve started reading the introductory essays in the book, some of which have been helpful.

Among the elements I’m starting to catch hold of are Ansel Adams’ ideas about narrative in photography. From the catalogue’s Foreword:

“Adams closely associated water with his desire to create visual narrative through careful image framing, in large measure because he considered the flow of water and narrative to be equivalent.

How did he express this equivalency? Some artists develop a one-note orientation; others work with a loosely related succession of styles and themes or pursue different directions and media more randomly. Still others take a cyclical or serial approach, culling and weaving permutations of materials, forms, or concepts from an expanding central vocabulary that affords opportunities to modify, refine and extend. Adams gravitated to the latter, demonstrating a compositional flair and an orchestration of repetition, variation and seriality that suited his desire to plumb the depths of possibilities represented by motifs such as water. Often, artists who return to subjects again and again engage in repetition as acceptance of the challenge to reach resolution, even perfection, because repetition provides a context and boundaries for experimentation and exploration.” (Dan L. Monroe, The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, and Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, The James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Chief Curator, Foreword to Ansel Adams: At the water’s edge, published by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, in 2012.)

I think these ideas set the scene for a piece using repetition and slight variation to develop its material. I had also been thinking about repetition because of the large number of photos depicting reflections. While the photographs that speak to me most clearly tend to be the more close-up, almost abstract images, I kind of want to attempt a portrayal of the exhibition as a whole, or a section of the exhibition if this is not possible, simply because it seems very narrow to base the piece on a single image which would most likely not be one of the images Adams is best known for.

The exhibition was divided up into types of water: waterfalls, the sea, geysers, snow and ice, etc. so I guess my next step here is to consider these groupings and what I might be able to do with them. Really need to get cracking and make a start on this piece because it’s the longest one of everything I need to write this Christmas (8-10 minutes! eek!) and also the one I have fewest ideas for, so I need to settle on a starting point soon!

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