Saturday, January 5, 2019

Patterns, textures and abstraction

I have always been fascinated with the arrangement of abstract elements in an image and how they attract us to get up close and become absorbed in their ambiguity.

Meaning is intrinsic in such images. There is no external reference. Simply put, elements such as textures, colours, patterns, and the arrangement of space, tension and movement situated within the frame are all there for their own sake. These elements are crying out for recognition in and of themselves. To introduce analogies or superimpose an external reality is to miss the point completely.

I recall visiting an exhibition of paintings that included a number of abstract works. In front of one of these paintings a visitor turned to me, and shrugging his shoulders said, "I really can't see anything in this - anyone could do it."  Perhaps that is true. But I suspect my fellow viewer was looking for something in that painting which he could reconcile with his own topography of the world. When that familiarity evaded him he thought that there was nothing in the work for him to see. But what about the textures, shapes, colours and lines within that frame - could he not 'see' those, and notice the way they interrelated to create a visual universe worthy of exploration?

Abstraction in photography lies across a continuum. At one end there can be a sprinkling of representation - just enough to provide an external reference point. On the other hand there are fully abstract works where there is no external reality. Meaning in such work is sourced from elements within. In the case of the former, the viewer derives meaning from the impression provided by a degree of realism. With fully abstract works however, the meaning of the work can only be sourced from the juxtaposition and arrangement of the various elements provided by the photographer.

Abstraction taken to the extreme is appreciated and 'interpreted' differently by individual viewers. Individuals may have their own perspective that favours one aspect of the image over another. But whatever the impact on the viewer, the meaning derived is intrinsic to the visual elements within the frame; not anchored to an external reality.

Although abstraction is not taken to the extreme in the following images, the arrangement of graphic elements such as contrast, line, shape, form and textural elements is strong enough to stand alone and distinct from the representational aspect present in each photograph.










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