Today we received the brief for Areas of Photographic Practise (B). For this module we have been asked to produce 3-12 ‘images without using a camera.
After receiving the brief I began to think about other ways to produce an ‘image’ without using a camera. There are some common practises to do this such as painting.
Painting began in prehistoric times and was not restricted to any particular culture. There have been numerous discoveries of artefacts that were used to paint and discoveries of ‘paintings’ on rocks or cave walls from up to 30,000 years go. The oldest rock face paintings to date were found in Twyfelfontein in Namibia. During these times paints were made out of minerals, animal blood and/or fat which were mixed to create colours. Due to these ingredients being natural most of the colours found in these paintings are brown, red and yellow.
The subject matter of these paintings usually depicted animals or people, although the reasoning behind the paintings can not be confirmed. It is speculated that they were educational, spiritual and possibly decorative. The images have been said to help Shaman into a trance in which they do their work.
This is called the Cave of Hands (Cueva de las Manos) and is located in Santa Cruz, Argentina. It is said to be 9,000-13,000 years old. To create this kind of artwork pipes were made from bone and paint was blown through them to create the hand silhouette.
Egyptians were the first to create a distinct style of painting in around 3100 BC. Although the motive of prehistoric painting is less clear, Egyptian paintings depicted stories and messages, for example: the journey to the afterlife. The purpose of these paintings seems to be to advise the dead of their path towards the afterlife. These paintings were in the form of images and hieroglyphs which were the equivalent of a type of alphabet. These symbols translated as words and information could be written using them, for example Pharaohs and important people were often buried with scrolls that contained inscriptions. For example in the tomb of Ramses II there is an inscription written to Nefertari, his queen, which said ‘Words spoken by Isis – Come, great king’s wife Nefertari, beloved of Mut, without fault, that I may show thee thy place in the sacred world’. (HISTORY OF PAINTING, no date).
Part of Ramses II’s Sarcophagus – the symbols here are hieroglyphs and have been carved into the stone. (Image source: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ramesses2t.htm)
The iconic style of Egyptian painting was carried through to the Minoan Era; with profile facing characters and their forward facing eyes. In the Bronze Age, around 1600 BC painting started to be used to decorate and the content of the paintings expanded. Painting was used to create murals in homes, which is evident as archeologists have found decorative murals in the homes of the rich in Crete, preserved after a volcanic eruption.
(Image source: http://www.ancientgreece.com/MinoanArt)
This painting is titled Minoan Queens Fresco and to create this type of art pigments made from ingredients such as iron ore, indigo plant and saffron. To create these paintings the pigments were applied to wet plaster which bound the pigments to the wall, this is one of the reasons that the art was preserved so well. Due to the plaster drying quickly the paintings were created with speed; fluid, curved brush strokes created dynamic movement within the image. This particular piece of art was found in the palace at Crete’s largest archeological site, Knossos. The similarities between Egyptian and Minoan art end here where Minoan artists created curves and fluidity in comparison to the Egyptian rigidity and linear style of work.
In 500 BC Greek art began to show signs of what we now recognise as Western traditional art. In this era artists began to try and depict what the eye saw, as the eye saw it, and the result was a realist style of art. However, due to the method in which the art was created it was fragile and hardly any of it survived to this day except for that found at the Royal Tombs of Vergina, which at the time was know as Aigai. Here there are three tombs which contain examples of Greek painting and have been dated to around the 4th century BC.
Roman murals were the next significant art movement after the initial style of Greek art. These murals were created by painting on plaster, which through history did not survive due to their fragility. The murals that were created out of mosaic tiles however did survive on account of being more robust. The murals often depicted aesthetically pleasing scenes of landscapes, stories or people, and were often spread across floors of wealthy people’s villas.
Murals were moved from floors to walls when Christians started to use them to depict ‘icons’ of their religion. This was common originally with Greek Orthodox Christians, showing the link between original Greek art and how it developed over time. Religious icons were shown in hierarchy form, and never in anything less than lavish dress, looking solemn and being shown in glory.
It is after this point in history that art became ‘portable’. In Egypt paintings were created on Papyrus, and in Italy the idea of creating a canvas came about. In China it was not uncommon to paint on silk, a tradition which is still upheld today.
So, what ideas has painting given me?
Painting is an interesting way of creating an image, and by researching how painting was created and how it has evolved through history I feel that I am more acquainted with the reasoning behind painting as a medium. Although painting was said, arguably, to have began as the desire to record information, it has most certainly developed to be an artistic representation of real life and fiction.
Looking at how painting has evolved through history I would like to explore the idea of using painting to record information in a modern day setting. I will be experimenting with painting to see how this works and whether or not it is a viable and interesting route to take with this project.