Maybe, each one of us approaches a piece of art like a child going to school on the first day. In fact, art may be the fresh slate, the original within us, the sudden confrontation without a single recognisable anchor or rope for safety; the exposed individual inside us all, that we ultimately can’t escape. Is this why art attracts? A re-glimpsing of that state of innocence; it touches below words or above words, beyond and over the horizon of words. The art world though, needs its words, in the hope somebody will explain and elaborate. So, people write about art, theorise about it and people read about art. And, perhaps continually discover nothing, beyond what they already know.
Abstraction is like a parochial sub-language, with colloquialisms and oddities that make it comparable in some respects to the more universal language of representation and incomprehensible in others. Abstract photography begins from the same place as representational photography – it needs the real world as its material, and then, it veers off along less well-trodden pathways, into regional discourses, odd dialects that the speaker of representational tongues may well struggle to relate with. As somebody who uses abstract forms – despite trying - I also find the dialectic often beyond my comprehension.
This, however, is acceptable to me, as abstraction contains elements of escape from the shackles of the world and if language can not easily chase it and capture its essence, then there seems to be wildness and freedom in it, that I honour.
At some point after I form a comment about my art-work, I realise that it is inaccurate or only a small part of a larger discourse that may never be fully articulated. Then, of course another sentence is required to do some further qualifying or amendment. This process thus far goes on ad infinitum. As I cant see where it may end (and suspect that the restlessness of abstraction is contributing to this), I accept that words are an attempt to turn pictorial expression into an unnatural version of its former self and consequently one of the least sensible things I could do to them.
A dialogue with a photograph:
“I am Thonninjur (pictured below) and the artist who created me and the collection of abstract images he calls, The Meaning of Snow, doesn't like any of us to talk about ourselves. His favourite mantra is Edward Hopper’s statement, “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”
Of course, I do not have a voice, nor pen or keyboard. Yet, here I am managing to communicate. Ironic, when I think of how animated he becomes when people speak of what they want their art to talk about, and he points out that "It can’t talk, all it can do is be, like a snow storm or a river."
I have made an appearance in public, at an exhibition, and yet I was presented in silence, and if anybody asked about me or the rest of us, he said he finds it difficult to talk about us (in his most polite tone, of course).
I can tell you a few things: I am an encounter of materials and light, on a sunny spring day, in a static caravan, which coupled as the artist’s residence and studio, in a Cornish valley; a location which the artist was deeply attached to. If I had the ability to reflect on matters that seem to concern him, maybe I would feel as much affection for the place as he did, for without its influence, I would not be.
It was the natural light: the studio space in the caravan allowed it to enter the room through its two large windows.
He also sometimes mentions to people that Buddhist monks used the caravan as a place of retreat before he arrived. So, perhaps I am the product of Buddhist or meditative energy? Perhaps, just a little. Though not a Buddhist, he always felt the place had a scared air to it, an inspiring something.
We were all made, photographed and dismantled in this space. My material parts in the form I am recorded existed fleetingly. I am a document of my existence in a form similiar to ones like me, that he also made that day and, later, decided I was the most pleasing.
Recently, the artist was fretting over the possibility that he’ll take years to understand me and the rest of the abstractions he made there. He perhaps overcomplicates us. He reckons art, especially abstraction, is born and exists in the realm of intuition and wildness and that it fights an ongoing conflict with intellect and reason. These latter two keep thinking they have captured us. Like hunters with guns they shoot their words and conclusions at us and mount us, like a trophy on a wall or a plinth. We, however, always re-animate ourselves, sometimes quickly, sometimes after a longer while and jump down – gaze pityingly upon the artist, half admiring their attempt to petrify us in words, half contemptuous at their futile efforts, made over and over.
The caravan was demolished during the summer, 2017."
(The project The Meaning of Snow is comprised of works from 34 Photographs, 30 Photographs and Visited With Gleams of the Sun)