Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Artists that Inspire: Abelardo Morell

 View of Central Park Looking North-Summer, 2008

Blurry Upright Camera Obscura: Santa Maria della Salute with Scaffolding in Palazzo Bedroom, 2007

 View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom, 2009

The Pantheon in Hotel Albergo Del Sole al Pantheon, Room # 111, Rome, Italy, 2008 

 Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy, 2006

View of Florence Looking Northwest Inside Bedroom. Italy, 2009

So yesterday I briefly touched on early 3D technology, or the stereoscope. It uses our natural depth perception to its advantage and through two slightly different images creates a third image that our eye perceives has depth or three dimensions; height, width and depth. Now I'm moving on to another invention, the camera obscura or Latin for 'dark room'. If you go into a totally dark room and make a small hole to the bright outside the image from outside will appear on the opposite wall upside down! Why? Because for the simple fact that light travels in a straight line and when it bounces off of a bright object and passes through a small hole in a thin surface it will not scatter but cross and appear upside down.1 The earliest form of this was in the 5th century B.C. created by the Chinese philosopher Mo-Ti who created a 'locked treasure room' using a pinhole in a dark space. It was also used by Leonardo de Vinci, and as I mentioned earlier Vermeer. Since the perspective was preserved perfectly it was often used to aid in painting. It also was the precursor for the modern camera and the overhead projector we remember from school.
from Leonardo de Vinci's notebook2

With Morell's work I really enjoy the magical quality to the pieces. While the technology is old, it still never fails to impress at it's 'magic'. In some ways it reminds me of why we still go to theatres and enjoy being taken away. Why we hold onto our suspention of disbelief; we still have wonder. This innate sense of wonder coupled with the juxtoposition of the empty room; somewhat desolate or abandoned, like a hotel room far away from home coupled with the astounding images of color and life creates a true sense of awe and enjoyment at images we may have seen many times. Places that are famous but when recreated reignite my sense of joy in their beauty. 

From Morell on his own work:

"I made my first picture using camera obscura techniques in my darkened living room in 1991. In setting up a room to make this kind of photograph, I cover all windows with black plastic in order to achieve total darkness. Then, I cut a small hole in the material I use to cover the windows. This opening allows an inverted image of the view outside to flood onto the back walls of the room. Typically then I focused my large-format camera on the incoming image on the wall then make a camera exposure on film. In the beginning, exposures took from five to ten hours.
Over time, this project has taken me from my living room to all sorts of interiors around the world. One of the satisfactions I get from making this imagery comes from my seeing the weird and yet natural marriage of the inside and outside.
A few years ago, in order to push the visual potential of this process, I began to use color film and positioned a lens over the hole in the window plastic in order to add to the overall sharpness and brightness of the incoming image. Now, I often use a prism to make the projection come in right side up. I have also been able to shorten my exposures considerably thanks to digital technology, which in turn makes it possible to capture more momentary light. I love the increased sense of reality that the outdoor has in these new works .The marriage of the outside and the inside is now made up of more equal partners."

See more of Morell's work at

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Tuesday Toolbox: Stereoscope Lesson

Compass: " Ugh! It just makes me dizzy. How does it pop out at you like that?"

Pencil: "Well, I just don't believe that perspective!"

A stereoscope was an early medium for 3D technology. Whe the two seperate left and right eye images overlap with our binocular vision they form one image that seems to have depth as the horizontal position of the image seems to shift. This was an early form of home entertainment in the 1850s to the 1920s, especially for those who went on holiday around historical sites. Later this developed into the View-Master. Now we can go for the ultra-modern, the My3D app or 3D films. We are always trying to make every image hyper-real. For more information on the stereoscope go here.

The image in the stereoscope is "Farm in the Lades (House in the Garde)" by Etienne Theodore Rousseau at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

- have you ever held out your pencil to figure out perspective?

drawing by: Chloe Cornell

Monday, 18 November 2013

"Inner Perspective"- In Depth

One summer a bunch of fellow students from various disciplines got together and created the "Dreams" exhibition at the Shoreditch Town Hall basement. A maze of small rooms, nooks and crannies with unexpected architectural Victorian details, ancient stoves and other relics of a complicated past. The rooms are dark and mysterious. My impression of this space is broadly coloured by my first visit during an Edgar Allan Poe exhibition which, as you can imagine, was rather haunted.

Our collective starting point was 'dreams' and any number of definitions could apply. And with so many different creative types coming together the results were broad and varied.

My idea sprang from the site, dark and enclosed. I wanted to juxtapose this atmosphere with a bright and open film, with shots of the outdoors and travel. Though I wanted these scenes to be disjointed and dreamlike with no real characters, only a variety of images looped and confused, like real dreams.

The character of the dreamer came next, the physical manifestation of the dreamer's portrayal of herself is honest and without filters. She is trapped in the room of her mind where the audience can come in and view her character stuck in this endless loop of dreams. Her reaction's are very visceral, almost childlike in the clear emotive responses, which are just as disjointed as the dream itself. I ended up playing this character, who else would do this for a week on the half hour for free? I also reacted to the audience, weaving around them and reacting to their intrusion into the room of my mind in order to bring them into the dream world.

The set was minimal, a single wooden chair with plants and dirt under the chair, an echo of the dream manifesting in her 'mind' space. There was a light under the chair to bring focus and gravitas to its placement and to illuminate the vegetation. This vegetation, both real and fake, also showed up along the edging of the door, the exit to the real world. My costume was a dress created from various cream and white fabrics pieced together and pleated paper, which slowly disintegrates, on the bodice. The colour palette of the film and the flower in my hair links to the vegetation in the room and connects both to the film which provides a contrast to the stark dark atmosphere of the basement. A comment on the reality vs. the dream world.

The film itself was made up of a very bright nature/ playful images vs the city, shown through a journey in the tube/arcade. This echoing my readings of Walter Benjamin's ideas of the wandering pedestrian. The approach to the chair in the beginning of the film echoes the girl already sitting in the same chair in the room. Real life events are echoed in the dream world but skewed. Another image is my 'dream' self disappearing from the screen and the real girl looks wildly around the room, logic has no place in this dream world. The childlike aspects are repeated with the swings and slides which are welcomed with joy and playfulness in contrast to the packed tube which is reacted to with fear. I tried to bridge the gap between the 'dream' world and the 'dreamer' with direct reactions and even using the projected image as a 'set'. Like when the train arrived I joined the queue on the platform as we waited for the train.

With this approach to the set as well as the interaction with the audience I hoped to bring them into my dream wold and to have them become a participant rather than a passive viewer, something they naturally resisted and thus seemed to prefer to watch the film. This project later led to my work on Martin Crimp. See here.
A video of the project here.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tuesday Toolbox: Sketchbook Huddle

Camera: "So, everyone clear on the game plan?"
Reflector, Light, and Boom: "Yes Boss!"

storyboard from "Question Mark"

Monday, 11 November 2013

Downton Abbey Luxury

With the finale of season 4 last night, Downton Abbey will not come around again for another year! I don't think I can wait so long! So, to pass the time and to get a little of that vintage luxury, I pulled inspiration from another Julian Fellow's film, Gosford Park. It came out to great acclaim in 2001 and was the starting point for Downton Abbey. In the film I spotted a lovely hot water bottle cover that was used by Maggie Smith and it was gorgeous. A satin embroidered cover with three buttons and a top flap, the height of 30s luxury. So I set about making my own. The ideas for the embroidery came from the booklet Pretty Pretties, I used sateen material and faux lamb's wool fabric backed with muslin, add a little embroidery floss, bias binding, self covered buttons and some elastic and it was done! My own little piece of Downton to warm the cold nights ahead..

all photos unless otherwise stated are by Chloe Cornell

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Notes on Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin is a great philosopher whom I greatly admire. His "Arcade Project" is a series of essays he wrote regarding life in early 20th century Paris, particularly focusing on the huge glass covered 'arcades' or covered shopping malls, the 'passages couvert'. One of the essays in this collection, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', focuses on how reproducibility, especially of a mechanical nature. Which severs the connection between the artist and art freeing the existence of art from 'a parasite upon ritual', or where art served a social function (ex: The Sistine Chapel), to art for arts sake. Walter Benjamin wrote this in 1936 during the Dadaists movement but before the later modernist movements like Pop Art and the Post-Modernism where this notion is further expanded. He was saying that if you are able to easily reproduce copies with no real original, say a photograph, the 'Aura' of the piece is lost.

I wanted to look at his notion of 'aura' and see how technology's effect on this 'aura', and how this lack thereof effects how we, in a digitalised age, look at art. Walter Benjamin said that reproductive technology substitutes a unique instance of creation with a multiplicity of instances (7). That a painter creates a natural distance between himself and the subject, whereas an editor of a film has to delve deeply into the subject in order to lay it out to the audience and through the nature of their medium, controls their perspective. I believe that this has developed to the point where we are now very used to seeing an artworks meaning presented to us, and rarely do we have to delve deeper. We are often so bombarded by a plethora of images that our minds are dulled to drawing a deeper meaning and creating further conclusions. Duhamel stated " I can no longer think what I wish to think. The moving image have ousted my thoughts. (32) He was referring to the natural process of association when viewing images are constantly being interrupted by the fast pace of film. Added to this the camera's constant comment on the performance through the editing process, and we are now very used to the fast paced image. We are probably most suited now to taking in a large volume of information at a faster rate than Walter Benjamin could ever imagine and we find this more comfortable than being faced with say a painting or a live performance.

I found this out in my performance of "Inner Perspective" where a projected film, with few people and no real plot, seemed easier to watch than my performance as the dreamer reacting to this projected dream which was what gave it depth and character. Regardless I found that people seemed more comfortable just watching the film than paying me attention even though it was a balance of the two that created the true story line. Have we really gotten to the point where we are more comfortable with technology than reality?

p1. Walter Benjamin's notes and personal items and his memorial where you can go into the sea.
p2/3 His notes on the Arcade project
p4. Pieces including my own influenced by Walter Benjamin's writing

quotes from Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction": 1936
image links at

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Tuesday Toolbox

Paintbrush: " But where is the Aura? 
Camera: " What do you mean, Aura? My gaze is not indifferent!"

photograph sketch based on above sculpture

Aura: "the authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced” (221).

 “we define the aura of the later as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be. If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch” (222-3) from The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Walter Benjamin: Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Vermeer's Music

There was recently an exhibition on at the National Gallery called "Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure" connecting the role of music in romantic relationships of the time to how musical instruments and musicians were placed in some of Vermeer's work. This combined two of my favourite things music and art, and with live music playing by the Academy of Ancient Music you could hardly tear me away from the exhibition. Music was an integral part of leisure time for the wealth, it was a sign of prestige and good breeding to be able to play several instruments. As a young lady, it was one of the few times you could be alone with a man and create music together. The placements of the players and instruments in the paintings are integral to understanding the undercurrents of the relationships between the participants. Added to this, to be able to hear music of the day added another layer of understanding and enjoyment to the viewing of the paintings.

In the above painting, "Young Woman Seated at a Virginal", she looks at the viewer in askance to join in her music this conclusion is aided by the Viola da Gamba (3) a symbolically masculine instrument as opposed to the virginal, associated with the female. It is unattended and at a difficult angle to paint, creating interaction and invitation with the viewer, something that Vermeer often does in his paintings with this instrument. This affair, between the lady and the viewer is interpreted as a pure form of love which is aided by the juxtaposition of the painting behind the lady, "The Procuress" (2), where a prostitute solicits her clients with her lute playing. Contrasting their profane love to the virginal often seen as a symbol for harmony and pure love. While the viola da gamba and the marbled virginal show exquisite detail, it is in the lady's hands (1) where Vermeer is far ahead of his time. He seems not to care for the careful detail of the fingers and hands as other artists of his time, but rather for the play of light and dark and how these wedges of colours come together to form the hand, he shows purely what is visible rather than the detail that would be impossible if this was a photograph. This almost photographic focus on the foreground and the blurred background has been speculated to show Vermeer's use of the camera obscura, or the precursor to the modern camera.

In "The Guitar Player" we again see this fascination with light and shadow, which to his contemporaries seemed unrefined, but fascinated early photographers. You can see in the hands of the guitar player (2), that flat patches of colour magically seem to come together to form the light playing on her fingers as they move on the neck of the guitar. The same is true of the pearls (1) where a band of grey followed by white highlights create the texture of the translucent pearls. The individual pearls are not painted in great detail but it is the two techniques that form their spherical and reflective nature. She looks outside the frame of the painting to another player? Listener? Creating intimacy and forms a relationship between the girl and the viewer. With her other hand (3) you can practically hear the echo of the guitar as Vermeer painted the strings in mid-vibration.

In the exhibition real instruments and music were shown alongside the paintings. There was even an eerily similar guitar to the one in "The Guitar Player" and this along side the music that played every hour the paintings seemed to come alive again with the echos of the love songs played in 17th century Delft.

Below you can hear some clips from the music performed by the Academy of Ancient Music at the National Gallery (video). Or check out the podcast.

1.painting details:
2.National Gallery:
3. The Academy of Ancient Music:

Artists that Inspire: Suzanne Jongmans

I have always been interested in portraiture. In the past, painting gave you the time to study your sitter and to capture their essence, their soul, to show a side of them revealed only within your work. Sometimes this was to the sitters discretion, to show their wealth, fidelity, bravery. Others, like the Mona Lisa or the Girl with a Pearl Earring, we may never know their names but they live on through the painters lens. In photography portraiture is a different game, you must catch the perfect moment, balancing the technical aspects; lens focus, aperture, light balance with the perfect instant moment of poise taking many pictures before you find your shot that conveys all you wanted to say of the model. It may be surprising or a carefully studied set up. Both show a long history of study, or light, perspective, proportion, and colour theory. These artistic principals have been collected through history one artist influencing another, creating a new artistic vision. Vermeer was influenced by Carvaggio and Suzanne Jongmans references the workmanship of the past and its contrast to the consumer culture we find ourselves in today. She says:

“By using this material I make a reference to consumerism and the rapid circulation of materials, which contrasts to the craftsmanship of these earlier times,” wrote Jongmans in an e-mail. “Referring to both vulnerability and transience, I am investigating the texture and feel of both the present and the past.”

I enjoy the myriad of contradictions I find in her pieces. Such as the throw away material, almost Pop Art-like in its use of everyday objects in unexpected ways to give a new meaning. Or the instant mental connection to historical portraits re visioned with a new method, photography, and new materials suspending them in time between the past and present. The painting of Velázquez and Rogier van der Weyden are images that came to mind as I looked at Jongmans pieces, they hold the same likeness and attitude.  But most of all I like the stillness and serenity of her subjects. Jongmans says,

“The serenity which radiates from these works is a real inspiration to me,” she said. “Especially in these times we live in, in which many impressions can overwhelm us."

for more of Suzanne's work: