Inspirations III – Culture – From Hopper to Sugmito
Beyond their music, Godspeed You Black Emperor have been a tremendous inspiration as visual artists. From the haunting nightmare landscape of F# A# Infinity to the mysterious and enigmatic imagery of Luciferian Towers, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress and Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! These enigmatic and haunting images have massively influenced my photography and printmaking. They are the work of artist and photographer Charles-Andre Corderre, whose amazing imagery also forms the visual backdrop to Godspeed’s live shows. Corderre’s stunning cinematography extends Godspeed’s soundscapes into a visual onslaught of found and dislocated film loops that perfectly embody the bands work, finding beauty and calm in a brutal and uncompromising end of days, somehow creating hope amongst the discord.
Corderre’s photography, on the aforementioned album covers and cinematography has been a massive influence on and inspiration for my work. He creates incredibly beguiling narratives, war torn and distressed, like broken radio transmissions from a dystopian and collapsed future that have set the tone and mood for my own work in many ways, particularly in terms of subject – the isolated and dilapidated architectural structures, and the aesthetic – noisy, grainy barely discernible imagery that appears through a haze of static.
I have to a great extent moved away from my fascination with typologies, and Ruscha’s construct of the “Information man”, wherein the photographer merely plays the part of observer and documenter of what he finds – with no thought for the aesthetic in the moment, merely cataloguing the evidence or the collection. At the same time, I am still drawn to the idea of the photographer as the casual observer, merely in the right place at the right time. This lack of control is born out for me in my choice to use the pinhole camera as my device of record – with so much of its process best left to chance and hard to tame. Initially I was seduced by Ruscha’s approach, but more and more I have found it difficult to abandon my need to create aesthetic rather than purely conceptual, typological pieces (not that there is not a great deal of purely aesthetic value in Ruscha’s photography). Ruscha’s photographic works and small books continue to fascinate me, and the desire to create something in a similar vein tugged at me throughout my degree in the form of my Asbru mini-prints, a piece that I never successfully brought to fruition one the concept of The Quiet Earth took hold.
Bernd and Hilla Becher
Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Typologies were recommended to me repeatedly when I began working on more architectural photography – particularly my Water Tower studies, and at the time I was completely fascinated by this body of work. The conceptual draw of the collection, of completism and documentation has always been fascinating to me, but at the same time I was drawn to the imposing scale and weight of the structures they had captured so beautifully. As subjects, the buildings they photographed had such mass and presence on the page, that to see them arranged on the gridded page is to almost experience the paper becoming heavier. I was also fascinated by the painstaking efforts the Bechers took in photographing their work to ensure each subject was photographed with the utmost consistency of lighting, framing and aspect. As with my interest in Ruscha, I to some extent turned my back on exploring work inspired by the Bechers when I began to develop The Quiet Earth series, which was to take a far more overtly aesthetic and narrative approach.
I have long been an admirer of Edward Hopper’s great American paintings since seeing an exhibition of his work at Tate Britain. As my parents studiously followed the audio guide, I found myself simply absorbed into his on a purely emotional level, neither needing, nor indeed wanting any further context than the brush strokes on the canvas itself. The quality of Hopper’s depictions is without question – his attention to light and shade so accurate that you might tell the time of day by it, but more than this I was drawn to the narrative of his paintings. Whether or not figures are present in a work, it is impossible not to speculate what might have occurred or will occur either side of this frozen moment in time. Whether in the loaded night calm of Automat, where the trail of lights in the windows reflection beg us to think about what future lies ahead for the paintings subject, or in the simplicity and tranquillity of Sun in an Empty Room, and image so loaded with stillness, which at the same time entreats us at every glance to imagine what lies beyond the canvas through the window and the rooms beyond.
I was reminded of Hopper again when I began developing my Asbru series, primarily because of the painterly, soft quality of some of the images. But as I look deeper into Hopper’s work, I became more and more fascinated with the narrative weight within his work and wanted to realise this same sense of curiosity in my own work.
Few things have excited me in my artist research this year as much as discovering the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto. Sugimoto deliberately shoots his stunning architectural photographs out of focus, adjusting his lens to what he refers to as “Twice Infinity” and in this completely subverts many of the traditions of architectural photography. His images have an ethereal, dreamlike quality that I could only hope to approach in my own work.