Structures

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Well, 1981
photograph, coloured photo, well, documentation, photo as narrative, painting with light, creative approach to photography, manipulating the photographic image, new ways to see, photograph as documentation, deconstructing and reconstructing photos, changing what you see, complexity, changing the world before you, manipulating the photographic image, light, coloured photography, landscape photography, photgraph, wooden structure, field, sky
description

We value the photographic image because of its ability to tell us about people, places and events. Magazines and newspapers use photographs to help tell the stories in their pages. Professional photographers travel to exotic places to capture images about people and places we may never visit. The photograph functions as a document, whether it is a “Kodak moment” at a family gathering or a view of earth taken from a space station.

start quoteAs a painter I was interested in entering an image in a non-linear fashion and I found that in film there was always that beginning, middle and end - which was frustrating.end quote
-- Brian Wood

At least, that’s what a photograph used to be about. The word “photography” comes from two Greek words, and means “painting with light”. As photographers learned how to use the new  mediumAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  effectively, some developed their own creative approaches and recognizable styles, as do painters. However, it’s only in the past few decades that some artists – such as Brian Wood – have explored the possibilities of manipulating the photographic image beyond what was possible with  cameraIn photography, a tool for producing photographs, having a lightproof enclosure with an aperture and a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate. In video, a device that receives the primary image on a light-sensitive cathode tube and transforms it into electrical impulses. (Artlex.com) Find out about 35-mm cameras at Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/135_film  and lens, or in the darkroom.

By the time he created Well in 1981 Wood was cutting photos apart and piecing them together in his own way. Rather than taking the world at face value, he explores what happens when you change it.

The picture he creates is a complex object built of blocks which are themselves parts of pictures. While the parts of the red-orange structure (perhaps painted with barn paint from another prairie institution, the local co-op), the land, and the sky are familiar images, they exist only within the picture; they have no actual counterpart in the “real” world.

And while the elements in Wood’s creation are familiar, especially to prairie dwellers.  He upends the usual approach to picture-making, that of placing the building in the background, surrounded by land and sky.  Instead, Wood surprises us by placing the building “in your face”, with the landscape and sky as afterthoughts. As well, by naming his creation Well, Wood challenges our idea of what a well is. Rather than a hole in the ground that supplies fresh water, his Well projects above ground, looking like a backyard biffy made up of leftover materials from a basement rumpus room project. 

additional resources Things to Think About
  • How is what Brian Wood presents in his work Well similar to works by Picasso (as seen at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubism)?

  • How is Wood’s work Well like a collage? How is it different?

  • How might Well represent Wood’s experiences with film?

  • Why do you think Wood called this work Well?
Online Activity
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Research the  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  of art known as cubism. In cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form;  instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater  contextThe varied circumstances in which a work of art is (or was) produced and interpreted. There are three arenas to these circumstances, each of them highly complex. The first pertains to the artist: attitudes, beliefs, interests, values, intentions and purposes, education and training, and biography (including psychology). The second is the setting in which the work was produced: the apparent function of the work (to adorn, beautify, express, illustrate, mediate, persuade, record, redefine reality, or redefine art), religious and philosophical convictions, sociopolitical and economic structures, and even climate and geography. Third is the field of the work's reception and interpretation: the traditions it is intended to serve, the mind-set it adheres to (ritualistic, perceptual, rational, and emotive), and, perhaps most importantly, the colour of the lenses through which the work is being scrutinized — i.e., the interpretive mode (artistic biography, psychological approaches, political criticism, feminism, cultural history, intellectual history, formalism, structuralism, semiotics, hermeneutics, post-structuralism and deconstruction, reception theory, concepts of periodicity [stylistic pendulum swinging], and other chronological and contextual considerations. Context is much more than the matter of the artist's circumstances alone. (Artlex.com)  (definition from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubism).

Studio Activity

Brian Wood is a  multi-mediaIn personal computing, software and applications that combine text, high quality sound, graphics, and animation or video. (Artlex.com)  artist. His work includes photography, painting, drawing, and  printAn exactly repeatable visual statement which exists as two-dimensional physical material.  making. He uses materials such as graphite, ink, toner,  digitalA system of representing images or objects through numbers. These numbers can then be re-interpreted by another digital system to generate light and sound.  prints and  oilSlow-drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colours is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. They can have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. To look at examples of works in oil paints, see the articles under the names of every period from the Renaissance onward. (Artlex.com)  paint. Some of Wood’s works on paper include both photographic and hand-drawing processes.

Create an artwork that uses both photographic  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  and hand drawing.

Wood’s artwork, Well, uses a  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   in which a number of smaller photographs are assembled together to create the larger picture; in a way he is “building” an overall image with sections or details.

Create an image of a manufactured structure such as a house, car, or bridge by assembling various close-up photographs of the structure together

  • Take your own pictures of the structure. Photograph various sections of the structure close up. Be sure to take photos of the entire structure and from all sides. Remember you will be assembling and connecting the photos to “build” the structure later.
  • Once the position of each photograph is determined, glue them to a backing for display.
References

Bashe, Regine. ‘Interview with Brian Wood.’ Brian Wood exhibition, Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts, Montreal, Quebec, 1994.

Hanna, Martha. Brian Wood: Related differences=differences connexes. Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ontario, 1995.

Poser, Steven. Brian Wood: Photographic Works. Exhibition catalogue. Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1979.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning