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Guest Blog by Suzanne Ballantyne

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The AGB is dedicated to the promotion of the Arts in North Hastings. Beyond providing exposure of visual arts to year-round and seasonal residents, the Gallery hopes to get people talking about art and what it means to them.

 In this spirit, we offer the first of occasional guest blogs aiming to stimulate thought and conversation about the personal side of art.

 Guest blogs are the thoughts of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AGB.

 

          Image Problems                                                                   

            Take an object, something concrete like a table and give it to a painter, a photographer, and a writer and ask them to make of it an image. Some will wait for the light to be just right, a table floating in a pond of water lilies. Others will cube it, stretch it, abstract it, see what it looks like in black and white, manipulate it digitally, feature the table as the cause of death in a mystery, or as a symbol of power in a board room shoot out. Regardless, the image is not the real thing. Even identical twins are not exact replicas.

We’ve been obsessed with image making from the start. Evidence of this can be found in caves and on cliff faces all over the world. Among the oldest: the magnificent Horse Panel in the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, France - 36 000 years ago, hand prints stencilled on a cave wall in Indonesia - 40 000 years ago, and from southernmost Africa, engraved tablets and beads made from shells – 100 000 years ago.

            What is an image but a representation, something to stand for something else? In Realism, the image attempts to clone the reality. Witness Robert Bateman, painting sometimes with a single brush hair, to recreate the bark on a yellow birch. His hyper-realism, like HDTV, is beyond real. Life is not that clear.

            Do we think we can make the real more real by capturing an image? Why do we intentionally separate ourselves from the reality we claim we want to understand? If we make a sculpture, a painting, a photograph, a sonnet, a child, does it prove our existence? Do we doubt our own being that much? In Victorian times, parents delighted in watching their children perform on stage. At the end of the show, the children would line up to take their bows, each holding a mirror in their hands so their parents, seated in the audience, would see themselves reflected.

            Making an image of God is problematic and in some religions forbidden. Here in the west, many of us grow up in a culture that tells us we were made in God’s image. God has an image problem.

            Image: an optical appearance or counterpart, a semblance, likeness, reputation, a simile, metaphor, or figure of speech, an idea, conception or mental representation.(OED) We have image-makers, image processors; we have diagnostic imaging, and imaging to control pain, disease and anxiety. In the early 20th century, a poetry movement called Imagism emphasized clarity of expression through the use of precise images and free verse, a definite turn away from Romanticism.      

            Surely we can make an image of everything, and yet the very existence of the word ‘imageable’ suggests there are some things that are not imageable. Emptiness, for example. Imagine that. We can’t stand it. We fill up the page, the walls, the rooms, the smart phones. We chronicle even our smallest achievements, and save them to our devices, trusting the cloud like you could walk on it. An imageless world? How shall we navigate without our trusted international symbols? Stop, Go, Danger - Falling Rocks.

Think of it, just space, lovely, lovely space. Maybe it’s because we can’t image nothingness, that we are moved to create art. Or, are we missing something?

                                                                                     Suzanne Ballantyne

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News and information of a general nature concerning the Art Gallery of Bancroft will be published here. Gift Shop news, upcoming shows and openings, workshops and artists tidbits.

Comments

  • Guest
    Maureen Saturday, 28 February 2015

    Or maybe it is because we sometimes feel nothing that we are inspired to create, to share something of the world in an attempt to feel connected? Thanks for the thought provoking piece. I am always in favour of looking for relationships between what we think and what we create.

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10 Flint Avenue
P.O. Box 398
Bancroft, Ontario
K0L 1C0

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