Friday, 3 August 2012

The Arnolfini Marriage

I am re-visting 'Ron & Roger' the exhibition project on homosexual couples that showed at the Candid Arts Trust and Tate Modern. It originally published in The Observer Magazine and since has shown in Turkey and China. The series documents the very first to participate in the London Partnership Register; a non-legally binding initiative introduced in 2001 to offer non hetero-normative couples the chance to record their relationship officially. Introduced by the previous London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, this  initiative prised open Pandora's Box on the issue of equal rights for all couples and led to a sea change in public opinion and prejudice around the world. The series' compositional dogma was inspired by Jan Van Eyke's masterpiece The Arnolfini Marriage. Its a composition that possesses me even today and in all my most valuable work there is a dog whistle to this camera obscura rigidity. I am interested in the paradox of the formality of space and the chaos and complexity of the human experience.

I am viewing the painting on the National Gallery website which allows scrutiny of the painting in more detail than is possible even when in front of it in the gallery itself. Check out the feature that allows you to zoom into the work and study it in extraordinary detail. Google have also started to catalogue great works of art in detail

Every time i visit the Arnolfini Marriage I see something new; today I have noticed the clumsy shadow around the man's shoeless feet which suggests some repainting and also the shoes in the back of the image implying that the woman does not have her shoes on either. Coincidentally many of the couples in Ron and Roger were photographed in their socks or slippers, it felt very private. The detail and realism in this painting only adds to its mystery which i hope to bring to my work. Its history is not fully understood and there are theories that suggest that the painting itself is the record of an unofficial or undisclosed union, which connects this painting in a very direct way to these contemporary issues.

I like to think of 'Ron and Roger' as a time capsule record of the private domestic lives of the subjects; like the painting, the context partially lost in time, with only clues to the era within the work. A puzzle to be unlocked by a bemused future audience. The collection of high res files are stored at the Hall Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics.

Couple with Daschunds and IKEA lamp © Richard Ansett 2001

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