Friday, 11 January 2013

Giotto in a Potato Chip

During the restoration work of Giotto di Bondone's fresco at the Bascilica of St Francis of Asisi, a face has been discovered in the clouds after being unnoticed for 700 years. There is some discussion about whether it is of the artist himself or even of Dante (neither of whom seem to have been very pretty from the existing portraits). Educated theories however centre around a mischievous and perhaps spiteful inclusion of this devilish likeness by the artist. Another possibility is that this depicts a belief at the time that demons hid in the clouds to block souls ascent to heaven, which I like.

Giotto may have interpreted this fascination for the discovery of images in the everyday world, however the original depiction of the mortality of St Francis has now been a little overshadowed by the scramble to get a glimpse of this 14th century equivalent of 'Jesus in some beer foam.'

We are reconnected to this medievil schizophrenia in contemporary life through funny shaped carrots and potato chips. Not much has changed, although A-list celebrity now shares the iconic spotlight with Jesus and the Virgin; science now defines it as Pareidolia, (the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist. citing Elvis in a potato crisp as evidence. It's an example of our need to imbue the banality of the everyday with meaning where there is often none, in the hope that there is more and as an audience of art the responsibility for meaning will often fall on us.

There is a collective participation in the acceptance of an emotional resonance that contemporary photographic artworks demand from us. Many works present a nothingness to receive our projections of meaning in the collection of pixels that form representations of reality. I play with this idea in Lion Hunting in Essex, where the undergrowth of a small Essex village is a potential hiding place for an escaped, large wild animal. I am thinking more famously of the most expensive photograph in the world, Andreas Gursky's Rhein II auctioned for 4.3 million dollars in 2011. It dares to elevate the everyday to the extraordinary and encourages us to see the world in a new way.

I have included by own little Gursky, the first photograph I remember taking when I was 8 years old in 1974.

Here are some examples supplied by the Huffington Post.

Rhein II © Andreas Gursky, 1999

The Miniature Train of Pedras del Rei © Richard Ansett 1974

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