Thursday, 16 February 2012

Not Hockney again?

I have just finished David Hockney's Secret Knowledge, a book that makes you feel good about tracing, and bad just about everyhting else. Hockney claims that many more artists and much earlier on than we would expect, knew and used optical tools to aid their drawings and paintings. This, he says, doesn't at all detract from the ability of the artist, because these tools don't make marks and making marks with them is VERY awkward. I would like to add that what we do know for sure is that Renaissance artists did not use the iphone app called camera lucida. Neither did Hockney, funnily enough. I have used it here for this self portrait with Castello Bruzzo. It is as awkward as the real camera lucida: the phone moves, the paper moves and I did all this perched on the arm of a chair because I was charging the bloody thing. Nevertheless you can clearly see the resemblance with the drawings by Ingres (no? Really?). I like the three Bruzzos overlapping each other and across my face. What depressed me about the book, though, is that it kind of claims that the optical/photographic representation of the world is not truer or more real. Hockney, in fact, goes to the extent of saying that the camera obscura is the reason why we notice and reproduce shadows in our paintings, unlike other cultures who do not. When as a child I discovered that wherever I went, my shadow came with me, I was utterly distressed. Would I have had a happier childhood had I grown up in prephotography China?

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