A previous post on this blog addressed the idea of accidents in art, and their contribution to artwork. In the light of the experience of this course I thought it worth some further reflection, not least because my initial response to the question in the course notes concentrated almost exclusively on the visual artwork itself. Experience suggests that accidents can be influential in many ways.
First up – the impact of the quilt artist Ester Bornemisza…there are precious few opportunities to see international quality artists in Cumbria, and it is a matter of luck that my interest in fabric artists coincided with a quilting exhibition nearby. Her work has played a significant part in working out how to display/manage my response to the industrial sites I’ve been investigating.
Second…an assessor on one of my early courses noted something to the effect that my work was strongest when I focused on my research strengths. Precisely what persuaded them to make this comment I cannot say, but as a consequence I have always read and researched widely – not just photography but also the subjects that interest me. Without those comments, and without the ensuing research I would have missed artists like Conrad Atkinson, and his use of words in images associated with his native west Cumbria, and Mark Dion’s Archaeology, with its art/science cross-over and use of cabinets of curiosity.
i would also have missed a fascinating essay by John Ruskin on the noble nature of rust, and work by Henry Bessemer on his process for making steel, text from which I have been able to use in my final book.
Thirdly, you should always remain open to the random chances that turn up. I’m interested in the natural world and on a trip to Yellowstone in 2015 I bought a book about wolves which contains the following passage:
What have we seen here? Tracks in the snow. Hieroglyphs of struggle. Tufts of hair. Crystals of blood. What is the nature of the beast that left them? What is the nature of the world inhabited by such a beast? What’s going on here?
This is such an obvious metaphor for the feelings I get on old industrial sites that it was inevitable I should incorporate it in my finished work.
An even more extreme example is this picture by Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela which I saw by chance in the Ateneum in Helsinki.
it portrays the death of a young girl, Aino, in a scene taken from the Finnish epic poem the Kalevala. It has absolutely nothing to do with iron manufacture, or photography….except that it persuaded me to download the poem on my Kindle…and the 9th chapter covers the genesis of iron and steel…in this case as a result of the weeping breasts of three godesses!
i didn’t discover it until after I had submitted my 5th assignment, but the passages from the poem are sufficiently relevant that i have slightly re-jigged my planned book to incorporate some excerpts.
I guess the lesson from all this is that lucky accidents are, by their very nature, unpredictable, but that if you put in the effort you can increase the chances of the accident.