Friday, 2 May 2014

Appropriated Images

Barbara Kruger, Mark Wallinger

Ed Ruscha, Tim Shepard

Kruger’s work echoes her previous employment in advertising and design and this very much carries over into her work as an artist.  Her familiarity with layout and use of strap lines appear second nature to her and enables her to appropriate familiar phrases with a slight twist, i.e. “I shop therefore I am.”  Because of their familiarity they appeal to a majority and need no explanation so from that point of view I see them as being rather trite.  Like an advertisement they get their message across in seconds using ‘telegraphic’ speak and are probably forgotten just as quickly, because they frequently represent rather hackneyed views. They have an “American” quality to them that is unmistakable.  Their style is also distinctive and carry not only the message but the signature of the author, which is established by the use of imperative or pronoun expletive style of speech and by employing black, red and white text, mostly in the same font.

By contrast Edward Ruscha’s work for me is more artistic, particularly his garage sequences. He has more of the graphic designer in him, though he too was employed as a layout designer early on.  As well as collage and use of text he also paints his images. He was influenced by Duchamp, Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.  His minimal empty spaces are reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s work.  The wide open spaces of Western America are also prevalent in his work. His messages are usually more thought provoking than Kruger’s.

Mark Wallinger produces traditional art in the sense that his ecce homo sculpture of Christ which occupied the blank plinth is almost classical.  Likewise his white horse which sadly has not received the funding for the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project, perhaps one day it will.  But in addition his work can also be challenging as in State Britain which was a recreation of the peace campaigner Brian Haw’s protest outside the Houses of Parliament. His work therefore is very varied.  He says: “I like to think that my interests and preoccupations range fairly widely, and I think as an artist one should, kind of, be an explorer.  I don’t think I was a person who wanted to light upon a signature style and then hone that.  There’s a temptation to being an artist as a small business but I don’t really turn out commodities as such”.  He is a thinking artist.

Tim Shepard’s work has great appeal for me, I like his densely packed collages as well as his landscape work, Spitalfields for example.  I also think he is right that memory is collage.  We only retain fragments of memories and, for me at least, my memory doesn’t run like a cine camera.  It is a collection of fragments stitched together in my memory to almost give the appearance of film frames and that is what Tim Shepard’s work is like it includes misplaced or incomplete scraps of memory, so in that sense his work is more realistic than Realism with a  capital ‘R’.

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