Puncturing the Silence: Painting over the found Photograph
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Set up as a visual investigation, the research explores how the addition of paint and graphite materials onto the surface of found and discarded photographs, creates a visual and conceptual disjuncture by punctuating and altering the temporal frame of the photograph. The research is positioned in relation to Susan Sontag’s description in On Photography (1977) as to how the photograph can at once “transfix” and “anesthetize” the subject matter, which through the passage of time serves to create an “aesthetic distance,” and Roland Barthes’ observation in Camera Lucida (1980) that the photograph is “platitudinous.” The tendency to project nostalgic sentiment onto the found vernacular photograph is explored, drawing on Susan Stewart’s notion of the authentic object in On Longing (1984), which, it is argued, when expressed in the form of the found photographic object, becomes an emblem of loss, further exaggerating the sense of distance and impenetrability. Working specifically with the found photograph prompts a questioning of previous critical commentaries concerning painting over photographs, as in Gerhard Richter’s ‘Overpaintings,’ where Joannes Meinhardt (2009) suggests that the addition of paint intensifies the essential “speechlessness” of the photograph. This research extends these discourses and contributes a counter critical position, supported and articulated through an original body of work. It proposes that the applied paint on the surface of the found photograph punctures the essential “speechlessness” and unknowability magnified within this subset of photography. The very physical materiality and difference offered by the paint medium ruptures the perception of distance and mediates the tendency towards nostalgic interpretations, bringing a level of stability and certainty in the face of the uncertain, fluctuating meaning and temporal plane of the found photograph.
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