Twigs are typically subtle, lonesome and fragile elements of the trees and bushes. Being considered separately, they are usually seen as gangrenous and detached parts that no longer bear life. Even though separate twigs are weak and brittle, twigs combined in a bunch, a bush, or a tree show their joint power and liveliness. However, single twigs can also be considered as representatives of a life force and beauty. Taking a look at separate twigs, it is clear that they are as beautiful as full grown trees, but their beauty is usually lost in the heaps of garbage and leaves scattered in the streets. Therefore, this idea is set as a background of works that attempt to express the idea of life that is lost, but still can be rescued.
Modern society is going through numerous transitional changes including globalization, urbanization, fading out of the boundaries between nations and cultures. Cities are growing at enormous rates with overcrowding and overpopulation. Number of people living on the limited territory is increasing. Yet, unlike expected, communication and social interactions among people are deteriorating as well. People interflow with the greyness of city life and dry out in their loneliness. Paradoxically, people usually keep their emotions and feelings to themselves having no one to share them with. Deep conversation is disappearing from home and society. This absence of conversation between humans has led to the absence of the attempt to sincerely understand others. People living in this dry society without warmth remind me of lifeless twigs that have fallen from a giant tree that was full of vitality. When closely looked at, the twigs are beautiful enough but the beauty is unseen due to the heap of garbage scattered in the street. The beauty does not stand out and they are nothing but barren twig wastes. The rotten and fragile twigs seem to reveal through their bodies how weak the mentality of people is. These lifeless and barren twigs need to be revitalized. They need life to be infused into them so that they can be born as trees which blossom. Therefore, I firmly tied the broken sprigs of the barren twigs with thread to revive their beautiful shapes. They are ready to become beautiful decorative trees with fruits (Simms, 2011).
The theme of searching a life force to the souls of people who are living grey and dry lives was chosen to be represented in photographic way as a part of an attempt to get out of the boundaries of the modern civilization that is currently too inclined to deform and destroy our environment. At the same time, I exerted myself to depict in the photographs the image of life as a representation of hope for another chance and better future.
Desire for fundamental and genuine representation in the photography art was largely stimulated by nature, as a medium that creates opportunity to develop beauty in more optimistic and encouraged way. Concern for the experience of life that is ever-present in the nature regenerates the ingenious power and potential and that have been losing grounds in the modern society by redecorating forms of primitive life, which allows expressing the inexplicable power of life in a visible manner. Life force is easily detected from such natural elements as leaves of the trees with masterly pictured veins, insentient stones, and, finally, curved lines of twigs.
Therefore, twigs of the trees are central elements of the artworks that pursuit life forces. They may even show deeper expression of life and deliver message better than any other natural element. The messages that twigs present as a part of nature are hope for future and need for communication and interaction. The feelings of hope, simplicity, and revitalization are intentionally emphasized in the works, with the purpose to get out of the boundaries of the fast, complicated and fickle modern life (Simms, 2011).
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It is attempted to portray dynamism and simplicity of the life image of nature with the help of twigs from the trees. Conventionally, nature has been viewed by artists as the source of life force because of its intrinsic characteristics such as movement, life, and energy. Even though externally nature is often perceived as a plane and permanent state, in reality it needs to undergo numerous dynamic processes and changes to maintain its static form. In fact, this capacity serves as a background for the nature to subsist as a living organism, the life force that establishes the basis for all noticeable phenomena. Therefore, the interest is primarily focused on the life force that is intrinsic in nature (Goldwater, 1986).
Attempting to explore the essence of nature and life forces more experimentally, sometimes, deviation from the formalized images of nature is helpful to introduce natural elements themselves in the photography artworks. Numerous objects in the external environment and surroundings are rather heterogeneous and different from each other. Naturally, they interact and have relationships with each other, thus, creating something new in the process of their coexistence. This coexistence of natural twigs and artificial beads is significant because it improves imagination and perception since the relationship between these different objects no longer depends on other objects but rather becomes more equated and even independent. This phenomenon is essential for relationship of people between each other and also for the relationship between people and nature. Therefore, this kind of photography artwork emphasizes experiential relationship between natural and artificial decorative elements that are naturally induced by the art process, materials that are used, and space on which elements are presented to deliver its concealed meaning and implicit messages (Frascina & Harrison, 1982).
Relation to the modern society
It is commonly believed that art appeared when human civilization developed. Every civilization that is known to humanity bears peculiar and specific forms of society, cultures and philosophies within which all kinds of concepts, opinions and thoughts are always brought to confrontation and evaluation. Values and ideas of every society are usually recorded in the artistic forms, such as works of literature, sculptures, paintings, and other forms of art. Different artworks, for example, historical paintings, portray numerous historical events and social norms which serve as a reflective canvas of a historical epoch or period. Therefore, traditionally, art has been used as a tool for illustrating and clarifying history that is extensively utilized by historians to recognize and assess the nature of a society during certain period.
Along with the development of society, artistic forms and techniques have been also changing and improving. Art has envisaged numerous periods, such as Renaissance, Neoclassicism, and period of Romanticism that was further followed by the period of Modern art. Yet, the period of Modern art is characterized with numerous directions and flows. Values and norms of the modern society are depicted with the help of different techniques and are interpreted in various manners. The Modern art period comprises following directions with respective bright representatives: Symbolism (Edvard Munch and Gustave Moreau), Expressionism (Carl Eugen Keel, Edvard Munch, and James Ensor), Abstractionism (Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich), Abstract Expressionism (Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning), Art Nouveau (Gustav Klimt and Alphonse Mucha), Constructivism (Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Naum Gabo), Cubism (Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque), Pop Art (David Hockney and Andy Warhol) and others (Goldwater & Treves, 1980).
However, it is clear that despite numerous directions, forms of art and techniques that are used to depict reality, all modern artists are sharing similar ideas, i.e. depict modern society and its social norms and values of the contemporary person. My photography artworks stand in live with other modern forms of art and utilize nature as a symbol for depicting modern society. Idea of using nature as a medium tool is largely supported by modernists. For example, according to Edvard Munch, “nature is not only all that the eye can see… it also incorporates the internal pictures of the soul” (Steinberg & Weiss, 1954).
Hence, thematic idea of my photography artworks is largely related to the modern society. Twigs of the trees serve as a symbol of people that are living in the greyness of contemporary cities of the globalized and urbanized world. Modern cities are overcrowded with people just like heaps of twigs and leaves in the garbage that often stay there unnoticeable and dull. Thus, these twigs need revitalization and attention like people lack hope and need to reconsider their spiritual values to change their lives for better.
A lot of people perceive art as a terrain of feelings and emotions and not purely pictured elements and objects. It is widely believed that one of the major purposes of art is to stimulate subjective feelings and emotions of the viewer. Surprisingly, depiction of emotions and feelings has been taken to an extreme in the modern artworks. This is found to be surprising, because the period of modern art is often characterized as a period of rational and cold artworks that often offer nothing to the intellect of viewers instead of pure experience, and ways how this experience encourages emotions.
Therefore, it can be said that modern artworks embody not only emotions and feelings of people, but at the same time they also carry deep ideas. With the help of different symbols and abstractions, artists usually attempt to flesh out ideas.
Photography is one of the tools that modernists are widely using to depict reality and express ideas. Originally, photography was considered to be a way that objectively embodies reality, wholly untouched by the perspective of the photographer. Nevertheless, photographers in fact have impact on their pictures in different ways, starting from deciding what to take pictures of, and ending with shifting the resulting picture with the help of computer digitalization. As a result, these manipulations that are common for the photography artworks bring to light questions about the truth and its nature. However, all art forms have the potential to shift reality with the purpose to expose different truths that have not been evident to the uncritical eye of viewers. Therefore, currently photography artworks are largely perceived as postmodern forms of art. Moreover, according to the latter, truths do not necessarily go on; on the contrary, truths shift and transform with different changes that take place in the culture.
From the visual perspective, photography artworks and other forms of art are perceived in the same way by different people. However, differences in the understanding of artworks’ images usually arise as a result of the differences in the people’s cognitive perception, i.e. in the interpretation of what these artworks signify. The meaning of a photographic artwork and its image is substantially comprised of the interaction of different codes that significantly vary in their amount of schematization. Therefore, the image of the photographic artwork is often perceived as a combination of signs and symbols. Usually, its meanings are tangible, compound, and, finally, constructed (Tagg, 1988).
Hence, it is clear that modernism largely relies on symbolism as artistic background of the artworks. Even though symbols are often perceived differently by people, artists usually grant certain and rather specific meanings to the symbols that they use and depict in their works. In particular, my photography artworks contain several symbols that play essential role in the understanding of the true meaning of the depicted image. Dryness and gloominess of the modern society and life of people is symbolized by the grey background that is used in the images. Grey color is very effective to depict dull and sad feelings as well as to serve as a good symbol of the grey mass of people living in the large urban city. Next, lifeless twigs of the trees are symbols of the modern people’s spirit, their lack of desire and hope for future. Finally, new energy and revitalization of people’s souls is symbolized by beads.
In addition to symbolism, modern artists are largely utilizing abstraction as a tool of delivering message to people. However, unlike previous abstractionist movements in art, modern abstraction tools are largely mixed with realism, that is commonly known as abstract realism. Modern artists depict realistic images of society and life with the help of abstract compositions (Gage, 2000).
Major message of my artworks is delivered with the help of abstractionist nature of the work using natural realistic elements. Visual representation of the work is abstract in its content, because of the artificial nature of the composition of twigs and beads.
Traditionally, artworks are often affected and motivated by the works of other artists and artistic philosophers. Work on my photography artworks was largely affected by the Kandinsky’s use of composition. He created abstract paintings that have considerably influenced appearance of my abstract photography. In addition, contemporary works of Diana Scherer inspired me with their formality of photography.
More precisely, Wassily Kandinsky is considered to be one of the most innovative and prominent artists of the twentieth century Modernism. His abstract style of paintings is motivated by the “inner necessity” to depict his emotional perceptions. As a result, compositions of Kandinsky reached the peak of his efforts to produce a “pure painting” that would deliver emotional power analogous to the one of the musical composition. Therefore, similarly to Kandinsky, I consider compositions of my photographic artworks as major statements of ideas. They include some features that depict this monumentality, such as deliberate and conscious planning of the composition (Childs, 2008). Even though Kandinsky was using paintings to depict his composition, photographic art is equally good to express ideas with the help of abstractionism and symbols. Kandinsky explains this by the fact that the major purpose of the artwork is delivering its idea to people: “Painting is considered to be an art, and art is not a simple indistinguishable production, fleeting and isolated, but rather a power which must be directed to the refinement and development of the human soul, towards raising the triangle of its spirit. Hence, artist should have something with the help of which he will be able to communicate, as mastery over form is not the final point but, on the contrary, the adapting of form to inner meaning” (Kandinsky & Sadler, 2007).
At the same time, formality of artworks of Diana Scherer has been rather influential. Diana Scherer is a Dutch photographer. Photographic works of Diana include a series of floral portraits, young girls lying on the ground having their backs displayed to the camera, etc. Similar to Scherer, the process of collecting, nurturing, decorating and documenting natural elements represents my attempt to display tenderness that is largely remained hidden to the viewer (Diana Sscherer).
Analysis of the artwork
Twigs of the trees remind gangrenous elements of trees outwardly. However, it is a good material that can serve as a symbol of life of a person since it is capable of depicting not only solid forms but also sensitive and emotional ideas. Therefore, a tree twig is an art medium that is used to communicate human emotions of loneliness and solitude, as well as create sudden representation of life. Hence, by using this kind of property of the twig, I intended to build image of the person’s life based on the life forces of nature and not based on the symbol that represents it.
People often wear on their wrists different kinds of accessories that are made of beads. The beads are so rich in color as if people already knew that they are as dry and colorless as twigs of the trees. The beads on the wrists play an amazing role in transforming individual dryness into splendor. Therefore, I put round, small, hard and colorful beads around the tied dead twigs. Sacred beads in many religious traditions release mysterious energy just as they are. The beads around the dead twigs represent new fruits while emitting the same energy. The contrasting elements of plants, which have a splendid but short life, and minerals, which have a long and consistent life, are well mixed in this photo (Appendix A). The death of the twigs and the eternal and recurring life of the beads are combined in order to create another new and strong energy. The twigs in the photo are no longer dead. Instead, they have been sublimated in a beautiful work of art by harmonizing with the colorful beads to become young trees with buds. This represents my desire to return the dry emotion of adults to the vigorous feeling of their childhood.
The importance of this dissertation lies in its attempt to bring out hopeful and optimistic messages to people with the help of the in-depth understanding of the life forces that are largely intrinsic in the nature, and formalize it as a photography artwork by suggesting the flow of understanding and feeling the nature to the needed direction. The results of the photography artworks analysis and their relation to the modern society in Seoul, Korea can be summarized as follows.
Firstly, while formalizing dynamic processes of life, the real meaning of life can be successfully depicted with the help of the inherent and practical considerations of life rather than with the help of portraying the externality of a person’s organism. Next, life of people largely preserves an organic form as it continually undergoes shifts and transformations, and, as a result, it can be perceived as the one that is maintaining curvilinear elements that are suitable to an organism. Moreover, with the help of my photography artworks I was able to validate the possibility of using twigs from the trees which serve as a material medium to portray images of life. Finally, my photography artworks are closely related and largely motivated by the environment that I live in, that is a large and grey city full of lonely people. Therefore, viewing and understanding these photography artworks would serve as an indication of hope for people and inclination of means how they can stand out in the grey mass of people.
Hence, it is clear that by representing life in a symbolic manner, I was able to depict my reasoning for life forces that can be revitalized with the help of colorful elements. Even though the majority of my works bear minimalist perspective in a certain way, all of them still deliver the message that life forces are inherent in nature and can always be revitalized.