EXERCISE 1: CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT
Compile a list of contemporaries in your field or who might inform your research either practically or conceptually.
DENIS SMITH [light painter/photographer]
Denis Smith is a South Australian based artist who found his practice within photography, specialising in Light Painting. Smith resonates with my research in a more practical manner. We usually think of a photograph as a single moment in time, a brief ‘snapshot’ – but what if that moment was 10, 20 or 30 seconds long? ‘Long exposures’ like this transform images – human movement becomes ghostly or even invisible, light sources leave pulsing trails of colour, and night becomes day. My interest within long exposure photography has been very well shaped by his own works using LED, electronics and a more unconventional approach to the genre. As my practice began with an interest within analogue photography, I soon learnt about different styles through the progression of time and technology.
The most popular and insightful work of Denis Smith which has influenced myself as an artist is the ‘Ball Of Light’. His experimentation conceptually, materially and practically were all displayed through these creations of light and shape, highlighting physical movements and elements in the production process. Upon publishing ‘Ball of Light’ online, it was an instant viral hit, generating more than 250,000 views to date. This has reinforced in myself the importance of practical field work, immersing yourself in different environments which will then affect the creation of each piece/project.
DEXTER NAVY [filmmaker/photographer]
London-born filmmaker and photographer Dexter Navy I believe can be regarded as one of the most innovative and exciting new talents in the industry. Navy unveils an untouched and uncensored vision of 21st-century youth culture, where his career is defined by fast-paced creativity, an approach that’s already seen him work with many music artists like Kanye West, MIA and Drake. His works resonate with themes and images that I would like to see myself produce in the future, where components such as his environment (and how he chooses to utilise it), imagery, camera angles and editing effects have inspired my future ambitions. As a musician myself, his works for such musical artists have confirmed my goals to not only produce music but also the visual clips that accompany them through a similar filter or that which has been aided by his work.
Ultimately his work and the aesthetics they uphold are what intrigue me the most, conveying messages, stories, emotions through this art. The work that stands out to me the most is his video ‘L$D (LOVE x $EX x DREAMS)’ in which he directed for music artist A$AP Rocky, representing through the clip a drug induced state combined with the atmosphere of a digital Asia; Tokyo to be correct. This correlates with my further interest in Cybercultures and especially the genre of Cyberpunk, where his work is able to depict a dystopian universe in the most visually appealing ways.
EXERCISE 2: HISTORIAL CONTEXT – MEDIA ARCHEOLOGY
Research the history of the medium and practices with which your are working or the one identified in the research of your contemporaries.
Photography comes from the Greek words phos (“light”), and graphis (“stylus”, “paintbrush”) or graphí, together they mean “drawing with light”. Light Painting Photography can be broken down into 3 general categories (Light Painting Photography, 2017):
: Light Drawing:
- This is where the light source can be seen by the camera, during a long exposure the artist uses this light source to draw or create a design within the frame.
 Kinetic Light Painting:
- This light painting technique the lights in the scene generally remain stationary while the camera itself is moved about during a long exposure to create colour and design within the frame.
 Light Painting:
- Where the artist uses handheld light sources to selectively illuminate parts of a scene during a long exposure photograph.
LIGHT PAINTING (1935)
The first artist to explore the technique of light painting was Man Ray. Ray’s contribution to light painting photography came in his series “Space Writing”. In 1935 Man Ray set up a camera to produce a self-portrait. He opened the shutter of his camera and used a small penlight to create a series of swirls and lines in the air.
[Works titled ‘Space Writing’, Man Ray 1935]
LIGHT PAINTING (1940s)
Gjon Mili is another iconic practitioner within the field of Light Painting. Gjon used stroboscopic light to capture the motion of everything from dancers to jugglers in a single exposure. His photoflash techniques are still very much used today in light painting photography. Mili used this technique to study the motion of dancers, musicians, and figure skaters, where he practiced this photography attaching light sources to the subjects in action.
[Works titled ‘Figure Skater Carol Lynne’ featured in LIFE magazine, 1940]
In 1949, Gjon Mili was sent to photograph and collaborate with Pablo Picasso at his home in the South of France. Pablo was immediately inspired by Mili’s work which resulted in Picasso being a subject of the artist’s practice. Pablo took a penlight and began to draw in the air and the movements were then created; now famously known as Pablo Picasso’s Light Drawings.
[Works ‘Pablo Draws A Ceneteur’ & ‘Everything is Illuminated’, 1949]
EXERCISE 3: MATERIAL RESEARCH
Given the results of the exercises above propose three experiments or explorations that you will enact as a program of creative material research over the next week.
- Physically experiment with electronics, settings and environments through the act of long exposure photography. Research materially about the characteristics of technology and objects and the potential impact on my own works. Suggest ways to improve the sharpness of colours, lights and how natural elements are dealt with (moonlight, clouds, stars, etc)
- Be extremely active in shooting footage and exploring different angles, effects, technological interfaces and attention to detail to which above contemporaries deal with. Help develop my own work through the observation of others.
- Focus on creating composition whether it be still or moving. Physically explore and document and practice in the changing environment.