Part four: Photography – Project 2 – Photography – It’s about time – Exercise 2

As time is a fundamental element in Art, as we’ve seen throughout the course, I will argue that Photography is not the only medium suited for portraying the concept of time. Yes, photography captures in eternity a moment in time which will never exactly be reproduced again. The first thing that came to my mind when I read the question for this exercise was Willem de Kooning‘s paintings. I remember some time ago watching a “How to paint like Willem de Kooning” instruction video with Corey D’Augustine thoroughly explaining the painter’s techniques. Up until that point at first glance a de Kooning painting for me was nothing interesting, I was in a defensive “I can paint like that, too!” mode.

“I can paint like that, too!”

But then I understood his techniques and I saw his paintings under a new perspective. The great Dutch painter would take a long time to complete a painting. He would work, wet on wet or wet on dry, use and glue  cuttings from advertisements, scrap away paint, even by using sandpaper! Sometimes the painting would be seen or he would be photographed with it and then work on it again. A painting was almost always in an ongoing process, never fully completed till the artist said so. That gives us an idea of the time in painting in a different form. Not exactly as a subject but as a process. Willem de Kooning would work on a painting for up to two years and use long brushes to paint from a distance so he could understand how a visitor would see it as they would approach the painting in a gallery. His artwork therefore had a lot of layers upon layers that didn’t make sense to many and often seemed to cover numerous elements the painter almost wanted you to discover slowly.

For example, let’s take his largest easel painting “Excavation” (1950). There are photographs that show the process and the changes of the painting through time. The painting nowadays has a yellow tint on what used to be white paint because of the aging that comes naturally through time; the other colors have also weakened in strength. An example is the pictures below.

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So, in painting not only you can work with Time as a concept but everything about it is an evidence of time being incorporated into the work.

Same goes with other artforms, obviously film but also sculpture (especially kinetic but also ancient; think of “Laocoön and his Sons” and the moment they’re being attacked by serpents frozen in time) or even music which -as in photography- instruments are used to create meter which gives a sense of time and its acceleration, halt or continuity.

Video below of cybernetic artist Nicolas Schöffer artwork, Chronos 5 (1960). “The third idea led me to “dynamize” time in sculptures called Chronos, including spatial and light moving elements such as stainless steel mirrors that rotate at certain speeds or stop according to a program distinct from that of the projectors integrated in the sculptures. The combination of these two programs resulted in a new contingent program, with visual effects that were non-redundant and infinite.” (Schöffer, 1983)

To summarize, photography is not the only medium that can portray time or passage of time as other forms of Arts examine time in a similar way either through mechanical elements or through the ability to freeze a moment in time.

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