– Fragment, 2014 –

The painting studios at Winchester School of Art were like three-sided cubbyholes – just big enough to swing a paint can. I guess the school had to pack as many students in as it could. Walking round the studios as a Foundation student, I used to think becoming a painter must be similar to becoming a monk – you’re isolated, in a small space with limited amenities, but with all the time and space you need to concentrate on solving one problem at a time. There were some amazing abstract painters working in those studios – and on the staff. They would have been great role models, but the sculpture studios were big and airy and had great doors that opened out onto the college’s gardens: the outside.

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– You You, 2014 –

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Fragment and You You are the fifteenth and third tracks, respectively, on Robert Wyatt’s album Comicopera (2007). For those of you unfamiliar with Wyatt’s work, he has one of the saddest voices in popular music – it’s really quite beautiful. I’d recommend pretty much anything by him, but Rock Bottom (1974), Shleep (1997), Cuckooland (2003) and the aforementioned are all good places to start. I couldn’t find either of the songs I used as titles here, but I did find this.

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A photograph, while recording what has been seen, always and by its nature refers to what is not seen. It isolates, preserves and presents a moment taken from a continuum. The power of a painting depends upon its internal references. Its reference to the natural world beyond the limits of the painted surface is never direct; it deals in equivalents. Or, to put it another way: painting interprets the world, translating it into its own language. But photography has no language of its own. One learns to read photographs as one learns to read footprints or cardiograms. The language in which photography deals is the language of events. All its references are external to itself. Hence the continuum.

A movie director can manipulate time as a painter can manipulate the confluence of the events he depicts. Not so the still photographer. The only decision he can take is as regards the moment he chooses to isolate. Yet this apparent limitation gives the photograph its unique power. What it shows invokes what is not shown.

(extract from Understanding a Photograph (2012) by John Berger)

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