“As a youth I was captivated by the work of the imagist poets and by the precision and intensity of haiku. I’ve never been much of one for rules in art, like the seventeen syllables of haiku. Instead I enjoy the focus on a moment in time, using pictures or images economically, and the sense of illumination at the end.
At college one of my english professors – the poet Peter van Toorn – made a reference to painting and the importance of the frame. The frame determines what is in and what is out. In a landscape the artist frames a scene and decides what is in and what is out. The determination of what to exclude is just as important – and says just as much about the artist – as does the decision to include certain elements of a scene.
In the words of William Carlos Williams “so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow”. He isolates the image of the wheelbarrow in a short poem. By doing so he is telling us that this element of the scene is important. The mystery of why it is important is left to the reader…
Although I was never much at drawing, I was always drawn to printmaking and made some rudimentary linocuts in my twenties. I liked everything about it: the use of gouges in the soft linoleum, using the roller to apply ink and in particular the rice paper with all its imperfections.
There is something that sets a print apart from a drawing or a painting. Perhaps it is the existence of multiple copies – the familiarity that repetition imparts to an image. For me photography mimics haiku poetry. The photographer captures an image in his viewfinder. The act of framing a scene sets the scene apart and says this scene is important. If done successfully, the image accomplishes what the artist was attempting precisely and economically.
The advent of the digital camera and useful graphic software has transformed the visual arts – at least for me. My work usually starts with a photograph – mine or one that I’ve ‘liberated’ from an old photo album or maybe the internet. I then use software to manipulate the image.
For the most part it is not about copying realistic visual images, but in removing elements and simplifying the image to highlight what is essential:
“With the stroke of a pen, I eliminate a telephone pole from the back forty.”
…Or it may be about combining images in the same way as a poet might build a metaphor…
– rob farrow