This image by Letinsky is used on P.126 of the FiP workbook. We are invited to look closely at the image and then answer some questions regarding her approach and, more generally, around issues of representation.
Reality and Representation
With reference to the unreal or constructed imagery in Letinsky’s work the workbook posses the question what the are real and physical, things exist in my life. Well there are the obvious three-dimensional things like my home, the car I drive, the bicycle I ride, and the locations where I work and play. Then there are the people I know and relationships they bring; partner, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc.
After, this the question moves towards things in life that are representations, but before addressing that it is worth looking at some things that fall between the real and representational. I really enjoy a good bike ride around my local countryside and my love for birds and the natural world is well documented in this blog. These in themselves are not ‘physical’ but nor are they strictly representational. Such activities have to be interpreted and result in an emotional but sometime physical response from me. As for the representational within my life well, there will things like TV, radio and many aspects of the internet. Photography itself is representational: when I photograph a tree, for example, I create a representation of it, be it it in pixels on a screen or microscopic ink dots on paper.
The third question in the series asks how might all this representation affect people? So much of modern life is now ‘screen based’. Social media can help friends keep in touch more easily but then people’s experience of life is increasingly disjointed from human interaction. Human beings are social animals and social skills have to be learnt. With many of life’s interactions and transactions being undertaken via a screen based device we can easily reduce the effectiveness of skills like empathy, understanding and interpretation.
A response to Letinsky’s photograph:
A visual description – objects back ground and space
Upon close inspection of the work, it becomes obvious that Latinsky creates a unique world; one that defies gravity and really only exists in the viewfinder of her camera or computer screen. Of course these aren’t my words but ones I’ve lifted from the workbook explanation for exercise 4.2. Nonetheless they adequately describe her approach. She creates a scene with a largely white to mid grey background and little or no sense of perspective. However, into this world she introduces an implied tabletop populated with fruit and cutlery hinting at a domestic realm in her constructed reality.
Composition, design arrangement
The, albeit, sloping tabletop is placed in the bottom left quarter of the image. Two sharon fruit are placed together on the top. With them is a crescent shaped object (I don’t know what it is) and a small saucer. Either side of the fruit is a spoon. Both of the spoons look superimposed: the left-hand one has a red substance in it and the right-hand one carries what looks like yogurt. The latter spoon hovers just above the tabletop. Seemingly falling, but frozen in space, some cherry stones and stalks appear to have slipped from the tabletop.
Sense of space and dimensionality
As suggested already there is compressed feel about the perspective with the plinth-like table is positioned against the background. Also, there are some visual contradictions occurring within the image. The table appears quite two-dimensional but the table’s surface is obviously three-dimensional. While the two Sharon fruit are reflected on the surface of the tabletop unlike any of the other items, reinforcing the unreal, dream like quality of the image.
As recommended in the workbook I looked at the wider work of Letinsky and David Bate. I also visited the Rijksmuseum website and explored the painting of Pieter Claesz. While I was aware that these early still-life works were riddled with symbolic meaning, I’ve now taken some steps now to understand what these meanings actually are. As such I could offer that Letinsky’s use of fruit is perhaps to emphasise the impermanence of life. Fruit is will soon rot and decay just as old age or illness will ultimately take us all. But I’m not sure this is what her work is about. The image is sparsely populated with objects and thus drawing conclusions from it seems problematic. With the risk of stereotyping I wonder if there is a feminist message here due to the implied domestic setting of the table and the serving of idealised food.
The FiP workbook gives some clues towards interpretation. Evolving from earlier works involving left over meals, where viewers are to become detectives looking for clues and connotations, Letinsky’s recent works advance this notion further, “looking at the ways people incorporate representations and collective fantasies into their ‘reality’ and their desire”. I’m not sure I fully appreciate this at this stage in my learning journey…
Scans from my notebook – showing my “working out”…