Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Right Eye : Fingering The Edge
Stampfli & Turci are very pleased to present a new series entitled “Retrospective”, by British fine art photographer Ian Talbot, in which he looks back at his previous work.
With quotes from Johns, W.H.Fox Talbot, Sugimoto, Sudek, Armani, Kafka … punctuating the chapters, this retrospective offers a privileged glimpse into the personal centers of the creative process of this distinguished artist.
© Ian Talbot
“Seeing a thing can sometimes trigger the mind to make another thing” Jasper Johns, 1982
This image is a part of an extended self portrait project.
On the surface it is “just” a more or less moodily lit close up of my right eye. However, on closer examination and with a small effort of will to see it as being my LEFT eye instead, it takes on an altogether different appearance… animal like and disturbing. Of course, in the context of being a “self portrait” one could think that the image is intended to express an animal or sinister side to one’s nature. That may well be a possible “effect” but the intent and thinking behind this image was somewhat more prosaic, albeit more complex and layered in meaning.
For some time I had been studying intensely the work of Jasper Johns for a projected series of works some loosely, others more tightly, based on the motifs and concerns of his later pieces. So when it came to embarking on my “self portrait” project Johns was still very much on my mind. In 1989 he executed a curious work entitled “Montez Singing” in which he used a device, largely derived from his reading of certain works by Picasso, of allowing the features of the face to float freely, as it were, within the confines of his canvas. The ensuing result was lips, eyes etc, coming to rest at or near the edges of the canvas with seemingly no relation to the face as a complete entity. It was this canvas that first sparked a thought to isolate just one eye in a close up self portrait of my own.
Previous to the “Montez” canvas Johns had executed the piece “Cups 4 Picasso”, a 1972 lithograph which was Johns’s contribution to a portfolio honouring Picasso’s ninetieth birthday. In this work Johns had used the device of the famous “ambiguous figure” of the goblet that can also (or rather alternatively) be seen as two faces at will, as it were. The use of the term “at will” is true but ambiguous as once one has settled on seeing it one way it requires an effort of will to “see” the alternative view.
Immediately I saw the first image I made of my own eye I knew that I could achieve something of the same sort of effect with my own image. There was no real great trick to it… a handheld camera and macro lens, all it required was to get the lighting, framing and angle right! It took a while…
As a sort of incidental “by the way”, in actual fact the resulting image (and this has been confirmed by quite a few viewers) has a slightly greater tendency to be read at first sight as of a left eye, the “disturbing” reading if you like. The simple device of giving it the correct title of “Right Eye”, however, effectively sets up the duality or oscillation of the possible interpretations.
Text & image © Ian Talbot
You can see the complete set at Ian Talbot’s website : Fingering The Edge :Identikit
Three Squares 01 : Formal Concerns