HANNAH BARNES

.UNEARTH.

… two primary examples of purposeful purposelessness: the living organism in the natural world, and the work of art in the cultural world. The natural organism exemplifies purposiveness without purpose because its ‘end’ is itself. It has no other purpose than itself. It does not exist for any reason outside itself. Similarly a truly beautiful work of art is its own end. It exists for itself alone. In creating it the artist acts in freedom. She or he is free from pressures to produce an artwork for any other purpose than to produce an artwork- or at least he should be if the artwork is to be truly beautiful. (Ridgwell Austin,Kant)

I believe that art, whether it be in the form of sculpture, painting, theatre, music or photography; is the only practice of expression that is truly honest. It is a complete freedom of expression. However, I have realised that I have never been fully free, I have always made a set of parameters and constraints. I have been obedient, submissive to my over dominant perfectionist nature.

Unearth began last year as an investigation to understand this controlling nature, to constantly visually create the ‘perfect’ photograph. The realisation that there was always a limited meaning and reasoning behind the work I produced, ‘I liked it because it looks nice’. This limited thought process meant that my work was never a personal response, it always seemed disconnected. I wanted to break my way of thinking, removing the idea of the ‘perfect’ image and deform, attack, shatter my domineering nature to allow artistic potential to be realised. I began to attack the surface of the photograph by burning 35mm negatives to distort the gelatin and to almost fully obliterate the image. I then took this idea of attacking the photographic print and with the use of stitch, rips and added fabric to add a further layer to the image. All of these methods of destruction pushed my final outcome to go far beyond my initial expectations, the unpredictability showed the extent of the constraint within my previous work. Uncomfortability has become my artistic tool.

Experimentation has now become the most important part of my process; this project has developed into system of print making allowing me to eliminate all preconceived rules of what the photographic is and how it should be represented. In doing so I have created work which has taken me away from my comfort zone. To be fully submissive to the process I believed that this needed to be a collaboration, between me and the organic. It would become the authoritative figure and I would be the assistant to achieve an artistic realisation. The organic element would take my photographic creativity and make visible something that previously was not perceivable. I produced the foundation but it made the work. The simplicity of form became a focal point with the use of the analog process we sought out to visually show nature and the human body in its rawest form. This simplification would allow the organic element to accentuate natures beauty with the use of chemical distortion. This attack on natures form is a subconscious attack on myself, my vulnerability is shown as an expression of violence by the organic matter. It shows my irritation towards the reasoning of making the work, to anger my former self the ‘perfect’ image has to be damaged, scratched and distorted. I don’t like it – but it needs to be done! 

To understand the relationship between nature and the photographic, my influences have varied through different artistic mediums. Tamarack Song’s book showed me a more complex understanding of nature, its microscopic connections and silent language. My mark making on the surface of the fabric came from a particular interest in Helen Terry in which her making process is primitive, which highlights the natural flow of form. I wanted to replicate this aesthetic, to emphasise the organic residue left of the photographic negative. These marks would be small but significant to the overall composition of the piece. If I am trying to break my preconceived idea of what makes a photograph a photograph, then to go beyond the normal is vital. Conventional surfaces limit my freedom, the image must go past the two dimensional. 

It must be sculptural.

It must create unanswered questions.

I must embrace chaos.

The absence of information- traces- will show my uncomfortability, the driving force of what makes this work. A tangible experience between the photographic, the audience and myself. It disrupts the boundary, a freedom of connection between the work and its viewer. This reconnection of the photographic and spectator is necessary, to breakdown the audiences uncomfortablity with the idea of ‘protecting perfection’. This work is made to distort the conventions, break my control but also the control of the observer. 

These ‘mistakes’ are a clear sign that this work has broken my willingness to submit to my perfectionist nature. It makes me angry, an emotion I never thought would be associated with my work, but I believe it to be a release. Unearth is an embodiment of three years of frustration towards my way of working. This work is the beginning of a longer process. There are areas where my control may never let go and whether I consider this a hindrance is unknown, but it is something that I am willing to find out. 

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