Memory or Imagination

This was one of the last “photos” we looked at in class today:

It really struck me on a few levels. I initially assumed that it was simply a memory that had been triggered by his opening his suitcase. But then I looked closely and realized that it’s only the mother and the daughter sitting alone at the table that’s set for only 2 people. For that reason, I began to consider the possibility of it being him imagining what his family must be doing back home.

To this extent, I realized that Tan played a lot with the whole idea of imagination and memory. They often collide in his illustrations, making it unclear to the reader what exactly is being portrayed. In my opinion, I think that there’s an inevitable overlapping of the two in my own mind–where I don’t think I can remember something so impartially that it’s never subject to being changed by my imagination, however unintentionally. There’s a fine line between the two that is, to a certain degree, a lot more blurry than I had realized before.

Is this photo a piece of his memory or his imagination? Or is it both? The faces of the child, mother, and the setting are for sure pieces of his memory; he’s just repurposed them in a different setting to imagine what they must be doing.


Peter Rabbit: Human or Animal?

I found our in class discussion on how Peter Rabbit is anthropomorphized quite fascinating and something I hadn’t thought about before. His mother is very careful and deliberate in buttoning his jacket which is what ends up getting him caught just as he’s about to escape Mr. McGregor.

What’s more, his shoes also seem to be a hinderance that he kicks off to “r[u]n on four legs and [go] faster”. I think this brings up an interesting question of what Beatrix Potter is trying to portray Peter as. We could see it as him being confined by the restrictions and expectations his mother put on him and that he needs to free himself of them to escape. At the same time however, Peter Rabbit is an animal and we see him going from dressed up, walking on his hind legs, holding vegetables in his front paws to escaping on all fours in the manner of a rabbit.

What does she mean by reversing his personification? And what implications does his identity have for Mr. McGregor? Is he the prey being hunted by the human, or is he the human being stalked by the animal?


Collaging Interest

This was the first time in longer than I can remember that I had the opportunity to collage. And I absolutely loved it. There was something incredibly therapeutic in finding images, cutting them out, and playing with their placement on paper. It was a very unique way of creating art in that it offered you that opportunity and freedom to play with different layouts and combinations before having anything solidified. It was very unlike drawing in which, plan and sketch as you might like, you’re unable to move an object after you’ve outlined it or colored it. Collage lacks this kind of finality that I just found so liberating and serendipitous. It’s interesting because I remember dislike collage the first time I did it because I was very dissatisfied with the different textures and uneven edges that inevitably come out of collaging. I saw them as imperfections. But this time around, perhaps because we’ve studied it in class and I’ve come into a new appreciation of it, but I found the different textures and styles really adding to the overall piece.

Ever since the workshop, I’ve found myself to be very consciously aware of all the magazines I’ve come across and mentally putting images together in my mind to see how they would work together in a collage. When I was little, I mistakingly had the impression that collage lacked artistic ability and skill because you were using ready-made images but I’ve come to find now that i have immense respect for all collages and see that they require no end of artistic ability.

A Mental Collage

I really enjoyed visiting with Julia Jacquette today. It was a unique experience to get to walk through an art exhibition with the artist–something I’ve never had the chance to do so before. I loved being able to ask her questions and hear how she interpreted her works, made certain decisions, and even to see how we would sometimes see something that wasn’t intentional on her part. One of the things that stuck out most to me was when she was explaining the process she went through curating material for each page of her memoir. Between going to the library, doing google searches, compiling pictures from her family albums–among other things–it was an extremely extensive process. And it really reminded me of a collage of sorts. Not of the physical material brought together as we saw in the examples we’d studied in class; but more so a collage she put together in her mind, repurposing all the material she collected into a new work. To this end, it made me think that we’re always doing some sort of collage in our minds. Be it bringing together sources in a paper, drawing on different influences in a work, today was a reminder of how much the works we produce are amalgamations of what we’ve learned and experienced. Julia Jacquette’s work was like this, only more so, because of all the pieces she’d purposely gone out searching for to illustrate her memory.

It was also really special to hear the personal sentiments behind each work. I’d have to say my favorite page after meeting with her would have to be the first page with her and her mother. It brings to mind a specific brightly patterned shirt I always remember my mother wearing when I was a child. I was actually able to remark upon it when I was back home for the break and we had dug it up from an old box. It brought surprisingly vivid memories and feelings of comfort and nostalgia–akin, somewhat, to what I imagine the emotions behind this page are.


The Tragedy of the Hapless Child

Gorey’s Hapless Child was so striking to me after we read it in class today that I’ve been thinking of it since. After going back to it for the second time, I noticed many things I didn’t see the first time. For example, the little girl appears in the pristine white dress in the first pictures, almost glowing with happiness. Then at the school she’s clothed in black but returns to a white gown after her escape. However, it is not the same whiteness–it slowly dirties and grays as the story progresses, to the ultimate tattered state it’s in when she’s run over. This is very symbolic of the little girl’s own mental and physical condition. Her father, too, comes back starkly different from when he first appears.

Physically, he remains the same large, muscled man. He’s still in clothed in furs, although the one in which he returns in boasts a much more ostentatious patterning. What I noticed, however, were his large goggles covering his eyes.

It could just be part of his outfit as a driver to keep it consistent with the story but it’s interesting to consider the idea that it may be symbolic of him, having gone abroad and returned with all these riches, become blind to his family. Even when he’s holding his little girl there is no recognition she is his daughter and for me, this is what makes the ending most tragic of all. It breaks the most fundamental relationship between a parent and child, making an already depressing ending utterly heartbreaking.

Max Ernst’s work as an Antinovel

What interests me most about Ernst’s “Une Semaine de Bonté” is how it challenges our understanding of a novel. He presents it to us in the format of book but we’re forced to create our own narrative and connections between the illustration. As we discussed in class, his work is very provoking of the agency of the audience, forcing us to create our own plot and grapple with the illustrations to find logic when the very illustrations seem to defy reason. For this reason, I think I would personally classify Ernst’s work as an anti novel. An antinovel as defined on is: a literary work in which the author rejects the use of traditional elements of novel structure, especially in regard to development of plot and character. Ernst’s work really falls into this definition for me, especially how his illustrations seem to constantly disrupt our process of “reading”, each containing subtleties and details that both reference and distinguish one from the other at the same time. I found this youtube video in which at the very end they mention “Une Semaine de Bonté” as an anti novel.

What I appreciated the most was getting the chance to see her handle a copy of the original prints at around 3:30. It provided that piece of context, to understand that they were meant to be read, page by page, book by book. 


Sayings from the Press

I loved our workshop at the printing press; perhaps even a little more than our illuminating manuscripts workshop because we had the chance to work with actual old printing presses and type. I had worked a little with printing in the past but only in art class where the focus was more on carving out our designs than the actual printing process. It was very much as Professor Rippeon said — the one operating the printing press (rolling the pin, etc.) needs to effectively be a part of the mechanized printing press. There can be no distraction from looking at the print, taking it out, lest accidents happen and so there would have been someone else there to do the “quality control”. I had never before seen it as such an efficient assembly line but after our workshop was able to imagine a little bit more how they would have printed thousands of pages and books manually. Even so, it’s incredible to think of the amount of work and time that went into each printed page.

In addition, all of Professor Rippeon’s fun interjections of sayings that derived from the printing press really inspired me to do a quick google search for other sayings:’t-realise-originated-from-print. Turns out others such as “mind your p’s and q’s” and even “stereotype” and “cliche” are all “hot off the press”! I always find it fascinating to learn about the roots of sayings and idioms that are still used today, a lot more so than the printing press.

The Illustrations of Eko: The Importance of the Hand

I was really fascinated by our discussion of the new illustrations of Don Quixote done by Eko. His illustrations were so unique and unlike any of the other illustrations we saw that all, in some way or another, resembled each other. Even in class today when we tried to come up with our own covers, even though they were all different in composition, colors, etc. there were some common themes throughout such as that of the old man, windmill, etc. Eko’s illustrations alone are eerily different and purposely reimaged in a completely different way. This prompted me to learn a little more; after some digging I found this interview of his in regards to his Don Quixote illustrations:

I would highly recommend reading the interview if you’re interested! It was fascinating to learn about the illustration from the perspective of the artist, to see what he intended and compare it to our own interpretations. The hand, for example, is actually symbolic of Cervantes’ own hand that he lost off at war. So Eko was actually placing Cervantes straight into the illustration of Don Quixote; a very interesting choice indeed. We had never discussed explicitly in class considerations of Cervantes himself in the illustration but had nonetheless come up with meanings and interpretations behind the hand. It’s always fascinating to see how a different audience can read illustrations in very different ways, no matter how purposeful the original illustration.

The Act of Illumination

I absolutely loved having the opportunity to workshop and attempt to make my own historiated letter. It really put all of our discussions of illuminated manuscripts into perspective when I realized the time and detail that went into a single letter, much less an entire illustration. It is such an involved process that much is left to the discretion of the illuminator. What struck me the most was the experience of applying the gold leaf. The process required a great deal more precision than I had anticipated but really transformed the entire work immediately. I was able to pick up the illustration and move it to see the light reflect off the gold leaf and it reminded me again of the movie The Secret of Kells in which the entire movie had been drawn in the style of illustrations come to life. The workshop has given me an entirely new appreciation for illuminated manuscripts–I could not imagine illuminating an entire manuscript, much less in the scale of the Book of Kells or the one of the pocket prayer books. Especially with the knowledge that the illuminators of the past would have been illustrating on parchment without the technologies like electricity.

Anonymity in Eastern Art

Pamuk addresses the struggle of Eastern culture and art as they struggled to reconcile tradition with western influence. Because Islam condemns the practice of idolatry, the majority of Islamic art is centered upon scripture, geometric patterns and interlacing decorative designs known as arabesque (seen below).

This belief that all illustrations should be done from the perspective of Allah and not the artist himself seems to be in contradiction with the practice illuminated manuscripts that demands the artists’ discernment. We see such tensions being played out in the various passages such as “I am a Horse”. For the duration of the passage, the horse questions the sensibility behind his illustration–pointing out inconsistencies that are physically impossible  such as both of his forelegs extending out at once. This is symbolic of people beginning to challenge the system and traditional way of thinking. Whats more, the fact that horse is instrumental in figuring out who the murderer is, makes me wonder to what extent can you enforce anonymity in a painting? Is it ever possible to really avoid all style and uniqueness on the part of the illustrator?