After The Dream 


In reference to the title “After The Dream”, this project came out of a failure to represent Henri Rousseau’s Magical Realist painting: “The Dream”. I was drawn into the painting by his verdant rendition of the jungle, juxtaposed with a Parisian woman reclining on the sofa, dreaming about the exotic. Rousseau never traveled outside France during his lifetime, but took inspiration from popular literature and colonial expositions, and the Paris Zoo (Moma, 2011). The painting is vibrant, with exotic animals hidden amongst innumerable shades of green, dotted orange fruits, aquamarine and pink flowers, all bathed in a soft moonlight. I sought to recreate the details of the painting, inspired from the polaroids ability to capture rich colour in a painterly fashion. I tried to emulate the painting using just the photographic apparatus, in an attempt to draw a bridge between the concept of Magical Realism and the Photograph.

In working with just the photographic apparatus, what became apparent was the way light and colour made tangible in the polaroid had begun to overwhelm much of what I was trying to initially do. I felt that trying to mould light into the details of a painting was suppressing the nature of the medium I was working with. Instead of being Magical Realist, it was completely abstract.

Representation became a burden, and was a tension from the beginning. Throughout university, I always felt that I could only make work at home in the Bahamas. I couldn't connect with the landscape in London like I could at home. When I went home, I focused on creating works that were an experience through the figurative and the representative, as I felt this was a language I was familiar with, and a strong method for relaying my experiences and emotions. Throughout this final term, my meander into abstraction has allowed me to discover a different way of expressing myself away from home.

The project began to explore the way light, colour and form interact, through a series of studies. I was guided from what I had learned through experimentation: that a mirror and light have a particular relationship, with the former liberating the latter.

In my process, I begin with a white light, then layer colour onto the light with coloured gels. The light is directed into a distorted mirror. The mirror refracts the light and draws it in opposite directions, parallel to my camera and body. I direct the camera into the mirror, to capture the faceted light as it flows across the warped reflection. The polaroid absorbs this interaction between colour and light with a rich density.  

As components in the installation, the mirrors draw attention to the physicality of light.  Can we navigate just through light? Can we guide, disorient people with colour? The purpose of the mirrors is quite elementary, and that is to show that light is not stationary/static. It is mobile, it moves, there is nothing faster in the universe than light. The mirrors add a dynamic to the installation. The mirrors make an experience, as it shows the way light travels.

Abstractions allow a primal experience of colour. Abstractions are universal, and speaks directly to the spirit. (Kandinsky, 2008). Each individual connects with colours differently, as colours are interpreted through subjective emotional capacities.  To what affect does colour have on the eye, and how does it translate into mood and feeling? By using the photographic apparatus, I can create abstract forms out of colour and light, which I then invert colour wise in the darkroom to create a completely contrasting image, inviting the viewer to think about how colour affects the connotations made with form. What can remind me of the blur of a night club or the wonder of a planet’s orbit can easily in reverse remind me of a forest, on a calm night. (see figures).

The act of working with what is essentially a kaleidoscope produced an anxiety within me that colour is purely decorative. In many disciplines form is primary, and colour is secondary. In Western society, colour is often stigmatised with superficiality. There is a perception that colour is an adornment, and a cosmetic. (Batchelour, 2000).  However, in my work, colour informs structure, creating a composition through the connection and tension that colours have with one another. I intentionally used mirrors that are equal to the size of the polaroids to create a standard form, letting the colours take dominance as the true complexity. Through the process of inverting the colour of the polaroids, I focused solely on the colour, letting it take precedence, because colour and light generate the form.

Harmony wasn’t the desired result, my installation is about exploring the way colours interact with one another. My polaroids are arranged in contrasting colour pairs, positioned at mirroring angles, further emphasising the contrast. A colour will never be so luminous as it is when paired with another. The contrasting colours create a dynamic of dominance, tension or possibly an equilibrium of chaos. Although my installation is led by dissonance, there is a harmony within it. Dissonance is as desirable as consonance (Albers, 2006).

This project led to a personal investigation into colour and form. It is a continuing discovery, rather then a finished, actualised idea. What I realised is that trying to preplan a visual outcome rather than allowing myself to be more intuitive, caused a rigidness in the process. By liberating myself from representation, I became enamoured with the potential that colour has for emotional capacity. In this process, I have begun to understand more about my previous work and what  drew me to the landscape of the Bahamas -it’s unlimited abundance of colour, vibrancy and light. I realised I related to Rousseau's “The Dream”, not because of the exotic landscape, but because of the richness of colour within it. I realised that in my colour exploration I was indeed representing my home, or what I associate with it, away from home.