The Power of Art

Ideas for my research project have not exactly been flooding into my mind; so far a couple of possibilities have suggested themselves only to founder on doubts  about their viability and/or practicality.  For example, I thought of exploring the correspondences between Rodchenko’s portraits of Mayakovsky and religious icons of the Russian Orthodox Church (the full-frontal stance, the penetrating gaze), only to find that there is already a very good book on the persistence of Russian religious art forms in the post-revolutionary avant-garde – a fascinating thought (although it doesn’t actually mention Rodchenko’s photos, so it may be worth a try…).


Tom Hunter. Woman Reading a Possession Order, 1998

My latest idea has a bit more mileage, I hope – I’m thinking of researching the “tableau photography” of Tom Hunter, particularly his re-working of Old Masters into contemporary images, and linking them to photographic history, for example the Victorian “art photographers”.  Possibly  the best-known example of his approach is Woman Reading a Possession Order, which almost completely re-creates the composition and structure of Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window.

vermeer girl

Jan Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, 1657

Tom Hunter’s picture is not only a stylish art-history conceit, it’s also an authentic picture of contemporary London life.  The situation in the image is real; a neighbour served with notice of eviction from her east London  home by the local authority.  Tom Hunter’s photograph created such a stir that the eviction never took place.  I think this is a very unusual combination of method and intention, and it would be very interesting (well, for me) to determine if there are precedents for his art-historical approach to image-making being used for social ends.

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1 Response to The Power of Art

  1. Pingback: Creating the Moment | A Subjective Discipline

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