Borrowing and Appropriating Imagery

September 23, 2010

Borrowing imagery from popular culture and art history is often a huge part of modern art. Many artists show us their interpretations of the world around us by reproducing familair images. By copying the work of others or painting from paintings we can learn how artists create visual effects. Van Gogh worked from Rembrandt, Picasso worked from Manet, and Francis Bacon worked from Velazquez, each time taking something from the original image but changing it to make it thier own. Whenever I do a transcription I take something from the way that artist works away with me. An interesting fact  is that we all paint or create things in very different ways. If I asked 10 other people to do a copy of a painting I was also copying, each painting would be different. Different aspects of the image would be clearest to us as individuals, so all of our representations would seem like altered versions of the true image. In a way all paintings, even photorealistic paintings, are abstractions. An artist puts a part of themself in their work without being able to help it, thier representation is tainted by their perspective.

  Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X Francis Bacon painting  

Before the invention of the photograph images were often copied and reproduced by artists, but in a way photography made art more available to society. In the 20th century images could be shown in magazines, billboards, and on television. People recognised ‘famous’ paintings without ever seeing them in the flesh so to speak. Today we are overwhelmed by images, but our interpretations of famous paintings are often different to reality. The image below for example is nowhere near the actual size of the painting, (Jenny Saville’s work is often at a huge scale) it could be pixilated, the colours could have been altered as I got the image from a google images search, we can’t really see much of the texture. Looking at this image is an entirely different experience to standing in front of the painting in a gallery.

We get something from looking at the image, but alot has been lost in the translation. I find the idea of losing the details very interesting, so as a project this semester I will be painting from paintings, seeing what I can learn, and how the images I choose to work from evolve and get further away from the truth. I first became interested in this theme after visiting the Glenn Brown exhibition in May last year at Tate Liverpool. Glenn Brown works from old exhibition catalogues and other secondary sources and creates new textures and colours in his paintings. The amazing thing about his work is that you actually have no idea how it actually is until you are standing right infront of it. Before visiting this exhibition I expected his paintings to be done with an impasto and chunky use of paint, they were in fact as smooth and controlled as a Dali painting.


Glenn Brown’s study from Auerbach


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