Option 1, project 4, mirroring and multiple images

19th January. The task for this exercise seems to be taking photos of a piece of work reflected in a mirror, the coherence of the reflected copy being variable, depending on the quality of the mirror.

The next part of this is to make a further(?) piece of work from the reflective pieces. This might be 2D or as a maquette or model and then to develop this as a painting.

I have some mirror tiles which I was able to prop up around a section of a piece I made for a previous module, taking photos from different angles and perspectives. This did lose me, somewhat; I’m not sure what to make of the guidelines or how to develop anything from this at the moment.

While I’m thinking about this, I’ve been investigating mirror tools in my digital software. Rebelle seems not to have one although I’d thought it had, but I was able to use it to transform a painting titled Venus Verticordia by Rossetti in 1868.

Having discovered that imported images can be transformed by digital water, I applied this liberally to see what happened.

Water applied in Rebelle5. Image unfiltered. The trails were made by applying ‘water’ selectively and then letting it drain to the right over an hour.
Rebelle5 hard light filter
Import to Paintshop Pro, mirror and lights effects. Unfortunately, I forgot how I made the repeated cameos except to say they were initially square so I expect I’ll find the tool again in due course. Edit: It’s called Feedback but honestly, why?
Adjusted lights to face (mid left) and hair trails (drips) on the right.

There may be an opportunity to use this, along with some mirror film, to meet the spirit of this task.

I have printed out the digital image, along with some enlargements of details. The base for a composite collage/painting is an earlier collage/painting, muted with lamp black applied with a sponge.

This is already textured with pumice medium and strips of paper, and has its own inherent shine, exaggerated by my phone’s management of black surfaces.

I’m thinking now about the placement of the reflective strips – should this be a single sheet of mirror foil, or will there be another, more interesting effect if I ‘pixelate’ them by placing more in the gaps and ‘bar coding’ them with matte paint?

Ultimately, what I think I want here is a semi fold where the reflective component moves towards (or away from) the side with the images, like a page in a book. This would offer serial opportunities for reflected images, distorted both by the gloss photo paper and then the unevenly adhered mirror foil strips. The emerging point, which began with the image of a woman with one breast exposed because that, as John Berger put it regarding another painting, is how you (male artist) like to see women, is that this Venus is posed for the benefit of men and in today’s world would be surrounded by the reflective lenses of cameras.

I think the digital changes have modernised her but do I want to make her appear stronger? Perhaps not. The male gaze has not gone away and violence against women continues to cramp the lives of women in every country of the world.

I’ve been asked to write a post for the OCA blog about using the AR app, Artivive. This might be a good candidate for a demonstration.

20th January. These are last night’s photos, taken after I found an adjustment I could make on the camera that fooled it into thinking we were in full daylight so it didn’t go brightening the scene.

These are wonderfully moody and filmic. Some of them remind me of the woman in Bladerunner (the 1982 version), and this has led me to an abiding memory of Zhora, a replicant, ‘running from death’ through a shopping arcade. She is wearing a transparent plastic coat; she is surrounded by lights and glass; she runs, dives, dodges and leaps; everything around her is a flickering, flashing, reflective artifice. And when she is shot, the pace goes to slow motion and the soundtrack, in a revolutionary step-change, is the haunting Bladerunner Blues composed by Vangelis.

This is how I want to think now of the composition that began with Rossetti’s Venus. They have a lot in common. Each is an object to be looked at, used, and ultimately disposed of by the men around them.

I take a ‘this’ll come in handy’ approach to more things than is reasonable, but I’m pleased to say this plastic zipped envelope that had a cushion in it is doing a good job as a Bladerunner prop. There’s even a bar code and a warning about being unsafe which resonates with the theme of becoming a commodity.

Painting progress. Quite often I start with an idea of sorts and then, often through insufficient expertise to develop it, I find I’ve produced a different thing that feels much more alive. My temptation then is to fiddle with it and I still struggle with the fine line between ‘right’ and ‘ruined’!

Here’s where I am.

To make the mirror image, I had to remove the plastic cover but that will go back when I’m done. I gave the gloss photos a layer of matte medium though, to take the edge off the shine.

What’s emerged on the right, I think, is a cacophony of strangled, protesting faces of a woman trapped in a stereotype. No longer the perfect Venus or Bladerunner token, but someone loudly seeking agency.

Being longsighted is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The disadvantage is that I tend to use reading glasses for close up work and forget to take them off. Not wearing them stops me faffing over details while wearing them has me messing with a few square inches without seeing the whole. The advantage is that stepping back gives me the view of an impressionist painter, at least this is how I see it, whereby marks I hadn’t realised I’d made deliver shapes and forms I had no idea were there and are better than I could have made deliberately. I like to think my unconscious takes over sometimes and elbows the close up view aside to put down what it knows I really want.

I have fiddled too much with the face top right so tomorrow in better light, I’ll take some of that back.

Hm – definitely not an improvement! Tomorrow is another day and that stuff will be easy to peel off.

21st January. After quite a lot of painting, gluing, and layering, I think I’ve come to something that expresses the central Zhora/Venus/women in art idea along with the reflectivity associated with both vanity, utilitarian function, and theory of mind. Plus a touch of Black Mirror discomfort.

The images on the left are collaged elements of my digital manipulation of Rossetti’s Venus Verticordia who had morphed first into the exquisite woman in Bladerunner and then become the proxy for Zhora running through glitter and glass to escape her killer. All of these women seem to me to be reflections of men’s notion of what women are or should be and so reflectivity is a key component. This is emphasised on the left using a plastic case that something like a cushion arrived in. It’s sturdy and so stands well as a proxy for Zhora’s plastic coat.

On the right are painted in faces and collaged painted over faces interspersed with mirror foil. The faces are distorted and seem to be trying to escape or tell the viewer something important, and the mirror foil, as viewed head-on, reflects the viewer back to themself.

Folded, the two become interactive; one reflecting the other and each further distorted in the process.

So much of this is opportunistic that I can hardly credit myself with any skill, beyond maybe ‘an eye’ for spotting the opportune and going with it. Sometimes I know what I want to do but find I don’t have enough technical skill to make it happen, and then something happens out of the blue that, to my mind, is probably better, has more life, and says more than the dead thing I might have produced otherwise. I may re-photograph this in low light to examine the effects.

The result is a mirroring back to itself of idealism become gross; of an object of beauty to the trapped woman within the image. I can add these ideas to my mental library for use in the putative additional project that I (almost) know exists but that isn’t mentioned anywhere in the course notes!


This final section concerns the making of video from original art and in this first piece, the aim was to make a simple video overlay by which to demonstrate augmented reality. At present, the app I’m working with is mostly being used in galleries where pieces of work are augmented (there’s the clue!) via the augmented reality app, Artivive, although I did use it successfully for our village Advent Window fund raiser, so that the painting in my window could, and was, activated by people standing in the dark in my front garden. Quite the test!

This is the target image.

This is the video, the mysterious title deriving from all of the above.

The next step is to post both in the Artivive bridge where they will be linked so that, wherever that image appears – onscreen, on a print, in a gallery (yes please!), or on a postcard, the video will overlay it.

There are constraints of size – if you expect more than 100 views per month, for instance, you need a paid account, and the video should be relatively short, a maximum of 45 seconds, because people are usually viewing via a device they have to hold upright in front of them and this is quite tiring. I had thought there was also a 10MB size limit to videos but either that was somewhere else or this is another benefit of my paid account.

The app is available for both iOS and Android so why not give it a go?

Edit: the video is a bit too visually subtle for a phone screen, and with no sound, it might be hard for people to see if they don’t know what to look for, so now it has a resonating E string on it.

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