Jeff Wall Essay

Document Type:Article

Subject Area:Arts

Document 1

In his work, Wall combines directly opposite ideas in the same image which vexes viewers with questions of originality.  Wall has been an ever present individual in Vancouver's art-scene since the early 1970s. Early in his career, he helped in defining the school of Vancouver and he has published essay work for his colleagues and fellow Vancouverites Ian Wallace and Ken Lurm. His photographic tableaux often take Vancouver's mixture urban decay and postmodern and industrial characteristiclessness as their backdrop. A point worthy to note is that Wall draws his subject matter which is his inspiration from things he has experienced, heard or read in his life. Everything in Wall’s image has been set up to convey a message through a series interconnected information Life is represented through realistic scenes that eclipse traditional narratives and all attention directed to the camera’s presence.

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Wall’s post-conceptual scenes are a duplicate of everyday-life and question its existence simultaneously. Old paintings and literature is Wall’s recipe for his modern photographs such as the invisible man (1952). This describes a black man who has eluded from street riots and ends up in a cellar. The story tells of how the man exists in his underground home. Charlotte Cotton, Department Head & Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography, argues that this gives his photographs an eye catching physical presence. A light box is not an actual photograph, nor is it a painting, but it gives the idea of the experience of both. Cotton also remarks upon the idea that these huge images are memories of backlit billboards that are visible from the street.

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The concept of creating art that gives an eye impression is of utmost importance in Wall’s work. He wants to stress the fact that images that are used in adverts and even documentary photos can create a spectacle, and that post-conceptual photography should show awareness that art and photography as spectacles is important. During the 1980s, Wall used to juxtapose images which did show some sense of social tension, class conflict also racial and gender concerns. These were the contemporary issues in the society as of that time and they needed a creative artist to be able to articulate them clearly through social art, which encampuses photography, without being controversial or putting across un intended information far apart from what the artist wants to communicate.

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Some of these images included a male foreman shouting at a female garment worker (outburst, 1989) which was meant to depict the harsh and cruel environment most casual laborers go through and also the issue of women turning out to bread winners for their families with their men being nowhere to be seen. The picture of a white man holding the hand of what we can term to as his fiancé while giving a look at an Asian man while passing through a Vancouver sidewalk (mimic 1982) It shows a white man and woman alongside an Asian man making a step towards the camera. The sidewalk, covered by parked cars and both residential and industrial buildings, suggests a North American industrial area. The visual intensity of these photographs can evoke a range variety of responses from their audiences, as viewers are shoved into the private lives and spaces of the people in the photographs or into environments that range from war-torn to picturesque.

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Conceptual art refers to a situation whereby the idea being put across is of utmost importance than the actual finished product where the finished product is mostly the artistic sculpture. Putting this definition to be analogous to Wall’s artistry, it refers to Wall giving the information he wants to convey first priority as the photo come second. But is this really possible? An artist’s work is usually a replica of what is in their mind, their experiences or what they generally believe in or their perception about a particular phenomena or life in general and they end up putting all their perceptions and beliefs in art form to share their experiences or their beliefs and thoughts For an artist to convey the message effectively, then the sculpture or the medium they are using should be perfect so as to avoid ambiguity therefore misinterpretation in the process or failure to convey the message at all.

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