bete comme un peintre
I am interested in historical narratives. Particularly with images, the historical context they are placed in and how that affects their understanding in current and future times. In “Bête comme un Peintre” the series landed squarely in the parallel histories of painting and photography. It started as a wish to simply work with photographs that had a resonance with me – a collection of photographs from a family album gleaned from an antique dealer. The title refers to the admittedly self-conscious feeling I had of just painting from a photograph - the guilty pleasure I felt (at first) in rendering and replicating a photograph – of strict observation.
As I continued with the series I became more and more interested in three parallel narratives that developed in the work. The first was this mysterious narrative of the family depicted, the time they were in and my own relation to that period. Second was the history of this particular photographic material – the physical photographs and the lost or dying process used to make them. The final narrative is wrapped up in the historical mythology of the battle between photography and painting. One dismantling the other continuously – both in collusion with each other’s historical demise and rebirth – to the point that they are so intertwined that they are like conjoined twins.
In fact it was the invention of photography that forced artists to reconsider what painting did when stripped of the function to replicate life. It is straight out of this that the term “Bête comme un Peintre” came into use as a pejorative term. Like many such terms, through time it became incorporated by those it was intended to offend. It became a badge of honor – to recognize the importance of observation and validity of the creation of a painting.