When I first showed these rock formations I’m calling Bones of the Earth, I was quite unsure what to do with them (I still am…). They seemed to invite a number of treatments. In particular, I found myself wishing I could paint them. Since I’d been admiring Sunil’s paintings of late, I naturally wondered how he might handle them: “Sunil, are you out there? Imagine these rocks as a weathered old face, what would you do with it?” I was not thinking that Sunil would actually see a face in them, but rather that considering the rock surface as skin might suggest coloring and brushwork that would give an interesting treatment. That was before my own musings on the power of face recognition. And if anyone has an over-developed fusiform gyrus in his brain, it’s Sunil (I can barely rotate 90 degrees, he easily does 180). Well, as you can guess, Sunil did see a face there — in fact three — and has recently posted on his blog the painting that resulted. It’s reproduced (with permission) below:
Sunil Gangadharan, Zephyrus, Cupid, and Psyche, 2007
A few months ago, in Orion magazine, I came across the article Fictitious Landscapes, in which the painter Peter Edlund presented his re-interpretations of some Ansel Adams photographs. I’m not comparing myself to Adams by any means, but I do think it would be fascinating to see Sunil’s versions of some of my photographs, whether transformed into faces or not. He (or anyone) is welcome to use anything he likes, but if the rocks appeal, some possibilities from the Bones of the Earth series are below. (Only a small portion of one of these may be intriguing, in which case I can easily provide an enlargement of that area.)
And this brings us to a question of perception that is close to my heart. Sunil’s original reactions were to a black and white photograph. Yet I sent him a color version to work from, thinking he might want to have an idea of the true rock color. But which, I wonder, makes a better spur to the imagination? Does a lack of color information keep the initial stimulus more vague, less real and specific, and hence open to more possibilities which the artist can select from? In this vein, I was struck that the sculptor in Karl’s recent post likes to start shaping faces with the smallest of hints, which she then develops bit by bit. That seems a natural approach to me, but it may not be for everyone. What would work best for you?
UPDATE: As promised, a larger version (1168×1752, 411KB) of the last image can be viewed or downloaded here. Feel free to do whatever you wish with any part of it. If there’s interest, we can have a gallery post to display the results.