I’ve been contemplating the context of my Vladimir Tretchikoff shoots, and I delved deeply into his biography and his paintings. Tretchikoff was one of, if not the first, artist to have lithographic reproductions of his paintings, stating that he wanted his art to be accessible to the ordinary person, that the fine arts were not just limited for the rich to enjoy. It’s important to me to acknowledge this, because I’ve often felt frustrated that the arts appear, (much of the time) to have gate keeps, controlled by those with money.
Art materials are expensive, photographic equipment is expensive. Prints and exhibitions and entry into galleries can all be extortionately priced too. It’s sad and concerning that there are at times, limits to everyone enjoying art because of financial burdens. It’s all well and good saying to follow your dreams, but if those dreams have a price tag, maybe we need to look at the accessibility of those dreams. This is all conjecture though, as concerned as I am about the financial restrictions of pursuing a career in the arts my creation of images reminiscent of Trechikoff’s paintings is less about bringing art work to the masses and more about creating conversations, I suppose.
I am not the first artist (if I can call myself that) to create works derivative of Tretchikoff’s paintings. In 2010 there was an exhibition in Cape Town, Tretchikoff and Me, a salon-style show of both Tretchikoff’s paintings and artworks inspired by his paintings. And I am acutely aware of slotting myself among these contemporaries. I do not claim to be original, or new.
Tretchikoff painted because he had to, because that was his dream and he did it. He sold prints for a £1 each in places like Boots, Woolies, Hitchens. People collected his work and felt a part of something. There’s much to be said about manifesting dreams and doing what you love. There’s much to be said about following the dream through, with the difficulties and celebrants that come with it. I look to my dreams, my ideas of where I could potentially go. I see how I could create and continue to create, to share and enthuse and inspire.
Tretchikoff wanted to allow anyone to appreciate fine art in their home, and I now see that my ideas around my work are exactly that, except I’m using the modern day medium of photography, of instagram, of social media and picture sharing. Of getting my work to where people are. In many of my concepts I have yet to realise, the idea is to take old masters, old works that have a place in history and to change them, to give them a new place in the year 2018.
We can discuss how my work is intrinsically feminist. I continually look to male painters, the male gaze, the men that created famous images of women and think, how can I change this with my female gaze and my camera? Does my use of a camera add or detract from the final image? How do we feel about the use of photoshop, and even more important (in my eyes) is how has our idea of beauty changed? Will my work be relegated to the outer edges until I upgrade my equipment? Can I edit to give a more painterly effect, and if I can, should I?
These are all questions that I have around my work, not just my Tretchikoff project. These are questions that I think about in my quiet moments, sometimes when I should be sleeping or working. I fall into old patterns reminiscent of university, where I feel like I have to justify myself with historical, contemporary and analytical reasons. It’s not enough to say that I did it because I wanted to or because I thought it might be a good idea.
The development of images is a process, and I enjoy it. I can’t not. I enjoy meeting friends and, currently, painting them colours and tell them to look over my left shoulder, that’s it, chin down slightly, look up, perfect. My heart does a little beat of happiness when people share the image and people I’ve never met, like it, when people I respect say they think it’s good, and can they please take part? When after, we laugh, we joke, we have a drink and feel accomplished. Eventually I will come up with the answers to my own questions, and maybe I’ll be able to discuss this project with an eloquence that will ensure that I can share the work as part of an exhibition somewhere. I have my sights set high, and I’m feeling like I might get there.