13 August 2012

The Controversy in Shadow Art

Over the weekend I spent some time on art and design forums to look for some general chat on the topic and I came across an artist who used light with hanging tetrahedron frames to create shadows, supposedly related to the city as they'd chosen to play a CD of city background noises with the display. The image created did look pretty cool, like a bunch of post falling in my opinion, but more than anything it got me thinking about the creation of shadows and how artistic they can be. The artist's work can be found at this art forum thread: http://www.artforums.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=1379.

The forum got me reminiscing of my final year of sixth form when I created the set design for a small theatrical production - the final year project for my drama course. We used shadows as a way to add drama to a scene, which lead to me creating a series of free-standing door frames with tracing paper trapped in the middle of them so that when light was shone from behind a frame the shadow of the person behind it would be cast, visible on the front facing side of the frame as just a shadow of a man/ woman. It worked really well and scared the audience when the real person punched through the tracing paper frame - perfect for our off the wall version of Berkoff's "The Trial".

Combining my experience with the forum artist's project I started to think of how dramatic this art form could be. Imagine a large frame filled with tracing paper in an art gallery with light shone from behind it, casting the shadow of a series of objects to visitors presented with the front facing side as they enter. Combined with the right soundtrack, a whole series of moveable or static creations could be made - similar to the shadow puppet stories or "shadow play" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_play).

I like this idea but I'm fully aware that it's been done on some level before. I've even seen it in a John Lewis advert once where they used light to present the shadow of a woman from their product range. It's still something I'd be interested in creating though.

Personally, I prefer more controversial art so if anyone has the capability to champion the idea I'm about to propose then I encourage you to do so as my current position won't allow me to. I'd like to see an artist take the tracing paper canvas shadow casting idea but also take the idea from the John Lewis advert where they used their products. Instead of using random products though I'd love to see something provocative e.g. thousands of branded chocolate bars, coke cans, and other obesity creating manufactured goods, which will form the shadow of a naked obese person. Next to it should be rolled up fashion magazines to create the shadow of an anorexic figure as a contrast, like Supersize vs Superskinny.

The audience should be allowed to look around the back of the frame to see what has formed the image they first see as just the shadows of two unhealthy figures. It's a weak and obvious example, however, I'm sure many other connections can be made such as the shadow of the breast cancer trust's logo with cigarettes being behind the 'canvas' casting the shadow.

I'm unaware as to whether these kinds of art have already been done but if they haven't then someone who likes to bring controversial issues to the surface should create it.

Let me know if you like the idea of if you know of someone who has already done it because I'm fascinated by this art form.

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