Saturday, June 13, 2015

Painter, Photographer, Man Ray

“Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”
Man Ray

For the expatriate American artist, who spent the majority of his life in the French Capital of Paris, Man Ray was unafraid of the new.   

As he is reported to have said “There are purists in all forms of expression. There are photographers who maintain that their medium has no relation to painting. There are painters who despise photography, although many in the last century have been inspired by it and used it. There are architects who refuse to hang a painting in their buildings maintaining that their own work is a complete expression…In the same spirit, when the automobile arrived, there were those that declared the horse to be the most perfect form of locomotion…All these attitudes result from a fear that one will replace the other. Nothing of the kind has happened. We have simply increased our range, our vocabulary. I see no one trying to abolish the automobile because we have the airplane.”

Man Ray started his artistic endeavors as a painter who adopted photography as a parallel form of expression. As he has explained “I was very fortunate in starting my career as a painter. When first confronted with a camera, I was very much intimidated. So I decided to investigate. But I maintained the approach of a painter to such a degree that I have been accused of trying to make a photograph look like a painting. I did not have to try, it just turned out that way because of my background and my training. Many years ago I had conceived the idea of making a painting look like a photograph! There was a valid reason for this. I wished to distract the attention from any manual dexterity, so that the basic idea stood out.”

For it was the expression of ideas that drove Man Ray’s art from his association with Dadaism and Surrealism to photographic experiments that led to the development of the “Rayograph” and improvements in solarization. As he says “I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.”

Although he achieved fame and fortune through his photography, especially his commercial work and portraiture, Man Ray also painted throughout his life producing a major body of work. About which he has said “To me, a painter, if not the most useful, is the least harmful member of our society.

The exhibition Man Ray – Human Equations which has an emphasis on his painted works is currently on show at Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek until the 20th of September.

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