Between object and image

In my work to date on the MFA program I have had an enduring interest in the relationship and differences between object and image.  How an artwork can find form as an image or be read as an object or sculptural form. An interesting discovery in Pond-life, 2015, was how the image of a cream owl when placed on top of the black acrylic sheet became an object within the installation as well as an image.  The acrylic sheet acts similarly, as object but also as image due to the reflection of the surroundings within it. The void it proposes and the extension of the space or depth perception provides this object-image an additional dimension, that of conjurer of space and volume. In this installation, I was in a sense inviting the audience to become the photographer within these set-ups or scenarios that could be seen as three-dimensional pictures.  These tableaux’s became object-images to be viewed from different angles with elements (for example shape or surface), that linked them to one another as well as to the surroundings. Light provided another layer of imagery as it staged encounters with objects within the installation.

In Jessica Morgan’s writing on Katharina Fritsch in Parkett magazine 87 (2010), she discusses Fritsch’s desire to produce “three-dimensional pictures”.  The author speculates about this notion, asking does this term connote a perfectly constructed, immaculate image existing purely within the mind, rather than in our ever-deficient reality? (Morgan, p.37). And what precisely is the difference between a flat image and a sculpture in the round?  Is it strictly a matter of detail?  (Morgan, p.37).  Fritsch has spoken of her ability to think in pictures, to be versed in a kind of personal interior sign language.  (Morgan, p.37).  In an interview with Susanne Bieber in 2001 Frisch discusses this aspect of her process, “Many of my sculptures first exist as an immaterial picture that suddenly emerges in my mind’s eye. It’s like a vision, a picture that just appears. I think in pictures” (Bieber, 2002, p.98).  The artist’s mimetic objects correspond to this conception (Platonic, some would say) of the image as a virtual and sudden totality” (Bieber, 2002, p.98).

Scientific and philosophical researchers and authors Costantini, Ambrosini, Tieri, Sinigaglia and Committeri conduct experiments on how people interact with objects in an enviroment (experiments about affordances in space). They discovered that the relationship between person and object is direct yet also complex (Costantini, 2010). A tangible connection is formed that is different to the voyeur-like image of the photograph. Similarly when viewing paintings, prints, illustrations, and photos, no matter what size, the viewer is separated from them by illusion. Whereas an object is real, tangible and it is present to you.
 Photos are unique, in that they mechanically freeze an image of a slice of time. Objects acquire a sense of place in image as in memory, whereas we have a transient relationship with objects in life. We pick up a chair and move it to suit our needs. Photographed objects are frozen in a perceived place and thus focused in the context of the image. The object and place blend in our memory. You remember the chair being in some specific place by the window across from the two-seater. The line is crossed between reality and perception, illusion and fantasy take over.

Artist Julie Broberg from Dallas Texas, was part of a group exhibition at the Arlington Museum of Art called Between Image and Object in 1999. Before the show opened, and as part of the process leading up to it, the artists involved had an online dialogue about the relationship between object and image. This dialogue was important to each individual practice as well as the group project (some were image makers and some object makers). The following quote is one of the online submissions from Broberg;

“If one draws an image of a paper hat, for instance, a viewer associates that image with paper hats they have made. Usually 4×8-1/2″ and white. Doesn’t matter if the image is wall-size or stamp-size, the association is roughly 4×8-1/2 inches.

Now say one folds a forty-foot wide rectangular sheet of paper and makes a hat out of it. The thing is 20 feet high and 40 feet long. In space, it takes on aspects not unassociated with paper hats: teepees, houses, a mountain. A boat. Say the thing is made of tar paper. What then? Sure the association to the 4×8-1/2″ hat of childhood is there, but, because of the physical presence of an object, the response expands”.

                                                                                                                                                                               Julie Broberg

Bieber, S. (2002) interview with Katharina Fritsch, “Thinking
in Pictures,” in Iwona Blazwick, ed., Katharina Fritsch, exh. cat. (London: Tate Publishing, 2002), 98.

Morgan, J. (2010) “From Out There to Down Here: Katharina Frisch, Parkett 87 pp 34-38.

Costantini, M, Ambrosini,E , Tieri,G, Sinigaglia,C & Committeri,G. (2010). Where does an object trigger an action? An investigation about affordances in space. Retrieved from

Exp Brain Res (2010) 207:95–103 DOI 10.1007/s00221-010-2435-8


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