Interviews

Spotlight on the photographer Peter Finnemore

© Paul Duerincks

How did you find your voice as an artist?

I’ve always wanted to create striking and strong imagery that communicates directly and immediately. Images that bypass the mind and goes straight into the gut…. Soulful, timeless imagery.

Initially, my artistic voice originated from a series of dreams about light. Photography became the perfect medium and metaphor for me, as it is the medium of light. I liked its relationship to alchemy, of transforming material reality through light and chemical into poetic visual gold. It is also a medium of existential enquiry; of placing yourself in front of the world with expectation, alertness and curiosity for self-discovery and revelation.

It was through obsessive interaction with photography and artistic ideas that my artistic voice has matured. It has been a gradual path of testing out solutions between the nuances of photographic observation and direct artistic and performative participation. Synthesizing a whole series of interconnecting creative and technical decisions into singular images, into coherent bodies of work and then into gallery installations.

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Eye Glass Porthole. 2004, 41x52cm

Has your approach and process changed throughout your artistic career?

Each project I undertake requires a fluid creative response. These projects have their own internal logic and dynamic. They evolve on their own terms and might end up looking totally unrelated and unlike each other. However, each one is an intense dialogue with the language of photography. Iv always aspired to explore the medium in its fullness; from black and white, colour, to alternative photographic processes. Equally, I like to cross boundaries between analog and digital practices to utalise the strengths of both.

As I have always worked with ideas of time through image sequence and series. This is a means to expand image meaning and unfold narrative through time. It was therefore a natural progression make film/video art and artists books. The work is similar to music in this regard, where I aspire to the emotional and intellectual range of music.

Looking back at your earlier works, what do you think about them today?

Good Question. I’m currently working on my archive of images, digitalizing, assessing and bringing a number of projects to completion through portfolio production and artist book form. Looking and evaluating these images now, there is freshness, spontaneity and unique authorship that hold their own against recent contemporary work.

The most significant of these projects is Gwendraeth House, an ongoing project from the 1980’s which investigates my family home and garden in Wales. It’s an intense project with many visual treasures. It is visual archeology going through the work, some images that I dismissed, I see now with fresh eyes, and am able to give them a new lease of life. Some images need the gestation of time to bring out their qualities. Also my relationship to the images has changed. Having distance from the work has liberated the potential of the images. I am now able to evaluate images in a more mature way. Many of these images have yet to be made public. A newfound strength of some of this work is simply as straightforward visual documents. We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are…

The archive denotes my relationship to time. For me, time is not linear, it is circular and flexible, this informs my response to the early works. For purposes of longevity. I have always embedded complex relationships and layering of time into the work – including, historical time, generational memory, cultural memory, mythic time, personal autobiography and art history.

Equally, digital technology and material production has liberated how I interact with the archive. The archive becomes an image bank, a fluid resource to reimagine the images into new artistic contexts, reaching new audiences.

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The Way of Flowers, 2005, 38x76cm

Are there motifs that you find difficult to photograph?

Two motifs in particular that I struggle with are – light and people.

Light is the key ingredient in all my images. Light and its luminosity, clothe all subject matter. Waiting and finding the right quality of light in relation to the subject matter can be very frustrating, as is getting consistent light, as the weather here in Wales is variable from minute to minute. Also the quality of light is seasonal, sometimes, I have to wait for months to get the light and shadows to be in the right place!

I find taking formal, naturalistic pictures of people also difficult, I like to take my time to set up and construct the photographs, setting up the camera just right. Then I wait for the right light and subtle changes of wind direction and atmosphere to give the photograph that extra ambience and magic. My working process operates in slow time, which can be frustrating for the person being photographed. However, the subject matter and my relationship to it is the most important thing. If I don’t have a connection with the subject or motif, the picture tends to lack!

You are visual artist working with different media (photography, video, performance, installation) – which medium do you prefer working with and which challenges you the most?

Photography is my preferred medium of choice, both its analog and digital capacities. I like how the medium both documents and transforms. It has the capacity of prose and poetry. I like how images are outputted both as unique analog prints and as crafted digitalized outputs with consistent professional standardization.

However, photography is also the most challenging. Especially, intelligent b&w photography. Probably the most challenging aspect of this medium is crafting an exquisite print in the darkroom. The hand crafted black and white wet darkroom silver gelatin print which has been selenium toned can be an object of great beauty. The hand crafted quality and the variables involved allow them to be unique objects. I miss not having a personal b&w wet darkroom, having one would transform my art!

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Bluebell Arrangement, 2004, 94x142cm

In your work you are studying nature and gardens – when did you develop this artistic vision and interest?

This interest developed probably as I grew up in the environment of the countryside and spent most of my time outdoors, playing, exploring and interacting with nature and the elements.

Also, our family garden is a sprawl of natural overgrown wildness, with pockets of differing atmospheres and spaces that I loved to explore. The most effective photographs are of subjects that the photographer is most familiar with, which is accessible and where intimacy can occur. One of the hardest decisions at the outset of ones photographic career, is ‘what do I point the camera at ? …’ I decided to point the camera at the family home and garden. The act of photographing in itself, gives value to the subject, that it becomes worthy of being photographed. The close proximity of the garden allows me respond quickly and spontaneously to events, nature, changes in the elements and social interactions. Also, I could study it over a long period of time – decades! The garden becomes my laboratory of learning and testing out artistic ideas. It is my outdoor studio, a personal arena to project and enlarge my creative and imaginative potential. The garden becomes a site of interconnectedness, a microcosm of the larger world.

Here, I’m able to have a dialogue with the world of ideas, to art practice and art history. For example, the image of ‘Bluebell Arrangement’ that is on my Singulart artist page. This image is homage to Vincent Van Gough and to his Sunflowers painting. What caught my eye, and gravitated towards, was not so much the pictorial expression of sunflowers, but to another detail, that of his signature. Where the letter V in Vincent, inscribed on the sunflower vase, is shaped to resemble both an urn and the Greek symbol of omega (denoting the end). This detail and its placement implies the artist as a part of nature and as a container of spirit.

What have been the highlights of your artistic career?

I was fortunate to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale in 2007. I enjoyed the challenge of working with tight deadlines and to showcase my artwork to a larger international audience. Equally, being included in the book Photography Today, a major survey of contemporary international photography over the past 50 years, edited Prof. Mark Durden and published by Phaidon is an important contextual marker of where my work sits within international contemporary practice.

But the real highlight is more personal. It is one of consistency. That iv been able to sustain my creativity over lengthy period of time and being able to constantly renew and deepen my creative practice in a manner that is organic and authentic.

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Zen Petals (Rikyu’s Way), 2004, 94x142cm

The artist’s website:http://www.peterfinnemore.com/

Peter Finnemore on Singulart:https://www.singulart.com/en/artist/peter-finnemore-501

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