RE-PRE­SENT­ING POWER PLAYS IN ART – CAR­MEN FORD

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - Artist Car­men Ford

GRAPHIC ARTIST AND DE­SIGNER, CAR­MEN FORD, MAKES USE OF TRA­DI­TIONAL PRINT TECH­NIQUES, MIXED-ME­DIA WORK COM­BIN­ING PRINTMAKING AND FLAT GOUACHE COLOUR-BLOCKS, AS WELL AS DIG­I­TAL PRINT­ING. FORD’S WORK IS NOT ONLY AESTHETICALLY PLEAS­ING, IT ALSO RE­FLECTS AND QUES­TIONS THE COUN­TRY’S MIL­I­TARY LEGACY, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BE­ING CUNNINGLY PLAY­FUL AND EVOCA­TIVE.

Ford’s in­ter­est in draw­ing and paint­ing be­gan at an early age. She re­calls paint­ing with wa­ter on bricks and watch­ing the images evap­o­rate. “I also re­mem­ber an evening sit­ting out­side and watch­ing a fire burn on the moun­tain. My mom was teach­ing me how to draw flames on old type-writer pa­per [the kind with the per­fo­rated edges] my dad would some­times bring home from work. Art was also a favourite sub­ject through­out school,” she adds.

Study­ing fine art af­ter school was a risky move, but it was dif­fi­cult for her to imag­ine her­self in a cor­po­rate ca­reer, so she took the chance, only ap­plied for a de­gree in fine arts, and was ac­cepted.

In 2013, Ford moved to the his­tory-steeped town of Port Al­fred in the Eastern Cape. “It’s a tiny lit­tle coastal town. I had a hard time find­ing work that could sup­port the artist side of me. I worked for the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val [in Gra­ham­stown] a cou­ple of times and gained some re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence. In 2015 I did a

short course in graphic de­sign through GetS­marter at UCT. I can hon­estly say that it’s been a game-changer in that it has helped me earn a small liv­ing as a free­lancer and it’s given me ex­tra valu­able skills to ap­ply in my art prac­tice.”

FLY­ING MA­CHINES

Ford’s most re­cent work draws from her fam­ily ar­chive – a col­lec­tion of her grand­fa­ther’s su­per-8 footage fea­tur­ing the “power ap­pa­ra­tus of the apartheid state”. Ford used the looped images of pow­er­ful fly­ing ma­chines and politi­cians as in­spi­ra­tion for her quirky draw­ings and prints. The heli­copter and other mil­i­tary air­craft are a cen­tral mo­tif in her work. She de­scribes th­ese ma­chines as “metaphors for po­lit­i­cal sys­tems of power”.

“It’s hard to pin­point how fly­ing ma­chines, specif­i­cally he­li­copters, be­came a sub­ject in my work. I feel like I’ve been think­ing about it for a cou­ple of years and that its ap­pear­ance in my work hap­pened or­gan­i­cally.I re­cently started us­ing it as mi­nor ref­er­ences for so­cial and po­lit­i­cal progress in present-day South Africa, as well as lead­er­ship am­bi­gu­i­ties. Air­craft have also be­come a metaphor for ab­stract po­lit­i­cal sys­tems of power that try to reg­u­late hap­pen­ings around us.

“A few years ago my grand­fa­ther’s su­per-8 films were con­verted to dig­i­tal for­mat.About 99 % of the footage is fam­ily-re­lated.The con­verted footage doesn’t ap­pear chrono­log­i­cally or in any or­der that makes sense. Ran­domly, in-be­tween, there are th­ese jar­ring,

out-of-place clips of dif­fer­ent air­craft. One of th­ese clips is of a heli­copter land­ing, drop­ping men dressed in for­mal mil­i­tary uni­form off at what looks like a troop­ing the colour event, and tak­ing off again.There is no sound ac­com­pa­ny­ing the footage so the mys­tery and feel of the im­agery is both fright­en­ing and eerie,” she adds.

How­ever, this power ap­pa­ra­tus of the apartheid state is not the main sub­ject in Ford’s art­works. “I would rather say that it was a de­par­ture point that trig­gered my in­ter­est in fly­ing ma­chines and their dif­fer­ent as­so­ci­a­tions through­out his­tory. It can stand for in­dus­trial, eco­nomic and tech­no­log­i­cal progress, and at the same time th­ese are ma­chines built for ter­ror and war, but they also carry the po­ten­tial to bring re­lief. When one con­sid­ers all th­ese si­mul­ta­ne­ously in a so­cio-po­lit­i­cal con­text, it’s quite over­whelm­ing.”

MAR­RY­ING DE­SIGN & ART

Ford ex­plains that her time at uni­ver­sity gave her a re­ally good un­der­stand­ing of printmaking and the dif­fer­ent pro­cesses and tech­niques in­volved. “Both prac­tices [printmaking and de­sign] are quite sim­i­lar in that there’s a lot of trial and er­ror and proof­ing in the process.There’s also an in­trin­sic con­nec­tion or re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two when one con­sid­ers the his­tory of the print­ing press, so in my mind they go to­gether re­ally well. Poster art and pro­pa­ganda ma­te­rial from his­tor­i­cal so­cio-po­lit­i­cal move­ments around the world is a re­ally good ex­am­ple of this re­la­tion­ship,” Ford says.

As the sub­ject of her re­cent work in­cludes air­craft, she ex­plains that she started read­ing up about the sym­bol­ism of air­craft in Soviet-era pro­pa­ganda posters and it seems they were used to sig­nify progress.“I still need to look into this fur­ther, but the idea ex­cites me and it is gen­er­at­ing a lot of cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties that I’d like to work through.”

Ford ex­plains that as a cre­ative, her in­ter­est lies both in the printmaking medium and graphic de­sign.“My ap­proach to cre­at­ing an im­age is as a print­maker and a de­signer. There’s def­i­nitely a strug­gle be­tween hav­ing a fin­ished print to be de­fined as ‘fine art’ and a print to be la­belled as ‘de­signed’ ma­te­rial, but the ten­sion here is great.The de­signer in me likes ev­ery­thing bal­anced in terms of line and colour and con­trast, and the process of printmaking

nat­u­rally lends it­self to th­ese el­e­ments of com­po­si­tion.”

Ford’s work has been fea­tured in a num­ber of lo­cal art fairs, in­clud­ing The Tur­bine Art Fair, FNB Joburg Art Fair and the Joburg Fringe. In 2016, she was a fi­nal­ist in the David Koloane Award Men­tor­ship Pro­gramme.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Car­men Ford, visit her gallery www.gun­sandrain.com or email info@gun­sandrain.com. Guns & Rain fo­cuses on con­tem­po­rary fine art from South­ern Africa and rep­re­sents and ex­plores work by emerg­ing as well as es­tab­lished artists. The gallery will soon be open­ing a newly-ren­o­vated space in Parkhurst, Jo­han­nes­burg.

Ford de­scribes her work as deeply in­flu­enced by South African protest posters and Soviet pro­pa­ganda ma­te­rial, and she is ul­ti­mately con­cerned and amused by the “bizarreness of lead­er­ship”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.