Tuesday, 23 October 2007

What's in a title?

I've been thinking more about titles, titling conventions and the associations with a painting's title. During this, I came across - again - Robert Genn's twice weekly email newsletter Painter's Keys, which I had meant to subscribe to some time back. He has written up a very interesting post on the issue. Among other things, Robert says that

Abstract art can present titling challenges. The formal values of the work itself may be mentioned--e.g., Red on Blue. Titling can also give viewers a clue that might help them on a voyage of imagination and discovery--e.g., Talisman. Sometimes, in this direction, you don't want to say too much. Brevity is enigmatic. (Robert Genn)

Numerous responses by other artists and their approaches to titling their art follow the original article. Reading through these, I must admit I am a bit partial to Sheila Grabarsky's titling in series - the series that form the basis of her artworks are those relating to personal events in her life, such as the birth of a granddaughter, a new cat, a place she lived in and so on. As such, they are really diary entries and without immediate relevance to the actual piece of art. But for her, this also allows her to free herself of having to worry about titles.

As for my own titles, for most of them I am very happy to denote the part of work process they originated from:worked in series with a series title which is playing with some prosaic origins - e.g., Bedrock & Cloud (as my bid for physical geography); Land Marks (as landscapes developed out of abstract marking and mixed media work; Textured Walls (as abstracted details on indoor walls); Window to the Sky - probably my most romanticised title - I somehow had associations to one of my favourite books by the East German post-war author Christa Wolf - Der geteilte Himmel... Yet, suitably shortened to WTTS #45, that association quickly disappeared. :)

Some pieces get two titles, e.g. the WTTS #22 for my dad is also Am Abend - in the evening; others are a bit more associative such as Spring in the Sky; and finally there are some ironic one - such as The Runner (!), or The Liar Selling Snakes at the Market (!!). Yet, as for the more abstract pieces, I do wonder if it makes sense to be less descriptive of process or content.

Here's the piece that triggered this line of thought... and: can you find the girl in a white dress on the wall?

Textured Wall #1, 50x70 cm,
Pastel on Board

Gesa Helms 2007

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