Narrative art: an experiment in the world between visual and written language

I have a story but I don’t want to write it – I want to tell it in images. This marks the beginning of my experiments in ‘narrative art’ – art which seeks to tell a tale beyond the confines of its frame.

The first image from my narrative art sequence entitled 'The Union' - this sequence aims to represent elements of a written fiction

I suppose photo journalists are always trying to suggest the wider world through images. Pictures of starving children in Africa are supposed to portray a devastated and neglected nation, images of Peter Mandelson, too, suggest a certain type of politics. I won’t go into what his image represents – but I’m sure he conjures up a certain view of UK democracy. Certain images represent more than their total pixels.

In the case of the starving African children, though, I wonder if some images have been repeated into meaninglessness – in the way Andy Warhol’s 1960s work suggested. Their overuse, partly as a consequence of a mass culture that over uses them (particularly in advertising), has made the photograph and the ‘iconic image’ increasingly meaningless, eroding its impact with each repitition.

So my experiment will be to see the effects of creating a narrative in oils. This is time consuming, highly reliant on patience – and of course even these images can be stolen and multiplied – as any poster website selling hundreds on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings proves. Still, I hope a narrative in oils will hold a different sort of power to the photo – that the time spent making it will give it a sort of stored narrative kinesis. I hope, perhaps, that it’s attachment to a narrative may change its effect.

Above is the first of my story images – there will be around 10 in total when I am finished. The paintings’ fiction has already been written – though not published through any public site – and is just under 2000 words long. The images will be in sequence and are not created in order to simplify the story but to illuminate elements undescribed in the narrative and to provide details of perspective and tone.

As I’ve said, this is an experiment – perhaps at its most basic it’s an experiment in the different artistic methods through which an artist communicates with their audience. I do wonder which stories a viewer/reader will find in these images – if it will be very similar to mine or completely different.

I’m a Fine Art painter practising in the North West of England. You can see a selection of my paintings here, along with a selection of my drawings. Please feel free to leave messages or comments here, on my website or at helen.perkins@hotmail.com.

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2 Responses to “Narrative art: an experiment in the world between visual and written language”

  1. priya bery Says:

    looks like it’s going to be an exercise in patience for us to. like the start and like your style very much. i have been trying to tell my narratives in a single frame. a single freeze frame style and i paint in acrylics.

    • Hi Priya,
      Yeah, my new job is sucking up all my time at the moment but I’m hoping to hit the paints again in a couple of weeks.
      Thanks for your complements – it’s interesting to find other people working on the same problem.

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