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Intermediality of Photography and Sculpture. Photography as a Medium of Self-representation in the Sculptural Opus of Oscar Nemon

Daniel Zec ; Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta Josipa Jurja Strossmayera u Osijeku, Osijek, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 3.849 Kb


str. 126-147

preuzimanja: 186



This paper examines the connection between photography and sculpture, and especially the documentary, promotional and production role of photography in the sculptural opus of Oscar Nemon (1906–1985). In relation to sculpture, photography can be considered: a means and a medium for documenting, presenting and (tentatively speaking) publicly disseminating sculptural artworks, and as an artistic visual medium that takes a sculptural artwork as its motif. However, the question that arises is what is an exact photographic representation of a sculpture, i.e. how photography can “faithfully” convey the visuality of a three-dimensional sculptural artwork. The fact is that a bad sculpture can become a motif for a good photograph, or that a photographic lens can render mediocre sculptures into a powerful and expressive motif. Photography is thus a medium, but also a co-creator of all intrinsic visual information generated by a sculptural artwork. In this sense, one can speak of the intermediality of sculpture and photography, two completely different artistic media that have their points of contact. Photography is an effective means of presenting, publishing, promoting and disseminating the work of a sculptor, who can thus gain and maintain their artistic reputation. Like many sculptors before and after him, Nemon used photography for these purposes. However, photography can also play an important role in the production—conception, design and creation—of sculptures, as an example from Nemon's artistic practice also shows. As a portraitist, Oscar Nemon went through periods of crisis, doubting the soundness of his specialization and questioning the meaning of his vocation as a portrait sculptor. The question is how much are those doubts and crises connected to the fact that his portrait opus, which features several hundred sculptures, includes almost no self-portraits. The focus of this study is a special type of photography that transcends the categories of documentary and interpretive art photography, and finds its motif in the sculptures of Oscar Nemon: those are photographs that show Oscar Nemon with one of his portrait sculptures. As a hypothetical answer to the problem of missing self-portrait sculptures in Oscar Nemon's oeuvre, this type of photographs are interpreted as a form of self-representation. In line with Duchamp's statement that “in the future photography would replace all art”, self-representation through a photographic lens becomes an intermediate substitute for Nemon's sculptural self-portraits. Through the photographs, Nemon reflects not only himself but also his attitude towards his own artistic practice, defined by the identity crisis that arises from observing himself as a portrait sculptor. They should therefore be read as a self-critical actualization of his bipolar attitude towards portraiture: when it comes to portraying his own face and form, Nemon “punishes” himself by making a transgressive sidestep from his own, established and stereotypical artistic practice of producing three-dimensional analogues of his numerous models. With this (auto) subversive act of resistance to the millennium-long tradition of the institutionalized genre of portrait busts, he sought to at least free his own image from the need to be portrayed in the medium of sculpture. Portrait photography of the “self-sculptor-portraitist” thus becomes a screen for the projection of Nemon's unrealized sculptural self-portraits, a way of “filling the gap” or as an alternative means by which he could articulate the need to portray himself. The question, however, is how much and whether Nemon was aware of the possibility of using photography to substitute his self-portrait in sculpture. It was more likely a spontaneous, subconscious act of compensating one medium for another.

Ključne riječi

Oscar Nemon; photography; sculpture; portrait; self-portrait; self-representation

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