dot 10: aperture

If you can master aperture you put into your grasp real creative control … aperture is where a lot of the magic happens …

These are the words of the photographer, Darren Rowse. They sound quite simple, but as every beginning photographer knows, mastering aperture is in fact a lot trickier than it initially seems. Knowing what it is (the opening of the lens) is not the same as knowing how to do it (the balanced relationship between lens and light). Certain principles and settings need to be constantly kept in mind whilst constantly making the wiser choice between the two.

I would like to explore aperture not in the context of photography but as a metaphor for the creative process itself. Knowing what to do, what to include and exclude whilst art[making] comes naturally to me. It is an effortless status. What is difficult are the doubts, insecurities and anxieties that often infiltrate my mind even before I’ve started. In thoughts without a thinker, author Mark Epstein, M.D. – in exploring psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective – explains that in ancient Buddhist psychological text there is ‘but one method of successfully working with such material – by wisely seeing it.’

As I understand it, seeing wisely means working with the ‘lesser’ material, those negative issues that exist as part of the creative self anyway. It involves coming to terms with the ‘unwanted, unexplored, and disturbing aspects of our being’ and ‘to not try to screen out the unpleasant.’ In seeing wisely one is urged to ‘take whatever is given.’

I imagine that an artist such as Willem Boshoff (South Africa) does in fact see wisely. Observing the way in which Boshoff incorporates text and image into his art[making] process, I am reminded of the lens and light dichotomy. Boshoff has written dictionaries all his life and text has infiltrated his mind constantly. Using the metaphor of aperture again, Boshoff has somehow managed to perfectly balance the ratios between the monumental volume of text, and the subsequent flow to his selective art[making] process. What could be seen as almost obsessive behaviour in the writing of multiple volumes of dictionaries, is perhaps the accepting of what has been given to him. As Boshoff says:

I had no thought at the time that I would make an artwork from each dictionary, but some of my most important pieces have come out of them.

Seeing Boshoff’s work again at SMAC art gallery (Cape Town) over the weekend, I am reminded to work with what has been given to me.



Willem Boshoff. Detail from Alchemical Sigils (2012), intrauterine devices

  1. For more on Willem Boshoff:
  2. For more on Viewing room “#01 Typography at SMAC:
  3. For more on Darren Rowse:

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