“Walking, I am listening to a  
deeper way. Suddenly all my  
ancestors are behind me. 
Be still, they say. Watch and  
listen. You are the result 
 of the love of thousands.” 
- Linda Hogan  

       In my current A level studies I have chosen to explore the idea of cross-generational connections, and our relationship with the past, specifically how these connections are made through visual media. I have investigated this theme with a figurative focus, fascinated by how elements of visual imagery can inspire a connection to people who are deeply distant from the viewer, or are no longer alive. These likenesses reveal a sense of the quiddity of those portrayed, inspiring a connection between the viewer and the depicted, an aspect that I wish to evoke in my own work. 
        I was initially drawn to the imagery of black and white photography. From the strangely haunting photographs of youth resistance fighters in the Second World War, to the early autochrome “Christina in Red” series, a collection of photographs of a young woman in red taken at Lulworth Cove in 1918. These images of past, long gone generations, at an age similar to my own, have captivated me. They compel the viewer to draw similarities between themselves and those photographed, a quality held in many works of portraiture, often evoking empathetic reactions. The visual nature of the likeness creates a stronger sense of connection than a representation through another media (such as literature) perhaps, as we are able to in a sense ‘see’ these people. In the words of John Berger “Images were first made to conjure up the appearances of something that was absent. Gradually it became evident that an image could outlast what it represented; it then showed how somebody had once looked.” I am intrigued by the capability of imagery to capture a moment, or figure in time. 
       I became interested in the piece ‘Humans’ by Christian Boltanski, a collection of over 1,200 black and white photographs, which lack any context to indicate the identity of those within the images, living or otherwise. The piece effectively explores the manner through which photographs can trigger our collective societal memories, an idea that I found deeply engaging.  Visiting an exhibition at Tate St Ives of Anna Boghiguian’s work, I found Boghiguian’s combination of installation and painting, to provide a narrative of past stories, deeply compelling.  I have investigated the concept surrounding these pieces in my own work, focusing upon the theme of ancestry, and the parallels drawn to past generations through imagery. I have explored my own connection with my great grandmother whom I know only through a photograph. I have created a large-scale painting, presenting a group of women with long dark hair, using this exaggerated motif of our long hair as a shared characteristic, to create a visual connection. I am now aiming to expand upon these themes, experimenting with a large-scale, long piece, depicting a row of seated figures or ‘ancestors’ in communication. The width of the work suggests a passage of time, and visually alludes to the connections that interlink us to our predecessors, while expressing the divide between us and our most distant ancestors. A figure seated upon one end of the line for instance cannot communicate directly with a figure at the other end, yet is connected through those between them. I wish to expand upon this project, further exploring these themes and producing large scale paintings that challenge the viewer to engage with the work. 

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