Dorothy H. Hoover Library

OCAD University

“Reformatting” Iconic Works of Art

December 3rd, 2013 · No Comments · General Posts

A recent article by Alex Ward at Daily Mail UK profiles makeup artist Valeriya Kutsan, who makes models’ faces into a canvas and recreates famous artistic images such as the Mona Lisa, the work of Roy Lichtenstein to contemporary pop culture images such as Mickey Mouse and Angry Birds characters. Photographs were done by Alexander Khoklov from Moscow in their collaborative project titled Weird Beauty.’


Kutsan’s beautiful recreations of famous artworks is done through makeup on human models in a Hyperrealist style to create the optical illusion of 2D art. The “reformatting” of artworks, using different mediums to create similar images (such as photos simulating paintings or vice versa), encourage observers to examine art processes and techniques, but also delve into questions relating to how culturally significant images and symbols are created. What happens when one recreates a work using a different medium – what is transposed; what distinguishes the works; what is the concept of authorship and originality? What symbols or techniques do we associate with certain images/cultural memories/items of cultural significance?

These questions are also interestingly examined in the newest volume of Exit: Image and Culture, a quarterly bilingual journal with texts in English and Spanish by theorists, specialists, and writers who touch on the “themes and obsessions of contemporary man” (“Exit – Who We Are”) with emphasis on photography, video, and film.

Exit Issue #51 Looking back (Aug/Sept/Oct 2013) is 184 pages with 140 reproductions in black&white and colour of photographs that review the place of photography in the context of art history as well as the changing role of the photographer and genres of photography. Current and past issues of Exit are available from OCAD U Library on the Current Periodicals or Backissue Periodicals shelves (yellow area).

Los bodegones de Vanessa Colareta en EXIT #51 / Vanessa Colareta’s still lifes in EXIT #51

Using images that preceded the technology of photography places photography in a larger context of art history, one that includes themes, motifs, and mediums that were predecessors to photography.

The Baroque still-life paintings represented reality “for its own sake, free of any symbolic or hierarchical function” (“Still life”). The advent of photography was seen as “the mirror with a memory” (Ward) and photographs were perceived as “objective record-keeper[s]” (Ward). Both forms purportedly recreate images from reality without bias, a representation of real life objects, people or events. Of course, still life and photography can be rife with symbolism and there is always difficulty in claiming to represent objective reality through images and language (if one subscribes to a metaphysical theory that there is such a thing as objective reality).

So what, then, is being portrayed through the mediums of still life painting and photography? How do we create and understand symbolism in images? What effect does the medium have on the symbolism or content in an image? What happens when one medium is imitated/translated into another? Does the medium have immediate bearing on our understanding of the content?

Some books that may interest you in regards to these questions:

Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials by Gillian Rose. Call no. P93.5 R66

The book begins with a discussion of general themes and recent debates, on the meaning of culture and the function of the visual, that offers a critical inquiry into the relation of visual images to social identities and social relations. Gillian Rose then goes on to investigate in detail the different methods for interpreting visual images. The strengths and weaknesses of each method are discussed in relation to a detailed case study, as well as to the more general issues outlined in the introduction.

visual cultureVisual Culture by Richard Howells and Joaquim Negreiros. Call no. P93.5 H68 2012

This book is about visual literacy, exploring how meaning is both made and transmitted in an increasingly visual world. It is designed to introduce students and other interested readers to the analysis of all kinds of visual text, whether drawings, paintings, photographs, films, advertisements, television or new media forms. The book is illustrated with examples that range from medieval painting to contemporary advertising images, and is written in a lively and engaging style.

Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture by Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright. Call no. N72 S7 2009

This book explores the ways we use and understand images. Truly interdisciplinary, Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright cover recent approaches to visual analysis and lead students through key theories on visual culture, providing explanations of the fundamentals of these theories and presenting visual examples of how they function. They also consider how these images travel globally and in distinct cultures, and how they are an integral aspect of our lives. The images are analyzed in relation to a range of cultural and representational issues (desire, power, the gaze, bodies, sexuality, ethnicity) and methodologies (semiotics, marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, postcolonial theory). Central topics such as ideology, the concept of the spectator, the role of reproduction in visual culture, the mass media and the public sphere, consumer culture, and postmodernism are explained in depth. In this second edition, Sturken and Cartwright include new information on the concept of nationalism and security since 9/ll, the explosion of new media technologies, and the impact of globalization on information flows and media form and content. They also update the book’s theoretical foundation, bringing in new ideas about image ethics (particularly in the digital domain) and acknowledging the “crisis in theory” around the marxism-psychoanalysis-semiotics triad.

photography theoryPhotography Theory In Historical Perspective: Case Studies in Contemporary Art by Hilde van Gelder and Helen Westgeest. Call no. Newly Acquired (make a request for this item at the Library Circulation desk if still Newly Acquired and it will be processed & hit the library shelves faster!)

Representation in photography: The competition with painting
Time in photography: The rivalry with time-based arts
Place and space in photography: Positioning toward virtual places and spatial objects
Photography’s social function: The documentary legacy
Self-reflective photography


Photography: A Cultural History by Mary Warner Marien. Call no. NH70 M26 2011

This 3rd edition of the groundbreaking survey of international photography includes new material from recent research on Victorian photography’s relationship to painting, photography’s involvement with German and Russian art movement between the World Wars and growing influence of vernacular photography alongside art and commercial photography. It documents the rise of digital photography and its impact on photographic history and contemporary practice, including worldwide use of digital cameras and phone cameras. This remains the only book to trace the entire history of photography in its cultural context, worldwide.

photography and philosophyPhotography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature by (Ed.) Scott Walden. Call no. NH410 P45

This anthology offers a fresh approach to the philosophical aspects of photography. The essays, written by contemporary philosophers in a thorough and engaging manner, explore the far-reaching ethical dimensions of photography as it is used today. Takes a fresh look at some familiar issues – photographic truth, objectivity, and realism. Introduces newer issues such as the ethical use of photography or the effect of digital-imaging technology on how we appreciate images. A first-of-its-kind anthology exploring the link between the art of photography and the theoretical questions it raises.


Subject headings:

  • Visual culture
  • Visual perception
  • Visual sociology
  • Visual communication
  • Art — Philosophy
  • Aesthetics
  • Photography — Aesthetics
  • Photography, Artistic — History
  • Photography — History
  • Photography — Philosophy
  • Photographic criticism
  • Still-life in art
  • Still-life painting
  • Symbolism in art


  • “Exit – Who We Are.” Exit. Exit Media, n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. <>
  • “Still Life.” The Bloomsbury Guide to Art. London: Bloomsbury, 1996. Credo Reference. 1 Jan. 2002. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. <>.
  • Ward, J. P., et al. “Photography.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. <>.

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