Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yell Into the Darkness

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”

The second witch speaks that line in Shakespeare’s masterwork, Macbeth. Creepy, huh? Think about the scene: Three old crones rocking and whispering together in dim light. You can’t make out features, you can’t quite see their faces. The “something wicked” in question is Macbeth himself. It is, indeed, a disturbing vision.

But on flickr, you’d be hard pressed to find more disturbing visions that those of Israeli Yell Saccani.

Saccani boasts 49 testimonials from admirers on her Profile page. (Hugely popular artists count themselves lucky to have ten.) These are wildly enthusiastic people. There’s no denying that Yell has a following. Nor is there any denying the vibrant intelligence pulsing through these images.

There’s a tendency to use terms like “dark vision” in talking about her work. You want to compare it to films like the Blair Witch Project and the Grudge. The visual device used over and over again in her pictures is the very deliberate obscuring of the very parts of the image you expect to see: faces, hands and backgrounds. There’s a very clearly defined totally selective focus at work here.

This artwork isn’t about details, anyway. It’s about vision and motion and concept. The artist chooses very carefully what she shows you, and the viewer is expected to content themselves with that. Everything else is swallowed up by the twin horsemen of motion and concept.

"What I am really trying to show is that you don't need any school to make art," says Yell. "My graphic design teacher told me I would never be an artist. She said what I call 'art' no one would ever see. I want to show most of all that I love what I do and I will never stop. This is all I want forever."

We’re not talking cute puppies and sunshine drenched flowers. We’re talking about black and white images with intentionally blurred focus and wild camera angles.

In Yell’s Photostream we see visuals incorporating mood and motion. It is the combination of these two components – blended with creative concepts, that made us choose Yell as the latest flickr artist we’d like to introduce you to.

Get out of my head” breaks all the rules. Have a look at the hands and forearms. Very tight focus, and then abruptly (conventional Photoshop wisdom says “too abruptly”) the image dissolves to nothingness and shadows. Yell, who is her own model, has a very clear idea of what she wants to show you.

Have a closer look at this piece: hands braced tight against a wall, fingers splayed. What does this suggest? Is she trying to escape? Is she just trying to hang on? Or is she touching the wall because she feels the rest of her “tangible” self disappearing? Compelling stuff, huh?

The bottom line is that this image refuses to be ignored. You need to look at it, think about it and turn various ideas and concepts around in your mind, wondering what the artist means with this work. It engages your mind, though. There's no question about that.

Time” is unusual, something of a departure from the rest of her work. It stands out for a couple of reasons. There’s actually color in this image, that sickly green gradient. The clock is clearly defined and in stark focus. It’s a clock with some grandeur about it. What about the woman in front of the clock? What do you see? She doesn’t look empowered. She looks gripped somehow. There’s the suggestion of a struggle, but I don’t see any way she is going to escape.

Study also the composition and think how you might be able to use these techniques for your work. The model’s hair waves off to the left. This adds a great sense of motion and struggle. But the borders of the image slide away into darkness. Yell has put the subject and the clock dead center in her image. This is a graphic bristling with tight purpose. Very strong and “in your face.”

"When I started, I knew I can do better," says Yell. "I had this feeling in my belly that I had found what I was looking for in life. I live in Isreal in a small ignorant city that lives on the tourist trade. Art is the last thing on the Israeli mind."

The same tight focus is used in an image Yell has entitled “you.” Is there any question here that she is looking directly at the viewer? Her eyes are dark, her finger stabs like a knife and there is unspoken accusation crackling through this image like dark electricity. It makes me feel guilty and I don’t even know her.

Ask yourself where the artist wants you to look. Where does she want your attention? This image reminds me of the artist painting a picture of his model painting his picture. There’s a boomerang effect going on. I look at her, and she looks right back at me. Yikes! This is not a polite image. But it’s personal. A photograph that makes you feel something is a photograph that is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. Say what you want about the subject matter, but this one works on many levels.

"I have no philosophy at all about what I do. I just do it. I must," says Yell. "I discovered late in life that I can do this. The way people look at me here in Isreal pushes me more and more because they all think I will never make it. That I am dreaming...and that what I do is not art. It is art."

Morning Blur” isn’t creepy. Not exactly. Here we see the slightest suggestion of a face. There’s a dark line that is a mouth, an almost indistinct ridge that is probably a nose and the absolute faintest suggestion of eyes.

What interests me about this image is the use of negative space. It’s like a halo around the subject. There’s texture here and absolute darkness bleeding down from the upper right hand corner.

My favorite from Yell’s Photostream is “Judgement Day.” The light is coming in a beam from the upper right hand corner. The subject, a pretty girl, is crowded into the opposite corner. The body posture is tight and drawn in on itself. She looks like she is trying to hide, to avoid being seen by that which no-doubt-about-it sees her.

It’s a powerful image with undertones of infinite strength meeting terrified submission.

The work of Yell Saccani refuses to be ignored. You’ll find much more on her Photostream. There's a lot to disturb here and a lot of the images are not suitable for children. But you’ll also have the opportunity to meet an artist with a very different vision of what she’s about. If you look deeper into and all the images there, I believe you’ll discover a creative spirit.

Just make sure that you leave ALL the lights on when you go there…because “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” and you don’t want to be there in the dark.


With Yell...

NOTE: All Photos in this blog segment are by Yell Saccani and are used with her permission. She reserves all rights.

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