Hand & Eye: Julie Cockburn

by nathandowningsolent

The Query, Julie Cockburn, 2013

The Query, Julie Cockburn, 2013

Idyll, Julie Cockburn, 2012

Idyll, Julie Cockburn, 2012

As we progress with artistic innovation, creative unconventionality and the broadened horizons of modern art, the physicality of a photograph has taken some increasing interest. Using a process, external to the capabilities of photoshop, artists demonstrate a delicate focus on the physical presence of an image, whether an exhibition or commemorative scrap book. The manipulative tendencies of images that fall in to this chapter, move away from the more screen-based viewing experience we might see today. The aesthetics may not be align with the traditional sense of picturesque appreciation, but, the physicality and its intentions are the appreciative element, rendering the images as a basic form of sculpture amidst the hands-on intervention.

Julie Cockburn creates hand-crafted, surrealist abstractions that are fascinating examples of the materialistic intricacy available to a photographer, but are often looked over. Cockburn collects photographs from Ebay, car-boot sales and charity shops, items previously discarded, lost or forgotten. Then Cockburn applies an enhanced dimensionality to her found images, through means of physical addition, she is able to reincarnate the images’ lost legacy. The narrative of the process is a photographic fairy-tale, a happy ending to the saddened story of loss, insignificance and disrespect induced by the notion of found imagery.

The embroidery, cutting, layered scribbles and other manipulative techniques seek to re-invent, bringing a retired photograph, forgotten and meaningless, back to life. A confirmation of the imagery’s success in doing so, is exemplified by a bizarre encounter that Cockburn experienced. She was contacted by the granddaughter of a women who was featured as a subject. The inquisitor was delighted that an image of her beloved grandmother had surfaced, no other image remained. The woman bought the work from Julie Cockburn and the circuit was complete. She unearths forgotten treasures of the past, initiates her own loving repair, then offers the reincarnated product to the masses, consequentially invoking an awe-inspiring investigation of the geometric, precise and intricate manipulations undertaken.

Interested in the physicality of the material print, within a digitalised society that is quick to skim over such elements of a photograph, Julie Cockburn demonstrates the hand-crafted elegance and intricacy of this classic process, proclaiming herself a ‘perfectionist’. People suggest that the work is aggressive by nature, but, the enchanted nature of photographic reincarnation—as a derivative of appropriation—is by no means aggressive, the purpose is directed at upcycling a previously redundant image. Julie Cockburn meticulously mocks up her detailed designs using photoshop and an experimental cutting, pasting and sewing, before the final direction reveals itself. Cockburn compares this process to ‘having a conversation with the images’ (Cockburn, J. 2014), figuring out the best outcome for the image and its intended consequences.

An Inkling, Waiting Room, Julie Cockburn, 2014

An Inkling, Waiting Room, Julie Cockburn, 2014

In the 2014 series, entitled ‘Waiting Room’, Julie Cockburn explores the unspoken relationship and observative interaction between strangers within a waiting room, a place that also resides at an art exhibition. Cockburn sees these social spaces as a location where by your life in put on pause, you have no real purpose, no momentary goals, just time a time of environmental reflection within our immediate surroundings. The structure of the artistically enhancing manipulations are a formulaic depiction in which public interaction might best be represented. As an artistic emittance of the notions of anthropologic interaction, as if a diagram or schematic, the geometrical, abstract and appropriative additions to the original imagery,  illustrate the invisible mannerisms of normalised, insignificant and automatic public interaction, when no purposeful task is affront your psychological agenda.

I believe the physicality and intricacy of Julie Cockburn’s photographic process, at the forefront of contemporary photography, shows an artists alternative perspective on a traditionally two-dimensional artistic practice. Surrounded by the gargantuan statues of digitalised development within art, it is easy to forget about the physicality of a print and what it can incur. Julie Cockburn is fighting for the remembrance of a process, traditionally introduced through collage, graphics and painting, that emphasises photographies ability to follow the path of physicality lain down by more hands-one predecessors.


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The Photographers Gallery. (2015) Julie Cockburn. The Photographers Gallery Online [Viewed 25 Mar 2015] Available at: www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk/juliecockburn