Self-Portrait 5; The artist as illusion
The initial intention with this image was to create a Picassoesque picture in which both side and frontal views were perceptible as a single but coherent figure.
Pablo Picasso, Head of a woman 1960. Metropolitan Museum NY. Picasso presents both full and profile views in a flattened simplified version of early cubist works to present simultaneous viewpoints.
I have yet to come anywhere close to the art of distortion such as that used by Picasso, Francis Bacon and others. Perhaps I am still too close to the original image. This is something to work upon. I have, however inadvertently created a figure-and-ground illusion in which it is difficult to hold the two images in the eye at the same time.
The picture by Roger Shepherd (2) illustrates this nicely – do you see a woman partially obscured by a candlestick or two women looking at each other? (More on this at http://605.wikispaces.com/Figure+Ground ). I find it fascinating that even though I created the collage, I still find it difficult to see one whilst looking at the other.
What strikes me about this portrait, this illusion, is that it is become a mask. The thing about a mask is that it disguises you, it hides you, it is not a window, but a wall. Behind it you may become something else – a demon, an animal or a God. In art everything is distorted, if only in bringing the 3D onto a two dimensional plane. Much of what I do in this series is accidental, and perhaps that is the way it should be. I know what I want to do, not necessarily how I did it, or even if I did it at all.
There is an element in this picture of the kiss of Judas.
Self-portrait underwater with an X-ray
“Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” – Pablo Picasso
It seems to me that all artists should try a self-portrait at least once. Some – like Rembrandt and Francis Bacon, many, many times. There are certain advantages, you can, for example insult your subject without offending anyone, distort, be truthful, and lie about them without fear of recourse. Of course the model is always available and doesn’t complain about how long you are taking – always an advantage. On the other hand to look with an artist’s honest eye at yourself, explore your own soul, possibly find things you don’t like, even magnify them and flaunt them, can be confronting. Here you are, showing the world how you see yourself, opening gates to the scorn of the hoi polloi. But – you can still throw it away at the end if you don’t like it. Speaking of which, the advice I received from an artist I admire was to publish and be damned. People must realise that artists do a lot of work and not all of it is high quality, the audience must see the bad with the good. And I agree with that, provided the quality of the work still reaches a certain standard, which is hard to define.
What is my experience so far? I find a unique psychological understanding that occurs when I look into my own eyes. The process is one of self discovery and realisation. It is introspective, particularly since you try to show your subject in a way that no-one has ever seen them before. I have the impression that I’ve not done my best work here, but it is a stepping stone.
I invite people to comment on this with their experience, or even to tell me what they think of the image. Where should I go from here?