Tag Archives: Truth

Self-portrait 14; 365 Degrees

22 May
Self-portrait 14; 365 degrees J

Self portrait 14;    365 Degrees

For this challenge “365 Degrees” a portrait of myself was superimposed upon the same portrait reversed as a mirror image. It was then segmented and the elements painted and textured, each treated with a different filter to produce a mask-like figure, the mask split by my own Chest X-ray taken when I had pleurisy in Pondicherry, India, a few years ago.

Making a self-portrait is itself a challenge, it is inherently autobiographical. In these times selfie photographs are bandied about two a penny, but they nevertheless reveal something of the identity. In this selfie I discover aspects of myself not previously realised. In some ways this image is personally significant; quite a brutal exposure, which I hesitate to explain further.

Photography is the art of documentation and a self-portrait is a singular document; it mirrors reality with precision and incredible detail. But it can also be used to question our perception of reality producing elaborate fiction within the image. Photographs are not mere recording devices. In a way the photograph is analogous to a stage upon which to enact our own story. Fiction contains elements of truth, sometimes well hidden. For an actor, the character is the mask that hides the actor, he is protected by it; it allows him to lay down his soul, bare to the last intimate detail.


Self-Portrait No 9; Is it Real?

6 Feb

Self-Portrait No 9; Is it Real?

For my penultimate self-portrait (for I have decided to limit this series to ten) I have chosen a different focus, not centring on the eye, but this time the hand and X-ray instead. I’ve seen X-ray art exhibitions entitled something like “Looking right through you” and wanted to exploit that idea, perhaps to make a point. How often do we see someone pick up an X-ray and hold it up to the window, and expect to be able to read it? When you do that you can’t see the X-ray picture properly and what you see is trees, windows, light bulbs, and the information is badly degraded. Sadly this behaviour seems more prevalent amongst those members of the medical profession who would rather impress the patient than make an accurate diagnosis – but I digress.

I like to see text included as a visual element in artworks provided it doesn’t dominate or replace the design (See Portrait of Iris Clert by Rauschenberg. http://www.ubu.com/concept/rauschenberg_portrait.html ). Text seems to give a second level of complexity.  This collage includes an X-ray, twice, and some text from the original has been retained in each. Apart from patient details, information written on an X-ray is like a secret code understood by radiographers (X-ray Technicians). If you understand the code, yet another dimension is added to the image. In a way, it brings to mind that pseudo-Biblical cliché “He who has eyes to see, let him see” which implies that only those who understand the code will be able to interpret it. It is demonstrable that a lot of artworks are made with a point, or message, some of those are overt, whilst others are hidden. An artist may place within the picture references to ideas outside of the primary subject, and viewers will interpret it according to their prior knowledge and experience. The Pre-Raphaelites were past masters at this subterfuge, and a picture such as “The Hireling Shepherd” (Holman Hunt) painted in 1851 whilst evidently saying something about rural beauty and love, referencing the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my Shepherd), was said to be a comment on the behaviour of the church in Victorian England. The sub-text in that picture says a lot more about sex and its implications at a time when that word was never mentioned in polite society. (See http://www.manchestergalleries.org/the-collections/search-the-collection/display.php?EMUSESSID=53a37836758c453110b9d02cc584f05d&irn=195 )

There has been a lot written about the Image as Reality, dating back a thousand years when a Chinese empress insisted that a net be placed over a painting of goldfish so that they would not escape, to the present where reality TV captivates us. Many doctors, especially young ones, see an X-ray, which is after all just a shadow photograph, as reality – the patient. “Treat the patient, not the X-ray” was an aphorism much bandied about when I was training. Hugh Turvey (Artist in Residence, British Institute of Radiology) has said “Ultimately, I think [an X-ray] reveals a truth, an unseen truth about the world around us.” He makes a good philosophical point. However any radiologist will tell you it is dangerous to assume that because something is either visible, or not visible on an X-ray this is a diagnostic truth (whatever that may mean).

Therefore in portrait No 9 the subject is really the X-ray, as it were a laser image, visible but insubstantial, trying to make the point that although they can be useful as reference, an X-ray is not the patient.

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