Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Question of Identity Part Two

It has been exhaustingly silent on the Inky Leaf radio frequency this Easter but I can conciliate that it has been busy in my head (when is it ever not?!). As such, I have a lot to write about, but irritatingly, I can't seem to organise my thoughts and theories coherently into a blog post. I have been milling about everything for a number of days and well today I just decided I am going to have to bite the bullet and go straight in.

Parades in Granada during Semana Santa

So... where was I? Oh yes, last week I put Darth vader to one side as I just can't seem to conquer him right now and picked up my 'propaganda posters', which I also didn't finish. They are now currently all pegged on a washing line across my studio, staring at me accusingly. My back is to them when I paint. It's slightly un-nerving turning my back on eight versions of myself, but they all look so devoted to the cause that it's even more unnerving to look straight at them. The consequence of this is they are encouraging me to paint even when I am not in the mood. 

Wisteria which has just burst into flower right outside my window
So I began another load of work, this time for the RHS. I really want to submit some work to the Picture Committee this year. I have fannied around for long enough and I need something to focus on. I am therefore painting a huge Artichoke Leaf and a Wisteria. I am enjoying the leaf (quelle surprise). This was idea that popped into my head in October when I moved here and thankfully I have now found a window to get on with it. 

Artichoke Field just around the corner from our house
So yes, I was rather happily getting on with the leaf and then I entered another shadow phase and ever since then I have literally jumping in and out of the shade. I didn't want to mull around all week being idle - I have to get on with it, so I picked up a board and painted myself again. I suddenly found I was able to paint, even though I couldn't paint the leaf and this situation intrigued me. I found the entire process of doing a self portrait incredibly therapeutic and started to think back to the posters and then to all self portraits in general. I wondered if Van Gogh painted himself to deal with his black dog and then remembered Frida Kahlo and all of her paintings - the emotion, the turmoil. So to conclude this account, whilst watching a crucified Jesus being carried along the streets with men and women dressed in black dripping candle wax all over the floor, I have moved on from plants to people. 

Easter Sunday, the dress changes from black to white. These chaps with the pointy hats are called penitentes - they  are those who are doing penance for their sins. They wear the pointed hats to hide their identity.

Philosophy of the Self Portrait

So I ask myself - why am I painting myself? I hate myself. I suffer from a crippling low self esteem and I can't think of anything worse that to look at myself in depth. I realise though, that the answer is really quite simple - it is a question of existence. It's the spirit trying to show a body that it exists. Personally, for me, I get the feeling that this is a very serious stage in my development as both a human being and an artist, so I have to nurture it and give it the attention it needs. I can't turn my back on this requirement. I need to look at myself and draw a representation, whether it be true or fanciful. Maybe its all about finding myself so that I can do the other botanical works that my head wants to do. Maybe this is all part of the journey and I can't cross to the far shore until I have done this excruciating work on myself.

Popular trees just starting to come out into leaf at the beginning of last week
It is true to say that I have never taken any form of portraiture seriously, I always preferred Vincent's landscapes to his portraits, but that was because I was ignorant and I didn't grasp their true importance, or maybe I did understand them, but the ego rebelled. Now though, I feel understand... Whilst also healing themselves, artists such as Vincent and Frida used their own emotions, (rather than avoiding them), to make something which remains to be of useful to all of us. By representing their inner and outer selves and meticulously documenting the facets of their existence, they are able to communicate to the masses via an empathetic state which is beyond their physical being. To analyse oneself so thoroughly is deeply enlightening and, from what they have left behind in the material world, these artists continue to challenge our perceptions of reality and question where our identity lies.

Selfie - a work in progress
Regardless how much we try to change our appearance, we are trapped within our selves as our identity lies beyond the physical. Using art is an extension of our physical existence, I believe that we can travel time and space. We can project an idea, a moment, a feeling into the future and we can also review the past. I consider this to be an incredibly powerful tool. The self portrait therefore not only heals and reveals, it also communicates. Despite being a material object, it is almost as if the document were living and breathing. It's us, but with a superpower - as it also has the ability to travel beyond on another plane and enter worlds that are so very different to our own.   

So, with that in mind I feel I have to continue on the path of self portraiture. It's frustrating, as it wasn't what I wanted to do with my time, but I trust that the urge to look at myself in this way has occurred for a reason, and for that I have to embrace it with open arms and dive straight in.

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