Stage 1 students undertook a photographic self-portrait project. This was embedded into the module ‘A Word in your Eye’ as well as being a part of the research work of MOTH and their latest initiative STUFF which exhibits personal collections of objects belonging to staff and students. The project seeks to discuss ideas around: ‘emotional objects’, the vocabulary of visual language, the notion that materials and artefacts carry meaning and value within the context of communication and how historical, cultural and environmental contexts shape the interpretation of visual messages.
The choice of painting was a tough one, as there are just so many to choose from. Picasso alone created 50,000 works of art in his 91 years on this earth.
I wanted to choose a painting that I could relate to myself; so I began thinking about what’s important to me. On the surface I am not a deep person, so the thought of choosing a portrait that would express my emotions through subtle material and artefact placement made me feel rather nauseous.
Instead, I thought I would capture a few of the friendships I have made within my short time at Falmouth. I do believe there is no greater famous paining of a “squad pic” than da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’.
I wanted to replicate the painting with a modern twist. Although sitting around a long table in fancy gowns with a healthy selection of bread and intelligent conversation seems nice, it’s not exactly the way I spend my free time.
Instead I tried to capture themes within current adolescence. I carefully chose objects that would photograph well, and placed them to enhance a dramatic effect within the reflection of the floor. All of the objects on the table were also carefully selected to enhance modern themes; with as much technology on show as is usually around in a student kitchen, as well as bottles of wine and beer. Although we are all brought up to drink out of a glass and be sophisticated and sensible with alcohol intake, our young, naïve and rebellious minds often get the better of us.
Finally, the location. I was searching for lighting that was similar to the original photo, so when I saw the three spots against the wall in the Stannary I knew I had found my spot. The spots against the wall gave a perfect modern twist on the three windows in da Vinci’s masterpiece.
I would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who got involved in making my vision a reality, especially to my very talented photographer Jack Joseph-Dalby.
“There’s no help for it”. This print shows a man, bound and blindfolded against a post in the middle of what would be a point in the Spanish war. The distastes of war series focuses on this particular period when life was hard during a brutal part of history.
What drew me in initially was the structure of the portrait. Conceptually all of Goya’s work in this series is based on the idea of the ‘in between’ – not before, not after. This movement and capturing of emotion was massively influential on how I felt and thought about this project. It seemed a challenge to capture myself in such a state, a process that would force me to learn more about myself during making the portrait. This shows in the final product that speaks more on my engagement with the source material than myself as a person.
Looking at other influences like Winston Churchill’s portrait contact sheets and Baldersarris conceptual photograph work has made me consider taking a simpler, more conceptual stance within this work. I feel that overcomplicating the work with direct impressions of my would dampen the spirit that came from my research being more abstract.
The experiments I did when looking into the Churchill contact sheets will be crucial into developing this work. It taught me that within a small simple portrait I could convey a lot through just posture and facial expression.
Ensuring that all these elements are covered – research into abstract artists, facial expressions and posture and the strong form and direction from the Goya’s prints – I feel will put me in good stead to create a portrait that hopefully will push the boundaries of the brief while still maintaining a sense of authenticity.
What I am somewhat worried about is that the portrait might move too far away from the point of the brief. However, this could be a good thing. It will mean I will have to make more bold choices about the final piece – making me more confident.
Visual language is a key element of all self portraits. The objects and figures presented, along with the use of colour and light, can all influence the viewer’s response to give an impression of who the artist is, or at least who they consider themselves to be.
Personally, the question of identity has always been a complicated one. As a twin, it is possible to characterise oneself through not only your own, but also through your twin’s relationship and interactions with the world. In this way, self awareness is often comparative as you define yourself as taller, smaller, quieter, louder etc. than your twin. When you begin to consider who you are individually, the question of self becomes completely different. This issue is particularly relevant at this stage of my life.
When researching this project, I considered those things which I feel define me as a person, however tangible objects, while often symbolic, can only represent a small fraction of the self. To me, it is what is missing from an image that has the opportunity to be far more meaningful. This is why I have chosen to recreate Le Pho’s ‘Harmony in Green: Two Sisters’. The opportunity for visual language using this simple yet striking oil on silk was irresistible.
My self portrait explores the ideas of similarity and difference, reiterated by the use of colour within the photograph. I chose to portray the physicality of the figure on the left using the colour scheme of that on the right. This is an attempt at visual metaphor, exploring the way in which a person, however absent, can still contribute to your sense of self.
Maggi Hambling’s portrait of Max Wall resonated with me as it explores the idea of how someone might choose to show themselves in a certain light. Gambling herself described her subject as the perfect depiction of a “sad clown”. I found this description touching as it reminded me that we often are ignorant to certain aspects of a persons personality and also made me wonder whether we make people laugh to bring joy to them or whether it is for self gratification purposes.
Hambling conveys this beautifully through her use of contrasting light and dark in the painting. The spots of vibrant whites contrast with the surreal shadow of Max Wall which could reflect an inner conflict, something I also desired to portray. Another interesting technique used by Hambling is her use of perspective. It appears we are looking down upon the stool where Wall rests his feet whilst simultaneously we are facing straight towards him. This might indicate that their are different aspects to Wall’s character.
The objects in the painting don’t contribute much to this message but they do tell a significant amount about the subject, as an entertainer and magician Wall often worked late which is documented by the moon in the upper right hand corner. Wall would often smoke throughout sittings and this is shown through the cigarettes placed at his feet. The black and white eggs used to be part of his routine and also show a great contrast.
In my own portrait I wanted to communicate similar aspects of my own personality and how often I might use humour as a sort of defence. I aim to do this mainly through lighting and the use of my own ‘selfies’ to show that the way a person might portray themselves to the public may not always be a true reflection of themselves.