I was recently thinking about how oncoming death affects artists and their creativity and I remarked how struck I was by the sadness in late Rembrandt self portraits and how they reflect my own current state of mind. A long chain of associative thinking got me thinking about how self portraits were are but are now ubiquitous. Selfies and selfie culture dominate social media and they are forced, natural, happy, sad, joyous and soul-sucking in equal measure. The sadness in great portraits of the past can be seen in the cumulative effect of a billion crying faces hiding behind a veil of staged happiness. On the other hand, it’s hard to be open about your real feelings. That’s I’m sure why people project falsities into their selfies. It’s easier wear a mask and selfies are masks.
It’s long been an ambition of mine to strip that mask away and to be self-confident enough to express my deep feelings through my work. Even the darkest of days deserve light being shed on them and in some ways more so than the good days. The days when I’m mentally locked in a bathroom avoiding people are here writ large through these works. That sense of extreme isolation, of both wanting help yet rejecting help, the despair when one finds that people don’t particularly care (despite what they say), that feeling that one is inside a storm that is buffeting oneself, the contradictory flashes of humour, they are all there.
Over the last year or so. I’ve been working on them quietly in the background until I had enough to show. As I was working, I began to do variations on a theme (a musician’s technique) of these images. I began to work into them using my stylus, then filter them, them, paint/work into them again, over and over but in different ways. These are very much paintings, albeit done with light. They are also consciously steeped in my own culture and are very Northern European in outcome., verging on pure expressionism in part. It’s important to play up one’s cultural influences and to demonstrate them. In a society that is now truly multicultural, everyone’s culture deserves a voice.
Technically I went back to the lighting of the Dutch Masters, that strong yet soft single vector lighting that they used as a technique to enrich shadows. For me that lighting not only provides enhanced naturalism but also is incredibly intimate. These pieces are so personal that the intimacy was necessary to enhance their impact and drive home the messages around the empty narcissism of selfie culture.
Selfies are everywhere. People are becoming “stars” on the back of selfies and associated shots. Looking at these works in a group I realise they actually explore the dark side of selfie culture. These pieces represent the emptiness of selfies, the vacuousness of narcissism and the empty visual rhetoric that accompanies them. The selfie is the ultimate manifestation of pop culture. Everyone can be seen and everyone can be “a personality.” We live now in a culture where people are suffering genuine psychological problems caused directly by selfie culture. The selfie is both a totem for the soul and a weapon to hurt people with.
My work seeks to explore the power of the selfie by pulling out different aspects of the underbelly of selfie culture and by showing the real feelings inside when I either photography myself or do a drawing. Each image is a spirit, a digital pixie, a golem exploring the hideousness and emptiness behind the culture and celebrity selfie lifestyle. My works are the digital equivalents of the picture owned by a million narcissistic online Dorian Grays; they are manifestations of the haunting of the soul. When Narcissus looked in the water he became transfixed. I am told by people who know me that I am looking very well at the moment, but is it a coincidence that I have spent months working on selfies?
I’d be interested in feedback, if anyone has any?
These are all available printed, at the highest qulity, on canvas at approximately A4, A2, or A3 size unframed and size is approximate as I change the format slightly sometimes.
A4 cost £99, A3 cost £150 and A2 cost £175 each and you can buy by filling in the form at the bottom of the article or just use it to contact me. All work is unframed.
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