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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mirror and Mask [Self Portraits 7th Series]


With the daily self portrait series' now being a full three month's old, this seventh blogpost shows a certain culmination. It re-emphasises the 'Mirror' as both means and symbol in pictures I have made since the last blogspot post, and then makes a selection from the Masque Suite of self portraits of March 2012. It finishes with some more straight self portraits.

 In The Mirror:

Defy-ance
 Linear Signature

Our line is our signature. And our line tends to pursue a self portrait, no matter how subliminal. So this line drawing is my full signature.
  Imperium: Each man is his own imperium.  
        
White Night Light

There is a certain light at night, a steely, dry, sprinkling sheeted glow. Of course, this is none other than moonlight, and starlight. Cold, chill and terrifying, it makes a fugitive of me.




Absinthia
After drawing this, I became puzzled, and asked myself:
'how does somebody see themselves like this?' 
I'm not trying to be clever or obtuse, but I genuinely don't know how such drawings come to be. 
After all, when I sat down to draw it, I wanted to make a truthful representation of myself. 
But it seems that when I start to draw I get into a kind of trance, and yet I know when the drawing is finished. 
I then come to my senses and look at it with some surprise.
I hardly recall doing it and wonder at the strangeness of it. 
The point I am trying to make is that there is no attempt - consciously - to make a strange image. 
This might be related to the different sides of the brain theories. 
I am right handed, and if I try to write with my left hand, I can't do it. And yet, while I draw right handed, I was surprised to find I could draw left handed too. 
Clearly, drawing is antithetical to the rational processes in writing (and may explain why I need to drink Absinthe to write poetry). 
So drawing is a madness, a Dionysian monsterous ejaculation. Excuse my vulgarity, but how else to convey in words what is in this picture? 
This is a long winded way of my saying that I can take no credit for such a work. 
Only Dionysos can be praised for this.
 I Bask for a Moment in Colour
 
Your sun which has opened this budding flower layer upon layer, 
has revealed this livlier eye.  
Here in the pastel light, I await the closing drama of yet another 
Black Night.
Charcoal Black
Charcoal is the most primitive drawing tool - just burnt wood, I presume. It takes us back to the caves, which Is where I want to be. The only thing is that the charcoal sticks are rather fragile and I cannot handle with the kind of aggression I like to use sometimes with pencil. But perhaps that is a good thing. It is certainly getting towards the darkness I am looking for, but black is never black enough for me - even the most evil is not wicked enough. Give up your vows!


The Golden Sun Pours In Upon Me      
Ubermensch
Need I say that the title is just a tad ironic? Indeed Nietzsche's own Ubermensch was not without his irony. In this picture; how is it that the haughty look comes over one, - with one's jaw jutting out like Mussolini! And the next minute one might portray oneself as a veritable Uriah Heep in abject humility. That is part of the mystery of self portraiture, for, as I keep saying, it is not intentional.


Pressure
Compos mentis or non compos mentis?




From the Masque Suite:
 Development from the Death's Heads album, just as that latter album branched off from the Black Series of Self Portraits, so has this one, incorporating the Mask theme into self portraits.
The mask and skull are central to the power of the self portrait, and the symbol of the mask has a psychological impact which is comparable to and complementary to, the physical impact of the Skull symbol. .
The Lurker.
The shadow figure looks over its shoulder, adorned in the red masque. This being inhabits the Room as a ghost, lurking, becoming visible only in the dead of night.

The Metaphysics of the Mask 

This picture was set up by my hanging the mask on the corner of the mirror, and drawing myself in the mirror, and the mask on the mirror in one go. The mirror seemed to disappear, or be swallowed up by the room. The mask seemed to loom and take on an ominous, but mysterious, significance, rather like metaphysics itself. I was reminded of De Chirico's metaphysical pictures, but there was no conscious intention to make such a picture here. 
That in itself is the metaphyics of the masque: life is the mask of the gods.


 
Pre-Sent: I Present the Golden Masque to the Gods, Turning My Back on Death.

'An Actor and His Ideal' - The phrase is from Nietzsche when he was describing Wagner, and those who are called 'great men' generally. There are no 'great men'; there are only actors and their ideal. 
This is also Shakespearian with us all playing bit parts on life's stage. 
No rehearsal? 
No reality either. 
Peel away one mask and find another ... ad inifinitum.


The Masque of Youth
 
 
 

Tempting Fate's Masque

Be-Hold the Masque
The word 'hold' in the title has made me aware that the hand is a recurrent feature of many these mask pictures. The symbolism of the Hand is as powerful as that of the mask. Just as Odin sacrifices an Eye, so does Tyr sacrifice a Hand. And is the Glove to the Hand what the Mask is to the Face?


  The Eye becomes cyclopian in its terror: thus does it 'live' - sucking up all visual experience, 
within the whirlpool vortex of its gaze. 
"Put back the mask!", saith the world - 
"be like us and turn a blind eye".



Enter The Plague Doctor


The Masque of the Gods 
 
Even limitless space is a mask of the gods. 
Some are able to peer behind that cosmic mask ... and survive ... briefly.
 

Fugitive Unmasking 
 
 
 
The Masquerade
 
 
 The roster of masks so far. To the left the skull wearing a hat bearing the ace of clubs, and so of death. The red mask of life, lust, and deception. The self portrait, and so the self's eye penetrating to the depths, and yet recoiling form the very same - and the hand which makes the image. And on the far right the self portrait as a sick man, wearing the mask of the plague doctor - a self infected by the plague and yet the self-same intent on destroying the plague: "what does not kil me strengthens me". So we have life, sickness and death - all of them "imposters" to be treated the same.
 
 
Back to the Mirror:
 
 

 The Enchanter. For Austin Osman Spare 
 
 I began this as a study of the hand for a possible large pastel when it began to take on a sinister aspect. The eyes over the hand, observing their subject, had a mesmerising look. Subconsciously I must have been thinking of certain photos of Crowley with gesturing hand, as if casting spells. 
Also the colours I used, the yellows and reds, happened to recall Kennedy's painting of Crowley (which also features hand gestures). Also there is the abiding example of Spare, a genuine combination of artist and magician. 
And this is what this picture is getting at. 
I am of the opinion that the artist and magician are just recent specialisations. In ancient times, he says vaguely, the artist and mage would have been embodied in one person. 
We may refer to the shaman here, but I prefer the term 'enchanter', as it combines both aspects. 
Enchantment, as in magic, and the stem 'chant', to sing. I recall that one of the Norse terms for a sorceror referred to using red pigment (more vagueness).
Black Soul

Re-Solution

Sunlit Dance

Hard Fought  


 





Listening to Them
  





From the darkness I emerged and to the darkness I will return.

 My purism is this: the eye must try and see itself, and it must be alive and of the moment. 
The self portrait sessions are 'painful' in the sense that one is fighting against the inborn tendency to hide oneself. And so, offering oneself up to the examination has only the anasthetic offered by the joy of creating. But even there one is faced with the flawed nature of any human creation. So one confronts failure eternally. The failure of one's physical being and one's creative being. But then this life is all failure, and drawing naturally goes towards the expression of vanitas, i.e., emptiness.
 So I draw out of melancholy. most defintely. And I seek to emerge out of melancholy via drawing. But then I realise that melencholy is a worthwhile state [see 'The New Black' book by Darian Leader]. So there cannot be 'too much' delving into oneself. And this is Socratian - once again, Socrates appeared early in my self portrait series. 

 I have only black blood that must be ejaculated - it is black bile, i.e., the melancholy humour itself. 
 Yes, I am naked, weary ... that is my destiny.
The eye contact is essential, but as I have noted elsewhere, in all drawing one has to momentarily take one's eye off of the subject - and that is the crucial Moment in self portraiture - it is what causes the distortion in one eye that we seen in van Gogh and Durer. 
I note that Rodin drew the nude without looking at his paper. But even if one were to do that, one's eye would momentarily falter as one *imagined* the paper. 
So there is nothing for it. 
My self portraits must be honest in this respect. I cannot do it any other way and I am an enemy of photography in drawing. 
But part of that honesty is that one is always a stranger to oneself. 
Drawing is already a kind of play ... how would a child respond to the idea. 'do a self portrait'? 
I think it would be something incomprehensible to an elemental childe. 
Durer did a self portrait at age 13 but he was a rare beast. 
Love's glove.
 
Mmy state is that of overcompleteness. 
I am ever overflowing, frothing. 
How does that relate to my drawing? 
He who overflows is voracious and must feast and drink eternally. 
This is the Dionysian aspect. 
So my drawing is forever split. 
The rampant Dionysian erectile abandoned strokes raking the canvas skin on the one hand, and on the other the boundary making, linear, restrained, binding the canvas mind, Apollonian. 
The strict machine. 
I am both of these, at war. 
Never complete. 
As Nietzsche said, if I were a god I would be ashamed of my clothes. 
I certainly hate clothes and all other sartorial lies. 
I cannot lie because there is no truth. 
 And that is why I draw.

Streng-Then-ed