In our times, as never before, many of us are continually creating self portraits, taking “selfies” and putting them up on Facebook and sending to our friends, saying again and again “here I am”. The roots of this kind of activity seem to go way back into the origins of art itself, and we wonder at all those red ochre hands inside the caves of early humans, what were they trying to say?
In the creation of this exhibition of self portraits, the emphasis has been very searching, less on “here I am” and more on “who am I?” and from the beginning the process has been thought provoking and challenging. How do we view our essential selfness? Do we look outside ourselves, at our ancestors, our families, our friends and our communities, to discover who we are? Or do we look inward at the many different selves, physical, emotional, intellectual, intuitive, habitual, adventurous, our soul, our spirit, and many more, to discover which selves resonate with us most deeply? Or do we look at what motivates us, the reasons why we do what we do and most importantly what we have decided we won’t do, the self we have created by our choices and positions taken? Is this where our essential selfness lives?
The portraits in this exhibition are of the inner unseen worlds of the person, including reference to the different lives that co-exist within. Many of the images include the face, always a fascination and place to begin in asking the question "who am I?". Can we catch a glimpse of that unfathomable self that lies behind the countenance, that gazes back on occasion through the window of our eyes? We have tried to create portraits that aim for frankness and honesty, that pose questions, and demonstrate an endearment and settlement to the self as a life in progress. It has been a powerful and liberating process for us all.
We hope you enjoy this exhibition and are caused to consider how you might portray your own essential selfness.
This portrait appeared in my mind whilst watching a TV show on zen gardens. I was caught by the flowing lines created by raking sand around these large stones. In that moment it seemed to me that a human life was composed of three parts, the immovable (rock), the fluid (river/sand) and the dance they did together, and I wondered whether I could do a portrait of myself that described this interplay.
Almost immediately I also realised I wanted a space at the centre of it, not a rock, and a particular shaped space, a threefold space, not subject to the to and fro, ups and downs, of duality. And my portrait in that moment became an intention and expression of a belief. To create a quiet space within, with an immovable neutrality, knowing that the ripples from this space will change everything.
It is said that the eyes are the windows of the soul.
For this portrait, I wanted to create an image while looking steadily into my own eyes. I sat in front of a mirror in a darkened room, with just one desk lamp trained on my face so that I could concentrate on the eyes. The paper to draw on was set up on an easel to the left (being left-handed), and the chalk pastels on the table in front of me, so that both were outside my range of vision. and so I entrusted my hand to pick the colours by sensing them and make marks on the paper without me turning my head to look. I think the exercise took me roughly an hour, interrupted a couple of times by my cat coming along to sit on the pastels.
Without glasses, my eyesight these days is rather poor, so nothing was in focus and it was harder than I thought it would be to sit and stare into my pupils for such a long time. The surrounding face kept changing, flattening out, with parts disappearing and reappearing, though the eyes were always present. I think I know my face well, but sometimes I hardly recognised it, and often the features seemed entirely masculine.
When I finally had a look at what had been drawn, I was surprised to see so much blue and lime green, and these colours must have been picked more than once. I was also surprised to see some semblance of a face in the placement of the marks, though the marks themselves were rather rough.
So I changed tack and rubbed the side of my hand across the page to soften and smudge the marks. Then to make sense of it all, I tipped in some details using my memory and not looking into the mirror, having just been staring at that face for the past hour
All this was carried out with blurred vision, so when I finally put my glasses back on the face staring back from the easel was brought into focus, looking quite different from the one I thought I had drawn.
We come from the stars and there we will return
We are an extraordinary gathering of multiple influences
A unique gathering of signals and a destiny to meet and honour
With value and reverence and hope and belief.
And then we move forward, shedding a temporary identity
Returning to the basket of creation and onwards………..