What to do when inspiration fails. self portraits ?
Four months in and this pandemic, coupled with the Black Lives Matter campaign and the need to be a better ally, has made me wonder if my artistic concerns aren't just intellectual masturbation. So what do you do when inspiration fails? you go back to one of the first things taught at college; that self obsession is a good place to start.
Many artists have made careers of this: Van Gogh, Schiele, Warhol and Frida Kahlo all are known for self portraits but they also treated self portraiture as an integral part of their work.
The ubiquitous selfie and the Instagram pose has rendered a painted self portrait an extreme exercise in narcissism but I decided anyway to see if I could abandon my current preoccupations and focus on what I might look like to others.
I don't think that their is much mileage in this for me; while I'm a bit interested in what I may or may not look like to others, I don't care to look too closely at what I see of my self but undertook three self portraits: one a photo, one a painting, another, a film (inspired by Warhol)
It was interesting to see whether I could still have the patience to make something look like an actual object, although after re-reading Bergson's book 'Of Matter and Memory' where he argues that nothing is as it looks, I definitely don't have the inclination.
Having completed the exercise I still feel that while self-portraiture can force you to address issues of who and what you are, the introspection required can be destructive.
My main concern lies with a process that leads an Artist to stick with repeatedly exploring the same idea, becoming comfortable with a single mindset and predictable output because 'that's what they do', rather than deliberately subjecting themselves to constant scrutiny and the possibility of change.
Its hard finding what it is you do and to define that as your thing just once, setting aside the inherent concern raised with change that people will no longer know your work, but I have always taken solace in artists whose work changed constantly like Richter and Sandra Blow and while its scary not knowing where you're going, it is so much more pleasurable for me. .