Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Self Is Muse No More

When I first began using myself as a model for my work, it was out of desperation. I didn't know anyone else who would put up with the tedium of posing undressed for long hours in my grubby Brisbane studio as I sketched and photographed them.
A decade later, I'd evolved from model to muse. Bored with the cartoon-like imagery of my early enamel work, I wanted my work to be more conceptual, smarter. I turned my back on crisp lines and expanses of bright, shiney colour and experimented with other media. It was if I had to shatter the brittle surfaces of my old art to get into my head.
In 2006, I exhibited 15 works in mixed media on paper in a show I titled Venus In Hell. At the time, I wrote of being inspired by "an intense curiosity about Haitian voodoo and Central American santeria", especially the way "these religions’ syncretic rituals based on African
tribal rites and Catholicism mined a deep seam of inner personal conflict..." But that wasn't the real story. I felt an urgent need to exorcise the roiling confusion that, even then, had a hard grip on my psyche.
I'm not sure my work has been altogether coherent since then. The more I've become pre-occupied with "expressing my self", the more I've experimented. I've continued painting colourful Pop-inflected imagery in enamel – and arguing for its serial 'productisation' and machine-like glossiness as the works themselves have grown larger – but I've also produced much smaller and very different works in mixed media on paper, pen and ink, and pure watercolours, as well as photographs, theatrical installations, videos and reams of text, not all of it – maybe very little of it – good enough to be seen in public (not that I've let that stop me showing it).
And there's the rub. Since my mental and physical breakdown at the end of 2009, I'm not so taken with my self as my subject. Put it down to 10 weeks in a psychiatric clinic, during which I had nothing else to do but contemplate my mental disarray, but anything that feels too much like introspection repels me now. For the first time, I want to extract my self from my art – if not my art from myself – and let it grow outside the hothouse of my labile emotions.
Which is to say, I'd like my art to be about something – or someone – else for a change.

6 comments:

ownnothing said...

I think it's impossible on some level for an artist NOT to express themselves. I would embrace whatever you are going through and use it. Your experience is the richest trove of material to express yourself. Why would you deny that resource? Why would you push it away? Don't look out, look in.

Fogbound said...

I've enjoyed your work over the past few years and although your focus is much different from mine in painting, I get alot out of your paintings. And in a real sense the artist is always intertwined with the art. And at the same time we are always evolving, which is a good thing. I look forward to see what you will produce next and what direction you will move in. I'm glad you're back.

Neo said...

Various dimensions of being an artist I say.
Making art about your "self" is the only way (I will expand further). I think after a while, an artist enters into a phase where, somewhat as you say, she/he yearns for her/his art to be "about" somebody else; but I think how they develop the other "somebody" will still reflect their thought processes/ideas/concepts etc. It's like an extension of their concepts to other beings as subjects perhaps for their future works. Its a very interesting thing to do, something like a live survey kind of thing.

Looking forward to what you churn out with these fresh ideas. :)

Alex said...

I understand you. I have found no joy in making my art about myself or about anything for quite some time. Form, structure, object is what my art has been about for quite some time now. I still find inspiration in the figure, but only as a jump off point. Once I put too much of myself into my work it ruins it for me. Granted no matter what you do, your artwork will be about you on some level or another I think there is no reason for me to push that. Play on, player, play on.

Alexander T Stanton

Remittance Girl said...

One day, at the age of 42, I sat in a restaurant, eavesdropping on a couple in conversation and had the blinding revelation that I wasn't relating anything I was hearing to me, or to my experience. It was like a wonderful loosening of my skin from being the thing holding the universe together.

I don't think the work need be any less subjective, but it's most certainly a wider world. Good luck with it, Hazel.

Donna Heart said...

Beautiful journey... I look forward to the next part. Despite the fact that I can't say I know what you've been through in the past 6 months or so, I can imagine an outwards focus could be reinvigorating and energising!
X donna
ps beautiful photo