I visited the Surrey Art Gallery today. The current exhibitions there centre around the self. What does it mean to portray yourself in a self-portrait? How do we choose to represent ourselves? What is self? Big questions for a Friday morning.
Artist Holly Armishaw portrayed herself taking her doppelganger (double) for tea. This photograph depicts the multiple identities that comprise each of us. The right figure reflects her mother’s influence on her life (how to be a lady, serving tea, sitting pretty) — and the left figure reflects her father’s influence (working on his motorbike in the garage listening to Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper records).
This next image by Colleen Baran plays with the idea that we can get a cursory yet often accurate glimpse of someone’s identity by the things in one’s purse, in one’s medicine cabinet, the books on one’s shelf, a DVD collection, the art in one’s home. I think this is why I’ve always found it so fascinating to housesit. The things people own tell a lot about who they are, their aesthetic tastes, their loves and fears, the way they spend their time. But we are also more complex than what these objects speak about us. We can’t be reduced to what we own.
This next one by Grace Gordon-Collins, I like the description better than the portrait. She’s unstable and evanescent, and it probably reminds me too much of my own in-betweenness.
Undefined space and time as both prison and prelude to a new reality. Could she have said it any better? If you were submitting a self-portrait in this exhibition, how would you portray yourself? What defines you?
This collage of personal documents and photographs by Al Neil reminds the viewer of the limits of such a question, for we are different people at different times in our lives. Or maybe not different people, but different versions of ourselves. How do you capture all these facets? Do you even try?
Under this mask, another mask.
I will not finish taking off all these faces
– Claude Cahun, early 20th century French artist