Going into this project, there was a bit of uncertainty and anxiousness felt on my part. I felt this sense of pressure, a pressure put on myself to be prepared for every curve ball that would come my way while creating these pieces. I already knew what I wanted to explore and how I wanted to explore these topics down to a T, or at least I thought I did. That was until I got stuck halfway through but more on that later on.
For UniArte 6+, I wanted to continue a body of work I started earlier this year which consisted of personifying the idea of the human psyche. This was done through the use of self portraits, which were created to form conversations amongst ‘different versions of self ‘. Also, exploring how our thoughts our emotions can influence and affect the way we view not only others, but our perception of reality. In a sense my works are like an identity capsule. Each piece is composed of materials relating both to personal and cultural identity and as a form of self reflection, I seek to look at the connection between the body and the mind. I usually use my own experiences and emotions as a foundation, to inquire into the contradictions found within the human condition and humankind as a whole.
Chapter 1: …of opening up
These pieces originally started off as paintings of figures which were bedecked in attractive yet repulsive garments fitted to inflict pain.
Here we are.
Our voices piercing the silence.
If we are too quiet no one will hear us.
But wont they still see us?
Like flowers growing in the devil’s garden.
Or are they blind to their own ways?
Bound to the cycle of life and death.
Cautious, protecting only themselves.
Stuck in their own minds.
Seeing is believing they say,
Guess we will have to show them.
Whatever they want to see.
Their faces, however guarded will tell us
Tell us what they want,
What they’re expecting.
They knew this would happen.
They’re chained to their thoughts.
Its just like they predicted.
But, little do they know,
It was all for a show…
P.S: I’m not claiming to be any kind of writer or poet.
But following a shift in my exploration, developed into these paintings. My first order of business was to research more on my theme of the mind-body connection, along with doing some introspection into what I wanted to portray with these pieces.
What does it mean to open up?, What does it mean to be open?. Personally it has taken me quite a few years too many to open up in a sense to people. Opening up ones self to others can be a rather scary feat, that requires us to be both vulnerable and transparent. So do we ever truly open up? Or, do we only show the parts of ourselves that we want others to see. Parts that we know they will like or relate to, and keep other parts hidden. The idea of opening up, and fear of rejection goes hand in hand and can stem from past struggles, trust issues, and also fear of judgment.
I wanted to portray the process our minds go through when we decided to open up to someone, by having these figures depicted within a web of both attractive and harmful qualities. I gave the figures unrecognizable facial features, using a variety of contrasting materials, in order to embody the duality of our minds without the disruption or distraction of these features.
The identity of these figures would in a sense become the mind and its qualities, representing the combination of attractive and repulsive thoughts that are formed within our minds. In the paintings, these ‘thoughts’ follow a path directly to the hands and join in physical objects at the figures feet, either bounding or carrying them. This is created as a portrayal of us as humans being prisoners to our own minds, letting our perceptions and thoughts weather bad or good control us.
Symbolism is very prominent within my work. The cement blocks, galvanize and barb wire additions portrayed in the paintings, are used for their contrasting qualities of both safety and security, while also being able to inflict harm. This is a metaphor for our minds and the psychological boundaries we set, and how they can in turn end up hurting us.
Being naked is a part of the human experience, it is a representation of the true nature of a person, it also offers a sense of vulnerability, and can be very expressive of emotions. Nothing is more natural and personal than a naked figure. I choose to represent the naked body, specifically my body, as it is my personal experiences that I am drawing on and my identity which is a focus in my work as a means of exploring my own thoughts.
My work is very experimental. Looking for new and different materials to work with, has always been one of my favorite task. The incorporation of dried flowers into these paintings were completely on a whim. While I was working on them, I kept feeling like I needed to be doing more, to be adding more to the pieces and knowing that exposure to natures elements would further deteriorate the look of the flowers, factored into their use in my concept perfectly. The idea of loss of life or color making something that was once so lively and bright, now uninteresting and devoid of color or life, resonates well with the subject of opening up. We sometimes tend to fear that if we open up, we would be either perceived as uninteresting or ordinary, or we would risk judgment. This is why I incorporated the use of pins into the network of flowers to show a kind of hesitancy or guardedness.
Following this post, I will seek to continue to document the process of the life of the floral additions within these pieces, in a is series of photographs.
Chapter 2: …of mirroring
Halfway through working on the paintings I began to create this sculpture. My original idea was to create more of a full outfit for the performance aspect of this project, but then I realised that what I wanted to do was giving off more of a costume feel and I wasn’t too sure about going that route anymore. I then decided to go back to the paintings currently being worked on, and really analyse them as to what I wanted each one to say or what each one was speaking to me. It was then I realize I had been essentially creating masks/disguises for my figures, and that was how I came up with the idea to create a mask for the performance piece.
This piece is used as a disguise which also to reflects the wearers surroundings. The mirror is framed by both attractive and harmful materials which represent the idea of the inviting yet dangerous traits of humans. While mirrors are often used to reflect a person’s identity, some people can also be like mirrors for others, by psychologically reflecting some of the another’s own qualities and measures to change their perceptions of them.
At one point in created this piece, I came to the realization that I was more focused on the details of the work rather than what I was trying to say these pieces in general. The discussion during the online meeting with the other UniArte 6+ participants was really helpful, and it was very interesting connect and to hear what the other artists were working on. My hesitancy with the performance aspect was lessened with the advice given, as I was reminded that we as artist tend to think too much. Also, that it would be a good idea to just let my body say what it wants to say while doing the performance, since I had everything planned out already, and with a bit of testing before I did the actual act I could become more comfortable with what I was doing.
Chapter 3: …of carrying oneself
A show for whom?
Us? Them? The world?
Do they really care?
We are what we think they say,
What do we think when no one is around?
What reflects in our mirror?
Lets play make believe,
You become what you believe they say.
Putting on that mask,
Hiding our true feelings.
Like the flowers protecting themselves from pests,
They become poison in our minds,
Thorns in our sides,
A burden we carry,
We can no longer hide.
If the world sees what would it think?
Would it welcome us to the stage?
A round of applause,
Its too quiet to breathe,
They’re watching, waiting,
Waiting for us to slip,
To be submerged by our own thoughts.
Set yourself free,
Like a bird from its cage,
Take off that mask,
PPS: I’m quite aware that in the span of time that passed between writing the previous chapter n this one I haven’t reached poet status yet.
While I was in school, mainly Primary school a prominent thing that was discussed was how we carried ourselves. On our class reports there was even a grade for deportment. How you carry yourself reflects not only on you, but your school, your parents and household, your country and even your race.
And so it begins… this is not a drill
Going into creating this performance film presentation was nerve wracking to say the least. Although I wouldn’t be performing in front of others in a sense I still had my fears. Through the meeting with fellow UniArte 6+ artist, I was guided to do some research on other performance artists and their means of expression. A few of those I looked at were Nick Cave, whom I was researching a while back while studying for the Bachelors degree program, on his wearable sculptural forms and how he incorporates sounds into them. Rebecca Horn and her body extensions, one of the fellow participants artist Alydia Wever, and Carolee Schneemann.
While filming I received a few glances, but after a while the people just mostly went along on their merry way. The two locations I chose for this were the beach and a rather lonely, bushy area close to where I live. In this piece, I tried to interact with these natural states, seeking parallels between myself and nature. I chose this bushy area to represent dual ideas of safety and danger, in contrast with the beach location or the idea of home which is portrayed repeatedly within my work. This place is more of a metaphor for the human psyche as it can combine both beautiful yet dangerous discoveries. The use of the birdcage in this piece, was a symbol of being trapped and stuck within a certain identity. We as humans tend to build boxes to neatly fit ourselves, and our characteristics into. Boxes that are sometimes created by other’s perspectives of us. We trap ourselves in these boxes in order to appeal to the perspectives of others. Society says we must be this way so we are this way, society says we shouldn’t do this so we conform.
The use of the breathing and heartbeat sounds in the added audio, were used to represent the increase of both pulse and breathing rate during the initiation of the flight or fight response within the body. This response is usually triggered by external or internal stimuli, that is perceived by the body and mind to be stressful or dangerous. How a person carries himself has a lot to say about them as a person, it can sometimes be stressful experience to decide how you want others to perceive you.
I had my doubts about the format of composing this blog post, but in the end it turned out better than I had expected. I’m really grateful to UniArte 6+ for this opportunity to continue this journey of creating. I would like to say a special thank you to Christopher Dyall who filmed and edited the performance piece, and to all those who helped me throughout the process.