My final painting module of the year was to create a narrative painting; one that told a story. It could either be fictional or biographical. As soon as the project was given to us, I was already decided on what I was basing my painting on.
I chose to focus on the biographical/autobiographical option. I created a project based around my manic depression and that was the underpinning for other related elements such as being ill, feeling a loss of identity; not knowing who you are from one day to the next and how society perceives me and the identity society labels me with because of who I am; how I dress, my general appearance, my personal choices etc.
I started researching into artists that painted more….dark, disturbing works. I came across numerous pieces by Francis Bacon (who also suffered with severe depression and later, committed suicide) and Mark Rothko. The work of Mark Rothko influenced me greatly with this piece. His use of bold colour to convey feeling, the scale of his work is so that it looms over you; making you feel uncomfortable and somewhat uneasy. I was aiming for this when I started my painting. The scale is 137cm(H) x 161cm(W), so it’s not a small painting.
The colours were the most important element of the painting to me. Colour can convey a lot of meaning and I didn’t want the imagery to depict one feeling or emotion, and then have the colours completely counteract it. I researched into the meanings of colours and put it in my journal. I think it was probably the most looked at page out of the whole journal. Using this colour chart meant that I could depict the feelings and emotions behind the painting accurately and have it mirror the imagery. The colours I used consisted of red, yellow, blue, black, and white. It doesn’t sound like much, but some times less is more!
The imagery I chose to use took me a while to decide on. I went back and forth between specific symbols and symbolism, to more obscure options and thought about eliminating imagery all together and have the colours portray everything. However, I decided on a self-portrait for the centre and it was a choice between painting one, or using a specific self-portrait photograph from a couple of years ago. – I took the photograph at a time when I was very vulnerable and it was a way for me to deal with things easier and something to look back on and remember that things were worse, and they’re better now.
I chose the photograph as I felt it conveyed much more emotion than a painted self-portrait could have. I believe it was the right choice to make and I’m happy with the end result.
After a few tutorials with my tutor, he spoke to me about using layers of paint; as soon as it’s dry, just put more on and keep doing that. At first I thought it wouldn’t make much of a difference to the painting, but I can say I was wrong. It has worked brilliantly and helps give the feeling of this never-ending chaos, just layers and layers of it. The varied layers of paint and other materials also give the painting texture and because everything is painted and poured over everything else, it gives this feeling of consumption; as if it means to completely consume you; which is what it has felt like for me many times over the years.
I put everything I had into this painting and it had it’s moments where I just wanted to give up and change the project. Sleepless nights, mood swings, irregular appetite – it all sucked, but I am glad I stuck it out and finished the painting.
Besides the self-portrait, the only imagery I chose to use was that of a skull. I had researched a few pieces (the only ones I like) by Damien Hirst and the skulls in those paintings got me wanting to use them in mine too. In my work, they represent the loss of identity; not knowing who you are. The skull could be anyones, it doesn’t have a specific identity and that’s what I used it to portray. There are three in the painting; one that’s completely blended back into the paint, another above the self-portrait that is easier to see, but is still seemingly being consumed or covered for the most part and then theres the skull on the bottom right which is much more visible again and is just outlined thickly. The more the illness takes hold, the more of yourself you feel like you’re losing.
There’s also the words i’ve incorporated into the painting. These words and phrases are ones that have been associated with me whether I have thought it personally or it’s been said directly at me. I was bullied both at school and at home when I was growing up and these words and phrases were the ones that were thrown around; having an effect obviously, in some form or another.
Hope all that analysis hasn’t bored anyone too much! And sadly, the painting is much better physically than it is in photos on the internet 😦
Feedback is always appreciated on any work that I post, so comments are more than welcome 🙂
Oh, and the info for the painting:
Materials used: Fabriano paper, PVA glue, acrylic paint, oil paint, black ink, white spirit. – 137cm x 161cm