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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bi-Polarity Portrayal [Self Portraits series 4]

First Bifurcation of the Self Portrait series into Apollo/Dionysos.

In the furnace of reality

Apollonian self portrait as Pagan Devotee [below, left]. 
The Apollonian is continually striving towards perfection, and it does this in a completely amoral/supramoral way. 
That *is* its danger - hence it is often called 'evil'. 
But that is a moral evaluation and therefore is of no consequence to Aesthetics.

Dionysian rapture
Apollonian self portrait as a pagan

Propaganda self portrait - 
The Apollonian drawing also tends towards 
The monumental, 
The dictatorial.
Apollonian prayer
Dionysian intoxication
The Dionysian - paradoxically - seeks
The Real: 
"The mirror, above all, is our teacher". 
[Leonardo Da Vinci]
Apollonian Drawing does not only seek the Dorian Ideal, it seeks the Pharaonic. 
In that sense it seeks to purge the persona of all psychology. 
It is therefore an inner striptease.

"Apollo appears not to all" [Callimachus]. 
"We never knew his legendary head/ nor saw the eyes set there like apples ripening" [Rilke]. 
This Appolonian self portrait is simple and linear and yet it was painstakingly drawn until the Apollonian image was sweated out. It emerged youthful, androgynous, idealised and beautiful. I had been guided by Apollo for it is clearly a likeness - I am guided by both Apollo and Dionysos - the golden sun and the black sun. Amen.

Apollonian portrait with runic inscription - 'the spirit is strengthened by wounding', [Nietzsche]

Sheer Apollonian Drawing
 Dionysos overwhelmeth me and I plunge into the infernal abyss!
Blessed by the hissing blistering bliss of dionysos ...

The power and freedom of expression have to be continually re-discovered - that is the Dionysian quest. 
It leads to many disasters: each overcoming of a disaster is a rebirth. 
The capacity to heal is one of the great wonders. 
Here as elsewhere Apollo and Dionysos continually intersect.

Dionysian work is essentially about energy and the complete suspension of doubt and questioning. 
It is of course extreme intoxication: anti-Socratian and anti-Apollonian, but it never formulates antitheses - it does not formulate. 
It rather walks the tight rope, drunk.
Sheer Dionysian
Pure Apollonian
In Dionysian drawing the pencil is wielded less like a scapel - as in Apollonian drawing - but like a brush, or rather like a *whip* - one flails the pencil in rapid strokes using the whole of the upper body.
Following from the bifurcation into the bi-polarity of Apollo/Dionysos, we now have emerging that of Self/Other. The Other is now encroaching on my solitude - first erupting from my Self, and now standing beside me, in front of me, behind me.
The two roads are now converging as to a vanishing point.

Am I in the dock or in the public gallery ... on the jury?

The self portrait project has gone on for a month now, and some interesting things have emerged. 
The Apollonian self portraits, for example, have got further and further away from a 'likeness'. 
The 'Other' has been knocking on the door of my Self. 
Now it is time to embrace 'Other Portraits' alongside the self portrait.

Is the man behind me actually there, or was the room empty? Perhaps he is a figure from a past life which imprinted itself during the soul-dragging act of drawing - like a ghost on a photo.

The Other has been rejected by my plunge into sheer dejection. Melancholia has rescued me from the clutches of the Other.

I am ready now to enter the realm of the Underworld!

Nothing matters, and everything hurts

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Monday, 23 January 2012

Persona non grata [Self Portraits Third Series]

Self Portrait as Socrates.

In this third series, all drawn in January 2012, another stage in the realisation of the self portrait emerges.
Here, as often happens, personae are adopted.
Not in an overt way, but rather by suggestion. The above is the most overt as my fascination for Socrates has a long tenure. His drinking the hemlock is to philosophers what the crucifixion is to believers - and indeed, it was a similar tale, was it not?
Socrates chose his punishment and refused to wriggle out of his fate despite the many opportunities his was given to do so. Essentiully it was his final ironic comment on 'society' and its lickspittling.
By silencing Socrates his voice resounded ever louder.

‎"Even though Socrates is about to drink the hemlock, shall he not make his customary drink offerings and prayers?" [Libanius, 'On the silence of Socrates' 35]
"A Socratic type and no less so for being rather fond of liquor", [Vincent van Gogh on Roulin].

There is also, for me, an ambivalent relationship here with the Dionysian - the slow suicide that all those who embark on the drunken life tacitly accept.

Hemlock or wine?

Every Personae is a disguise

Self Portrait in a soft cap.

‎"And here we sit, observers of life, in the little cafe on the square observing life. But where is the life". (Alan Ansen, 'The Vultures')

I am an old blues man, wandering the byways of journey's jargon.
I make a note of all I see, ever amazed by the hidden.
All that really lives is unseen.
Self portrait smoking; Wilde's "perfect pleasure".

Self Portrait Pouting

In art I want to see some kind of engagement - engaging the enemy perhaps.
The kind of engagement that comes from knowing that one is to be hanged in the morning.

"The bear is the poet amongst beasts". [J. Gray, 'Mishka']
There is nothing so dirty as life - is every mark you make from life?
'Every mark leaves a trace' says the detective.
Dirty marks - the filth of representation.
Perspective is distortion of reality - it is a drug.
I have a natural sense of perspective.

Self Portrait in a Leather Jacket
For Marlon.

Brando began in leather jacket as the Wild One.
He did it again in snakeskin as the Figitive Kind.
He was a beast of sensitivity.
'He was a monster/black dressed in leather' [JDM].

Self Portrait in Joy

Pencil on paper. What does the Blues song say? - 'Laughing just to keep from crying'.

Self Portrait grimacing

My eyes belong not to the human race but to the animal race - thank the gods who are also animal.
By 'animal' I mean 'inhuman'.

On Drawing

Drawing - Old English 'dragen', to 'drag' to 'draw', from Proto-Indo-European base *dhragh, 'to draw, drag on the ground' - is closer to sculpture than it is to painitng.
One 'carves' as one 'draws'.

Sketch book self portrait smiling

Self portrait sketch books. In my sketch books, my pen does not seek likenesses, it seeks *souls* - not to 'draw' souls, but to 'draw out' souls [or 'drag' them out, remembering the etymology of 'draw']. To draw out the soul of the subject, whether the soul be bright, dark or indistinct ... or invisible. To make the invisible soul visible that is the enchantment of art - look! there is an over-soul! It wants to be released like a geni.
Yes, the sketch is the most anarchic mode of expression: it breaks souls out of limbo -
It rescues them from the pen by the pen.
Some souls refuse to emerge, while others
Burst out into life
Like stars in the firmament.

On a personal note:

Someone once squinted the words, 'Is Evil something you are, or something you do?'. I scoffed in silent reply: 'Evil is as Evil does'. And smiled to my Self a fiendish smile. For just as as trying to do 'Good' often leads to Evil, so too does Evil lead to Good. And so everything in the Universe back-fires. And self-portrayal is a self-betrayal.

Yes, the healing has progressed even  further. But nothing ends there or anywhere also, as ...

A new, more ragged guest stands at the door - breathed to life by the sketch book.
It is the Dionysian Drawing and its inhabitants of the netherworlds.

Sketch book - Dionysian Drawing

Drawing a self portrait incorporates the act of looking away from the self image on the looking glass so as to look at the self imaged on the surface of the paper on which one is drawing the fatal tool across, to cut with line, bruise with ...tone and mar with cross-hatchings and the like.
This looking away is a vertiginous Moment: like Orpheus looking back at Eurydice in the Underworld.
But if one doesn't look away, one draws and drags blind.
My ideal is simplicity: one always needs to work back towards *that*, as life tends to become complicated very quickly. So paper and pencil is enough.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Betray and Portray [Self Portraits series 2]

The previous Blog Post, 'The 'I' Cannot See Itself', presented a self portrait series that was borne out of a personal crisis over Christmas - or Yule, if you prefer. It helped to heal that crisis and to reveal that healing. The process goes on. Into the New Year the series of self portraits demonstrate further revelations and obscurations.

The first series began with the Eye.
The second series begins with the posture - the sitting.

This is the Tower of the Eye


There is something of the Buddha about this one.
There is the centred concentration that has to happen when one is embroiled in a self portrait -
No turning back.
It is also something that is, symbolically at least,
Interpretation is just a dryer form of idealism
Health demands that the invalid keeps a distance from all sickness ... including that of his own soul.

The Mirror's Lie:
All my mistakes could have been avoided by
Health returns
The spirit is cured
By wounding

What could be more intimidating than a self portrait?
Line does not exist in nature.
Line is expression ...
ergo, expression is un-natural.
Here one is searching the face of nature;
Simplicity of expression,
Simplicity of means to that end.
Looking glass lake
Bottomless loch
Door to yonder side
Enter the mirror's
Reversed world.
Armed only with the sword and shield
Of pencil and paper.
The first self portraits were shadows. Strong shadows cast by flames in caves. And then, with soot were the first drawings made - tracings of those shadows on the cave walls.
In the self portrait,
man tries
to capture
his haunting shadow.
The hidden
The Male
He seeks to capture his
Like a

Monday, 2 January 2012

The 'I' cannot see itself [Self Portraits series 1]

From 23th December 2011 to the 1st of January 2012 - a mere week - I resolved to do at least one self-portrait every day. This has to be one of the best disciplines as it offers the ultimate saurian stumbling block of an irreducible subjectivity. In the heroic attempt to detach oneself from oneself and objectify, then the subconscious emerges, in all its fierce unpredictability.
In a self-portrait drawing [the pencil point is a akin to a scapel and the paper is actual flesh] one probes oneself but without the barrier of words.
The self falls open like a book, complete in its bi-polarity, as the Dionysian/Apollonian schism is there for all to see, but in a way that words cannot express adequately.

Having said that, these notes were taken as the drawings went along.
I don't reproduce all the drawings here, there are more on my Facebook page.

Of course, the lone sketch book itself, sits on my desk in 'my private hell'.

How can one be fully objective when embroiled in a self-portrait?

 The eye is the microcosmos.

The reflected/reflecting eye is the basic unit of the self-portrait.
The eye is the beginning -
ovum -
And yet the eye is blind: -
The eye cannot see itself.

The eye is the great mystery of life.

 ‎"L'oeil est une bouche avide
Qui se nourit du monde". [JDM, 'Eye']
("The eye is a hungry mouth
That feeds on the world").

O Eye -
Door to the passage of slow dreamy death. 
Wall art.
Dwelling prehistoric.
Everything here is -
Re-emerge from the
Iris into the
Lush verdant
This project is damned from the beginning -
Its subject is too great and yet too pitiful.
My left eye - a self portrait study.

The eye of the assassin?
But Hod, in Norse myth is the blind assassin manipulated by Loki.
Are not all assassins therefore 'blind' in some sense?

Twin eyes: poised assassins,
Puppets and poodles -
Poison brew,
Stiletto letters sealed to kill.

We are all lives and all lives are we.
Our memory of lives is a flash across the passing of time,
Jumping the hurdles of identity

 I possess nothing by intention.
All that I have clings to me like lice.
This identity is a constant unwanted companion,
Which is no mantle and yet it is worn.

Amnesia envy.

In the self-portrait one expresses the conscious/unconscious self/will.
One can plan a such a self-portrait and yet as it is being created the unconscious weaves its own spell and another, often unexpected, aspect thrusts itself up out of the ground like an aberrant tree-root.

We are all trees, but inferior to actual trees.

Self Portraits are sometimes "born when an artist is passing through a crisis, and it serves as a safety valve for the existential angst that may suddenly well up for no apparent reason". [Maiotti, Drawing Handbook]

 Don't they know that life is eternal crisis?

Drawing definitely uses a different part of the brain.
In playing music on the guitar for instance, I find it best to get into a trance state with everything becoming automatic.
But in drawing one needs to be in a state of continual alertness, probing, assessing.

Sucked into the vortex of my own solitude.

Drawing began on the cave walls, as an aid for hunting magic in Paleolithic times.
And little has changed -
I draw here in the cave of my suspicion:
Both hunter and hunted.

Every drawing is a self portrait whether it be of
someone else,
a still life,
a landscape -
everything is Self.
And yet the self-portrait tries to avoid the


"At the Moment of Death, a Vermilion Kiss".

Likeness itself is a perceptual inter-pretation at best.
An imposition at worst.

Words necessarily isolate things in the world.
But the image unites all things -

As Schopenhauer says, the mouth is the objectification of hunger.

The beast in man

"I searched my self" [Heraclitus].

I am the self-predator,
Sniffing out myself;
Solitude is the catch.

Face reading: Physiognomy was considered one of the Occult Arts.
I have a mole on my neck [see below] which Cardamus said was a predictor of "Saturnine misfortune"!

Saturnine Misfortune

It is the points where the drawing 'diverges' from 'reality', from 'likeness', that have a surreal and dis-similar 'truth' of their own.
It is always
Distortion that awakens us from
Dogmatic slumber.
Life is a text to be deciphered.
A public text in a private langauge.
We all possess a dead body, our own.
Living in death and dying in life.
There is nothng so disturbing as that which is most familiar ...
the Body.
 He bestowed on his friend the gift of living death.

Eternal Recurrence -
Don't they know that life is

In a drawing one is constantly making decisions, appraising, damning and deeming.
Artists first detect and then reject mind-spun bindings:
Life as such has no boundaries.

Only through his resolute gaze does the madman cut a
Swathe through the turgid implacability of the
Sane world.