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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.

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