Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A dive into the Archives

Selfportrait (Both SOLD) 2009
45 x 60 cm each
Acrylic on Canvas board

This was the first serious self portrait I ever attempted. I knew I would focus on two aspects, so I split it into two paintings, for them to still be sellable; I didn't just want one large Vanitas painting with assorted fruits, as I wanted to highlight the sombre next to the vibrant.

It was also my first attempt at a Vanitas painting, and the first time I zoomed in on fruit in this way, both of which I continued doing since.

Concept wise it came down to me wanting to change my general attitude towards life; I wanted to teach myself to live in the now, as I had a tendency to look forward to things without appreciating what I actually had. 
 I'd wanted a meaningful relationship for so long, and when I got it, I went straight into looking forward to getting engaged and married, without stopping to enjoy what we had. I finally figured out what I needed to do with my life, but I was unhappy with how slow it was taking place, I wanted galleries and exhibitions and praise now.
So you can see how wonderfully the Vanitas concept worked with that: its all about living a fruitful life, as death is imminent, which is why there is always a burnt out lamp, or a tiny stub of a candle, life is about to burn out. I had to be true to that kind of symbolism, and other imagery like wilted flowers, all focusing on decay.
The ring lying on the broken up (well used?) Bible is a promise ring my them boyfriend gave me, we couldn't afford engagement rings at that stage. The seven of diamonds card ties in there, 7 being symbolic in Christianity of a work being completed or perfected (it doesn't translate very well, the Afrikaans  word I'm thinking of is 'volmaak' or 'volbring') 

The leaf was nicely alive, but had fed many a caterpillar, and both the leaf and flower are 'kappertjies' which I grew up playing with (nasturtium flowers, google tells me) The leaves are waterproof, so you can let a drop of water roll around on the leaf without wetting it, and we spent many hours making  mud-stews  of them!

I've always loved candles, this one wasn't quite burnt out, it wasn't ready to die - this wasn't about death after all, only change.

The skull is a cast of a human skull, borrowed from our local teaching hospital's museum - for ethical reasons not an actual human skull - which a friend who works there sourced for me, and started out a relationship of borrowing animal skulls from the museum, which only fed my appetite for learning about anatomy. The walk-through my friend and I did in the museum was terribly interesting, macabre but beautiful.

The fruit still life needs less explanation. I just wanted decadence, but in a healthy way, bright juicy, alive. Especially in juxtaposition with the desaturated, dark Vanitas. The dark background I think helps to relate to the Vanitas, even though it's a much warmer tone.
You can tell the age of the painting in the outlines, I think I stopped outlining in 2010, when I finally realised it didn't give my work a contemporary edge, it just took away from it. That, and the poor photo quality and terribly crop, my apologies!

And there you have it. My sister-in-law bought the fruits, the Vanitas sold at the gallery, and I can look back fondly on how far I've come, in paintings and attitudes. And in the realisation that everything I yearned for then, I now have. 

No comments:

Post a Comment