Monday, May 19, 2008

Self-Portrait, Fitful

"Self-Portrait, Fitful", oil on canvas, 18"x24",2007, is a paradoxical painting. If the viewer did not see the title, would he/she think that I was sleeping peacefully, under the watchful eye of my cat? It would seem so, however the title is very indicative of how I was feeling at the time. I thought it would provide a nice contrast between what is seen on the canvas and what the title would imply. I like schisms...a contrast in the viewer's initial impression of my work with additional clues to the narrative provided by the title. I intentionally leave many of my titles pretty static, perfunctory, almost clinical. I am not one to swan about with Wildian titles such as "My Own Private Melancholia" or "The Existential Dilemma I Fight With"...that is the job of the paint, to provide clues as to what is happening on the canvas.

I do really think that titles can hinder paintings. What do most people do after they take a quick scan of a piece of art? They look at the title. Now, that little card can provide some great knowledge about the piece, but perhaps we should look at that sculpture, photograph or etching and formulate some of our own ideas about it before we seek the counsel of the little white card beside it. I am ranting here but my point is that personally, my titles serve to provide little hints of information, not hand the meaning to the viewer on a platter. I have said this before and I will say it again. I want people to draw their own creative conclusions ultimately. The title is merely a railing on which they can rest their hands for awhile while they guide themselves down or up the stairs.

"Self-Portrait, Fitful" is the product of a rather manic bout of reference-shooting. Deadlines were looming, inspiration was almost non-existent and my cat Simon was terribly interested in why I was acting so strangely. It was not a happy day, not a peaceful time. Therein is the real irony as I have had people comment that I looked like I was quite serene. Not at all. I was anxious and desperately wanted some magic to happen.

On a quick technical point, the blacks of my comforter were fun to paint. I could write a whole entry on blacks, mixing them and having fun with their different permutations depending on the ratio and colours used to make said tone. I have written about blacks before, but they do fascinate me, perhaps because they really are a conundrum...they have all colours in them and yet they appear devoid of colour sometimes.

Also, my episode of The Artist's Life on Bravo! Channel aired today. I will be sure to post when it will be shown again to give you, dear reader, some time to perhaps set up your PVR or VCR if you are interested in seeing it.

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best."
~Frida Kahlo

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