Saturday, 23 April 2011

Wols/ Arnulf Rainer

The following two artists have both produced self-portraits in which they alter and manipulate their facial features.

Wols (pseudonym for Wolfgang Schulze) was both a painter and photographer working in France in the 1930's and 40's, known for his depictions of ambitious scenes using modest every-day objects. In 1940 he produced a series of what was then considered remarkable self-portraits, exploiting the potential to vary his facial appearances and expressions.

Arnulf Rainer, from the series Face Farces
"Arnulf Rainer's main subject has always been himself, seen as an actor in extreme situations, comic or tragic. His first photographic self-portraits were made in a passport photo-booth in Vienna's main railway station in 1968-9. His idea was that acting in front of the camera would call up 'dormant, or psychopathic reserves of energy'. Then in the 1970's he began to supplement the photographs with violent over drawing, to reveal new and unexpected personages within himself, he called the portraits face-farces. The grimaces in these portraits are projected outwards, and they are affronts meant both to engross and to keep others at a distance." (Words taken from the Phaidon Photography Book.) 
The reason I have presented these two together, is not because I want to make a strong connection between them, but because on discovering them and recognising their similarity to my intended project, I felt it was important to acknowledge their significance as past photographic work which defines the context of my own. In that respect, I need to question what there motives were for producing these photographs. It would seem that Rainer's work relates to issues of internal conflict, and there may be an incentive from him to resolve this. Wols motivation seems to be more of an experimentation and light-hearted playfullness - but I imagine that for 1940 they would have seemed quite unusual portraits.

I can draw parallels here to my own work. To Wols in the sense that I too am hoping to present photographs that are a bit unusual, that will draw attention due to their originality (but with a rationale of deeper meaning behind them). But also (and more so) to Rainer, in my attempts to resolve something internal. A significant focus of my research project was self-mockery. And that is a charecteristic that I want to communicate with my final images, and I hope an audience will find them humorous. But self-mockery is a characteristic with many levels, beneath it is a self-criticism, even a self-inflicted insult. And the criticism I make of myself, and the personality flaw I wish to ameliorate with this project, is vanity and narcissism. I think it is important that I find a way to deliver that motive to the audience (it could just be a short statement accompanying the images somewhere) as it will offer them a greater understanding of the exhibited photographs.

No comments:

Post a Comment