One of the instructions I sometimes bellow at my haphazard sitter is to look at me. I am often interested in their eyes. I woke this morning reflecting on this particular phenomena and it dawns on me that I haven’t fully engaged with this much in writing. I do it, because its all in the eyes. I am told it is, I feel it, I intuitively want to see the eyes. Its something that draws me. And what is it that I see in the eyes? and what is it that is reflected in the drawing? These are questions that I know this post is not adequate enough to answer – it boils it back down to the very purpose of art and the need to create and make marks on paper that reflect a particular idea to me. Or perhaps, expresses a particular emotion. Yet, those seem to be crude summations at times of a much more complex phenomena that occurs. Complex, or simple as I make it out to be. I was inspired by Marina Abramovic’s project of letting people come look at her in the eyes for as long or short as they wanted. Reducing it down to a nakedness that even if fully clothed, you cannot hide.
I understand, perhaps now, that when I do have the chance to look someone in the eyes, all I often see is a reflection, of me. In drawing myself over the last couple of months, I have become more comfortable with myself – looking myself in the mirror, in my own eyes has been a tough. Looking at other people though, has been tough still. This translates also to my sitters at times, what unnerves me is not their nervousness, but my own. In daring to look someone in the eye – I connect with my own human-ness, my own frail lack of ability to do more than is humanly possible and to question the very purpose of my art. My own fears emerge, my own inabilities to do nothing more than observe, engage. My own inability to help or assist beyond a certain level. What I realise is that I am human too – in both negative and positive aspects.
It’s important to reflect on this, because of some of the people I have been drawing, and also because of drawing myself. The more I look, the more I seem to be not afraid of the potential emotions that may emerge. I suppose it is a process that can be painfully empowering. I cannot project or judge my emotions until I look, until I encounter it. An emotive call to action maybe necessary at some point. In better understanding the environments of vulnerability and human life, or in Agambens’ acknowledgement of a ‘bare life’, beyond the jurisdiction of state and still away from the empathy of the fellow human being. In the process of developing the art, in building human relationships, in questioning the self, I am left with scrawls and marks on paper, that may or may not explain anything.
So, what is it that I am trying to say here? That looking someone in the eye means we are willing to look at ourselves? There is less scope for judgement, for misunderstandings and potentially conflict, if looking is done at the point of honestness. This honestness is to acknowledge my fears which are reflected back to me, and my own mechanism has often been to not look. To not engage. Yet, why reveal myself in such an intimate way to perhaps a relatively unknown stranger? Maybe its refreshing to see myself in a strangers eyes, there is some comfort in drawing that gaze of bewilderment, of fear, of potential love and the potential to not be judged. It means also, that I am not judging myself – not brandishing my actions, not giving in to my ego. It stays honest, I hope. It is not a social project, and at the time of drawing, it is not a project at all but rather an intimate process which does not always reflect anything but a moment in time captured through marks on paper.
In these self portraits that I do, I seek to draw out my desire to be honest to myself. To not escape into abstraction, if I can help it, yet to abstract the very essence of that moment, if possible. The challenge comes to one of time, how long before I acknowledge or understand that I have captured what I want to capture in the drawing? I resort to intuition, or some rules of thumb- depending on the media. So maybe a few hours of intense looking is all that I can muster before becoming fatigued. I continually contradict myself, it seems – and although its healthy to counter balance my own assumptions, I question the very purpose of art, again and again – where I suppose the real question is, the purpose of life itself, how is that I came to be, do and think? and in this particular process that digs at my inability to be able to look honestly at all times. The facades we create are difficult to remove as time moves on. Perhaps now, I am beginning to get comfortable in hiding behind the art as well?
On a side note: the concept of letting go.
To let go. To what? To life, maybe. The struggle I took upon myself was to control my ego, to not let it control my soul. The suffering to overcome was one of the desire to cling to an idea, object or a person – to let Truth or Love dictate the path, however challenging it may seem to be. It perhaps is the ultimate challenge.
The cycle of the creative process starts and ends is crude, yet relatively true. Yes, the environment and experiences continually change and shape our thoughts – it requires the ability to be willing to experience and accept these changes of thoughts too. It also, happens that the artist in me is able to express a moment or idea in time and space. The constant remaining idea is one of change. So, the experiment here was to draw. and then destroy. and all that remains is a photo-image, and an idea. The challenge being to fight the ego, to not preserve this as The Truth, but simply one idea of it. It re-ignites my passion to fully immerse in life. My perception of myself changes with my continual introspection, my ability to draw and make art changes too, as I gain experiences and push the boundaries that exist within my life. However difficult it may seem to let go, it is still possible. Trust and letting go to Love is all that I can do. And, I realise that is enough, despite the Ego wanting so much more.