Monday 16 February 2015

Selfie - updated status

status update
Oil on canvas 65 x 50 cm

Know Thy Selfie

This painting is an exploration of the relationship between the painted self-portrait and the selfie.

Someone taking a selfie will take (or select from several recently taken) a photo that adequately reflects how they want to be represented at that moment. They then upload it to a networking (or sharing) platform such as Facebook or Twitter where it goes to the top of a time line. Typically, there will be many images of this person earlier in this time line and there will undoubtedly, be more later too. So a virtual version of the person exists in parallel that they can control in order to maintain a certain self-image; it is a curated self that aims to impress.

This self-portrait was painted from life using a mirror, not a photo; the phone was just a prop. Although I've adopted the pose of a selfie taker my intention is self-study, born from curiosity more than propaganda. I find that to get a reasonable likeness I have to examine myself with forensic care and record what I see with ruthless objectivity (not always a kind process). It is a reflective practice that strips away ego and hopefully reveals something honest and without pretence. The painting took several days to complete so it captures the full variety of the relationship between me and my reflection over that time: different moods, thoughts, etc. Also, how a portrait is painted says as much about the painter as it does of the sitter so in the case of the self-portrait you have this extra layer of information. It is a distillation of time into a timeless image; a milestone that acknowledges mortality.

The selfie is a captured moment, a disposable image that joins a stream of images past, present and future; images whose main function is not memory (like the family album), but to maintain the existence of online ME. A stream of images that flow into a river (the sharing platform), then into an ocean of yet more images.

Does this ocean of images represent a new generation of self-obsession expressed through photophilia, or could it be that as technology becomes more integrated into our lives then everyday experience and ideas of self are increasingly mediated through this technology? Then, the posted selfie becomes a natural and inevitable practice for many people.

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