'That I am a man, this I share with other men. That I see and hear and that I eat and drink is what all animals do likewise. But that I am I is only mine and belongs to me and to nobody else; to no other man not to an angel nor to God – except in as much as I am one with Him' Meister Eckhart, Fragments.
This quote is taken from Erich Fromm's classic text 'Man for Himself' it appears in the chapter human nature and character. Fromm's further elucidation of Eckhart's thinking in that chapter lay directly behind some recent photographic work I have been undertaking for this new FIne Art project. I am interested in working across a number of mediums to explore ideas about the self. Fromm, Eckhart and Laing were three thinkers that seemed to be driving a lot of my ideas around the self and how I might explore these using photography. I am not sure of why photography felt the best medium as yet but I will re-read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes to perhaps further explore some thinking upon why photography might be my response to this.
I posted some earlier ideas relating to inverted imagery of ground and mud which were taken at a local cemetery, a place of personal significance for me. After taking these I had planned to introduce a human figure into the images but as yet I wasn't sure how. I booked a male nude model and photographed him in the studio against a grey background with the idea of placing him into these inverted landscapes.
I was interested in looking at what emerged visually from my engaging with these three thinkers. Meister Eckhart was a hugely influential German 13th century theologian and philosopher. His writings had not only a profound affect in the west but also were integrated into aspects of Eastern philosophical thinking. The very well known modern spiritual thinker Eckhart Tolle changed his christian name in honour of the influence this 13th century scholar had upon his life and the way he thought. Fromm was a widely read and highly regarded psychoanalyst during the mid 20th century, writing a sequence of works including the one mentioned that had a wide impact across a number of the social science disciplines. R.D. Laing was in many ways one of the early voices of the 60's counter culture and his landmark book 'the divided self' equally had a deep cultural affect upon our ideas about the self. I felt it important to work with ideas about the self that had permeated deeply into our cultures across a very significant time span in order that any creative work they engendered would have its roots firmly in fairly well thought through ideas. I felt that having this approach would allow the photographs a subconscious resonance with the viewer based upon ideas that are already familiar.
It would be a very long post if I were to go into each work and how this ultimately led me to making these photographs about the self. The images to me are trying to work through many aspects of my psyche. They contain elements relating to love, birth, death, sexuality, pain, suffering, beauty and isolation. they reflect me because they are made by me out of aspects of my subconscious connections with these writings. In a broad sense everything we do is about the self, so a 'self' portrait is an interesting area for discussion in terms of how one might interpret 'self'. I seek to avoid the literal as much as I can and operate within areas that I feel are on the edge of immediate communicablity.
When this module began I made a conscious effort to engage more with other fields of expression not just visual art and I have sought to deepen my connection with ideas beyond pure visual responses to the world. I have a wide interest in philosophy and I will be writing more about my thoughts regarding what I feel art is and what I feel philosophy is and how for me art has become philosophy and how we have reached the end of art movements as recognisable processes in a historical context. I am exploring philosophical ideas to inspire my creative approach more and more and this is something that I feel will continue to drive my creative output.
I may work upon a series of nudes in these inverted landscapes and develop the ideas of the self further as a reflective self portrait based upon philosophical discussion. These visual responses to the world by me are a far more revealing portrait than any direct image of myself. I think I am at the very early exploratory stages and thinking about ideas rather than making decisions just yet.