‘On Suicide’ Emile Durkheim

A visual suicide note

I have been interested in working with different mediums in my exploration of how I might represent aspects of myself in self portraiture. The posts and collective pieces here are meant to be a journey toward a final definitive piece that encapsulates the aspects I uncover upon this journey through the module.

If one is exploring the self one needs to turn to fields of thinking that have been looking at this area in great detail for considerable periods in order to flesh one's own visual ideas. I think in art one might look toward other visual artists to explore how visual language is used creatively to represent a self. I also think however that with this as a starting point one is working backwards and exploring the self as aesthetic representation which for me isn't a useful purpose. One might be able to represent aesthetically and technically something that is highly visually informative or creative but if one hasn't started with an idea of what oneself actually constitutes in the first place then I question if art can do anything other than act as a form of facsimile. As Plato would have it art being a copy of a copy.

I felt it essential to engage fully with what a self might be and I felt that only through examining the concept in fields of psychology, philosophy and science could one hope to get near to creating something that can open the art space to the discussion and involve it intellectually in the debate. To produce another image influenced by other producers of images seemed to be the wrong approach unless one wanted to make something attractive based upon established principles of what aesthetics constitutes.

The potential for self destruction is deeply important in such discussions and I wanted to create a piece that challenged an artistic medium to engage with that particular aspect of self. I had been reading Emile Durkheim's book 'On Suicide' which was written at the beginning of the last century and had become a classic piece of sociological research and I had then moved to looking at the WHO's figures on global suicides and discovering between the two this very real aspect of millions of people's lives. The staggering numbers of deaths each year from suicide (over 1 million) which are more than the global total of deaths by murder and war combined indicates Durkheim's detailed study is as still wholly relevant.

I felt to engage with the issue using paint I wanted to question the canvas about how much distress it might contain when dealing with the subject. I thought the feeling of suicide was a point beyond personal containment an overlapping of a self so that their was a devaluation of it to the point of course where one took their own life. I showed the canvas shape to represent the logical world and then overlaid the mind in turmoil on top. It was designed to illustrate a blowing out beyond the borders of logic as a feeling of painful mental collapse. The explosion out rather like the doomed angels wings cast down into fire in Milton's 'Paradise Lost'. I used industrial car paint over a white photographic gel. I found Mark Bradford's canvases to be inspirational in the idea of letting go and constructing the assemblage of an image across a large scale. Mark's work is highly organised although chaotic at first glance and I wanted to try and evidence the subtle lost face emerging from the bottom left as only something one might search for and not immediately encounter.

The scream into darkness in the lower left corner of the canvas represents not one looking forward but rather escaping the pain of the darkness here. One heads to darkness from darkness but the silence beyond is preferable to the pain of existence as experienced by the person taking their own life. I include this as part of a developing argument about the self and myself and as a methodological approach to uncovering a visual language that fits the essence of what I am trying to say in each piece. These works are finished pieces on a journey through an argument that each work seeks to frame and substantiate the whole out of. They are influenced by engagement with the outside world and not mere isolated points about a particular idea of a self. I am trying to engage with universal aspects of us all whilst formulating my visual hypothesis about myself. My argument of course is that there isn't a 'myself' and hence I am constructing universals whilst working with 'me' the person writing this and creating the work.



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