Making faces: a studio based exploration of portraiture, electroforming and the self realised in new jewellery objects

2017-05-15T06:44:49Z (GMT) by Pollard, Penelope
This research project is concerned with jewellery as portrait. The portraits created are not mimetic nor do they necessarily refer to a specific model but are created to produce an effect upon the wearer and viewer. This effect is intended to rupture conventional ideas of portraiture. The portraits created are not what they seem and are linked to contemporary arts theory and practice in that they address pressing concerns: questions of subjectivity, portraiture, appearance and jewellery. Portraits in the twenty first century are diverse and can range from the most abstract representation to detailed life like, mirror images. They can be self-portraits, representations of once living or living person's, refer back to historical art practice and master paintings, or they can he constructed in the imagination of the artist, real or fictional. The portrait is at the forefront of exploring ideas of self in contemporary arts practice and has a multitude of possibilities, but always they emphasize the human presence and narrative. The aim has been to create jewellery that draws from the Surrealist technique of automatism, James Ensor and masks. Firstly, automatic drawing (specifically automatic drawing as a way to re-interpret portraiture) is examined in this studio based practice by creating wire faces which are produced in a manner that references Surrealist practices. Secondly, the work of James Ensor and others is examined in order to define how artists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century's had considerable impact on conventional portraiture and the place of the mask to this end. Thirdly, masks are investigated because of the way artists used them to help dismantle portraiture in the twentieth century and the use of the mask freed them from the constraints of realism and broadened artistic language. Finally, Freud's notion of the unconscious is introduced as part of portraiture and jewellery. The Surrealist technique of automatic drawing, the mask, the theory of the unconscious and the art of James Ensor all disrupt the traditional ideal of the portrait as a "realistic" representation of the sitter/model, presents the self as multiple and a performance that is disrupted by the unconscious. In this project, this shift is examined through theories of the self and the response of art theory and practice to these ideas. Prior to the advent of the twentieth century, the self was basically considered as a something that could be worked upon. In other words, individuals could consciously work towards developing themselves to a particular end; better person, more moral, kinder and so on. This was, and often remains, the basic tenet of education and self-help programs. In terms of portraiture, the image could be a mirror image of the sitter/model or a representation of what the sitter/model thought of themselves: heroic, beautiful, young. Either way, the aim was to capture the sitter in a moment for perpetuity. However, this view of the self as the result of a conscious program was challenged: firstly by the work of Freud in the early twentieth century, and later by continental philosophy. In particular, Freud's notion of the unconscious contributed to a different understanding of the self. This idea had profound effects upon art theory and practice, including that of portraiture. The aim of this current project is to consider this notion in relation to more contemporary beliefs of the self and to develop a practice of making portraits as jewellery objects that seek to reference the unconscious in order to contribute to the displacement of the ideal that the self is the end product of a conscious effort. This aim is intrinsically ethical as it allows for the disruption that the repressed causes. It also promises to develop jewellery objects that while ostensibly portraits, make reference to the repressed content of the sitter/model. The mask has been chosen as a marker of this type of event not only because masks are traditionally changeable and offer a disguise but, because of their relationship to the unconscious. The mask shows us that we are bound by psychological and social constraints: by the masks of convention. This research is linked to contemporary arts practice by continuing to explore complex and evolving issues of self. It investigates the human face and its artistic rendering which remains central to contemporary arts practice. Finally the work that is created is discussed and the journey that has been charted and the influences that initiated the work to the current position. The conclusion, in defining the work, finds the links between the series and points to possible future directions.