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I need to think how I might construct a final ‘Self’ for this three-week period.
I’m conscious of the physicality of ‘Me’. I reflect that I’m privileged to have the time to think about these things. I’m looking through the window onto a green field, daffodils, birds singing. Here is the Self I wish I could have more of…but there are all the other aspects of self: relationships, obligations, drives…
We experience the glide from one role to another as somehow natural, most of the time, if we lead ‘ordinary’ lives.
For many people, especially the vulnerable, the demands of role-change are more traumatic. An extreme example would be a child prostitute.
What does that do to one’s sense of Self?
Our sense of self is intimately bound up with our roles. I define myself as an artist, but I am a mother, sister, grandmother…And getting older, when we begin to see ourselves through our growing childrens eyes, our grandchildrens eyes,it’s hard to hang on to the belief that we are still the same person. Once the centre of someone’s world, we become peripheral. An identity is essential – something independent of familial ties is more solid, for me.
Sometimes I wish we did not have the ability to reflect on ourselves. It’s tedious, self indulgent, and boring.
Perhaps most people are not like me? Perhaps they’re more in touch with what’s going on around them; more generous, more imaginative, less Self-involved?
Perhaps it will be better to stick to what I can see of Me – the physical reality. Appearance. It’s hard enough to get a likeness, let alone try to visualise the psychological complexity of a person. And we can never disentangle our knowledge of a person, from the person herself. We can never know another person completely, or know them as they know themselves.
So when it comes to self-portrayal, we have to decide which aspects we’ll reveal. I keep thinking of Graham Sutherland’s small self portrait in the show at Turner Contemporary. It’s Green! It’s a warm, knowing and perspicacious selfportrait that reveals age kindly. A frank portrait, one assumes, in great contrast to contemporary artists in the exhibition, who are notable by their absence from themselves. Jeremy Miller’s selfportrait of the artist as a drowned man – an idea borrowed from one of the inventors of photographic printmaking who had so much more of a point to make. Damien Hirst – a self portrait without the self. Very revealing. But not in the way he might wish.Tracey Emin, typically self-involved, exorcising demons that really aren’t unique to her.
What have we actually got to say about our Selves today that isn’t self-promotion?
I haven’t come to any conclusions about how my selfportrait will develop during this short period of time at the gallery/ studio. I don’t know my Self any better.