Exhibition Look at Me!
Look at Me!
Clicking a green spot [
] on the map, moves you to another hall. You are in the hall with the red spot [
is the 2006 Spring exhibition of the MHHK. The theme of this exhibition is the
self-portrait. Contributing artists of which not all has an exhibition in the MHHK at the start
of Look at Me!
Willemina Bakkenes, Jan Beerling, Rob Bloemendaal, Agnes Booijink, Jozef de Bot, Karmela Debski, Noud van Galen, Rob Hilgersom, Merit de Jong, Aafke Kelly, Ricardo Liong-A-Kong, Gertie van Nuenen, Otto Oelen, Fra Paalman, Leon Polko, Bert van Santen, Tineke van Steijn, Fenneke ten Thij, Jannemiek Tukker, Anne Wind and Simone Zacharias.
by Elvira van Eijl, art historican, chairman of the Visual Arts Advisory Commity of Hengelo.
Rembrandt painted over 100 self-portraits. For each he adapted himself to another role: now he poses as a beggar and then as a historical or scriptural character.
He painted himself as a young man with the future ahead, but also as an elder artist which had a life full of experiences.
Why he kept fascinated by his own changing fysiognomy, and for what reason in the year 2006 artists still are portraying themselves?
To answer these questions, we first have to dive in the art history.
Self-portrait as we know it now, didn’t exist as genre. For long an artist was seen as a craftsman.
Their signature, let alone their physical appearance, was not important.
From 1400 on slowly the genre starts developing, the artist gets more self-confident.
In his self-portraits Albrecht Dürer painted himself as a very self-confident man.
The drawings, in which he reveals himself as an old man, were dared for his time, and although they illustrate the decay of a human, they also show a great feeling of dignity and self-respect.
Before these kind of self-portraits developed themselves, incidentely the artist put himself
as part of the total image. On a mural of Raphael, we see a small self-portrait, in the middle of
a group of scientists, looking straight at the spectator.
Michelangelo gave himself a place in the centre of The last Judgement
, the big fresco
in de Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo here takes the identity of saint Bartolomeus, whose skin got stripped alive.
The self-portrait is painted on the stripped skin of the saint, as protest.
This because Michelangelo literally felt stripped by his commisioner the pope, who refused to pay.
From the 15th century on slowly the collectioners also got interested in the artists self-portraits.
The mecenas not only wanted portraits of political interesting persons, but also portraits of painters.
The artist sits in front of a mirror and becomes his own study-object, where as the interest in the very own personal psychology slowly evolves.
In the beginning the self-portrait was a rather realistic reproduction of the face, but influenced by the theories of Freud slowly the attitude to the realistic portrait changes.
The self-portrait becomes literally a confrontation with the self, a way to study ones own emotions, try to understand them, and make them visible (see Egon Schiele).
Artist, like Vincent van Gogh, used their own physique often, because they lacked other models.
In Frida Kahlo case the self-protrait is the main theme throughout her whole oeuvre,
she painted her dramatic life in a naieve and sometimes surreal way that now and then looks a little therapeutic: as this is the only way she can keep herself and her pain on a distance.
In the twenties of last century we see the self-portraits slowly literally desintegrate.
The Cubists, Futurists, and Dadaïsts deconstructs every resemblance by using collage and photocomposite techniques.
In the 20th century the artist start using the new media like photo, film and computer for their selfportraits.
Cindy Sherman stages photos in which she constant get into the skin of stereotypes and Arnulf
Rainer scrapes repeatedly his own photo portraits, till they disappear behind a thick layer of graphite or chalc.
And what to say about Gilbert & George, who now for more then 20 years exhibit their selves as living sculptures. Are that still self-portraits, do they reveal something of themselves or are they hiding behind the role they play?
Self-portraits can be made in very different ways. For sure every artist will try to make at
least one work that is devoted to himself. Is it the love of ease, vanity, narcissism,
curiosity or the need to portray his own fysiognomy?
Philip Akkerman should give us an answer. Since 1981 he continuously tries record himself and the mood of the moment in, till now, over 3000 self-portraits.
Every time searching for other ways to come closer the nature of the Self.
The artist in this exhibition Look at Me!
have their own reasons to portray themself, they had a ‘look’ at themselves and interpret what they saw.
Is the work only about themselves or are these artists able to rise above the subjective and show the universal human?
I wish you a pleasant visit at the exhibition.
Elvira van Eijl