Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Thing of Rags and Patches

Thing of Rags, fabric, crepe bandages and oil on board, 60 x 70 cm

A wandering minstrel I —
A thing of shreds and patches ...
Through every passion ranging,
And to your humours changing
I tune my supple song!

from A Wandering Minstrel, I , Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado

“Après un certain âge tout homme est responsable do son visage.” Albert Camus in La Chute, aka The Fall

"At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves".   George Orwell's final entry in his notebooks.

My journey into expressive mark-making in portrait painting has led me to search for heavier texture. I was seeking for a low-cost solution that would bulk the surface into a decided relief, and in itself add underlying texture. I wanted a creative process that was essentially constructivist, building up an image of my face rather as i have been constructed over decades through the agency of social learning and personal experience.

I found a satisfying symbolism in using bandages to form the substructure of my self-portrait. They brought to mind the Invisible Man made visible, Frankenstein's creature taped and tacked together, the Mummy risen from its sarcophagus, trailing the emblems of its internment.

view of the thickness of paint compared to 4mm thick board

In a sense, each of us is a creation. First we are created physically by our parents. And then socially by our families, schools and friends.

And ultimately, we create our own selves through our life choices. Over the decades, within the limits of our genes, we craft our bodies and our character.

Camus and George Orwell would have us believe we thereby craft our own faces after decades of self-expression.

This is what it feels like to have mine.

close-up (detail) of A Thing of Rags


  1. Remarkable experiment, Harry. Seems to me, the rather morbid (if not terrifying) experience of being petrified or mummified for the sake of immortality through self-creation - the paradoxical implications of it - is well conveyed by this work.

  2. A haunting and powerful image Harry, made more so by the knowledge that you use bandages to build up the texture. Bandages have a certain resonance. Life, death and healing. Thanks.

  3. I love the way it reaches out to you!!

  4. Thought-provoking--your self-portrait and your words.

  5. Thanks, Regina, though i don't quite see the construction of self though the encounters, events and choices of one's life quite so rigidly as petrified, more as overlaid with ever fresh acretions.

    Though I guess some do experience a more fixed shell as a comforting cocoon they safely inhabit. Others feel armoured with the certainty by their acretions against the viscicistudes of life. While again others feel trapped by a past and an identity they would rather shed (thoudands of Australians go AWOL every year).

    In my own case i feel more like something struggling to emerge from its crysalis. This not-quite-satisfactory experimental effort was an attempt to represent that crysalis and maybe hint at something stiring beneath.

  6. hi Elizabeth. Your comment about the bandages has got me reflecting further on those resonances. I can feel a series of works, more stark and simple than this Baroque effort, coming on. Stay tuned, lol.

  7. Thanks Marian. I've inspired me to think i should add another small pic taken from the side to show the degree of relief.

  8. thanks, Hallie. I always appreciate your visits and your interest.

  9. Your head seems to come out the water ! With colors !!!
    The life insinuates itself everywhere Harry, kept silent interests me!

  10. Harry,

    This is one that I wish I had in front of me, but I can get a good sense of your depth from your photographs and descriptions of your process. You are a man with many hats, and it's always a pleasure to see what's next.

    Take care,

  11. amazing work! congrats:) it inspires me

  12. Merci Olivia. Après toutes ces peintures noires de charbon de bois que je pensais avoir mieux essayer quelque chose de couleur.

  13. Yes, Brian, i did try to make something very tactile, that a view might even want to reach out to palpate. As for all those hats, i look forward to the day i will settle down and just properly master one style of working, lol.

  14. Thanks Leni. Greetings to Kraków.

  15. Really interesting Harry I love how you are so experimental. I think you have fulfilled your objectives theres a real sense of depth here I guess its would be even more appreciated in person)

  16. Thank you for sharing
    This fabulous work with us
    Good creations

  17. Thanks, Sam. The problem with all this experimental stuff is that i never get to settle down and develop an idea fully, so nearly everthing i do feels so fleeting, patchy, shallow. Or maybe that's just me, lol.

    Cheers, Skizo.