Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In search of my Trickster

Study for The Trickster in charcoal on canvas, 60x50cm

















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My previous posting, Self portrait in bitumen, was a visual exploration of my Shadow - the dark, anti-Me lurking within. The work is a sombre heavy-brown monochrome.

Trickster Explorations 1, acrylic on paper
But there are other Me's milling round down there in my unconscious; colourful, chameleon, mercurial, edgy, playful, swaggering, gaudy.

So this is a posting of preparatory drawings for a self portrait which i shall call The Trickster. I am wrestling with the image just as i am wrestling to to understand the Jungian archetype of The Trickster within myself and to articulate him to myself.




We each have our own Trickster deep down inside somewhere and i suppose he/she looks different for each of us. Maybe i'm just kidding myself that a brief imaginative exercise is really accessing mine own. A psychoanalyst would no doubt scoff. But the exploration and reflection is fun trying.

So why am i now bothering with The Trickster? Well, Helen Lock, in her scholarly article Transformations of the Trickster, believes that:

"in understanding the trickster better, we better understand ourselves, and the perhaps subconscious aspects of ourselves that respond to the trickster’s unsettling and transformative behavior."

I wouldn't claim to actually be a trickster (I have a great distaste for practical jokes for a start - they are so often premised on cruel humiliation of others). But i do accept Jung's notion that we each have buried within us a Trickster tendency that often as not breaks out at our own expense. We become the butt of our own contrary impulses.

Once we are told, "on no account press the red button", how many of us can't resist, against our better judgement? And just who is it that can't resist? Our Trickster.

Trickster Explorations 2, acrylic on paper
Timothy Sexton describes him as follows:

"Jung's archetype of the Trickster is not simply a clown. The Trickster archetype is a rebel who refuses to conform to societal expectations. But he is not a rebel without a cause; the Trickster's resistance to conformity is based on challenging authority, not on simplistic adornments; he will not be seen sporting tattoos or piercings or corporate T-shirts flashing slogans. In fact, the Trickster may very well appear to be inconsequential on the outside. The most famous literary representation of the Trickster is the Fool in William Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear".

He goes on,

"Modern society has basically turned its back on the concept of trickster gods, but they still exist in the form of comics, satirists, and everyone who couches their wisdom behind the concept of the fool. At the same time, it is important to distinguish the Trickster from the actual Fool. Of course, there is no easy way to accomplish this other than by noticing if a fool is acting wise or idiotic.

The fool or clown is also about the ability to either laugh at the ridiculousness of life, or to cut through the social shams and reveal our hypocrisy in an acceptable way. This makes the fool or clown wise, because they can see through who we are and what people do. Their talent is to reveal such things to us".


Speaking of trickster gods, I remember  in my childhood reading stories of the Norse god Loki and his exploits. The character has always stayed with me. An ambiguous, ambivalent, trouble maker with a mean streak for sure, though as i recall, Loki was the one who stole fire from the gods. So he was also a bringer a light, comfort and cooking which also makes him a hero to us humans.

Trickster Explorations 3, acrylic on paper
But mostly i like Tony Crisp's description in Archetype of Trickster - Clown and the Fool.

"the clown has another aspect which is as a man, usually the clown is a male of sorrows. He leads us to tears as often as he leads us to laughter. This is because the clown shows us the wonderful and tragic human feelings underlying the masks we might wear in daily life. Love, life, loss, success and failure, all have their deeply human side and the clown reveals such things to us".

Stylistically these Explorations arguably may be seen as a return to my Fauvist painting Egon Schiele: Harlequin (left) from my Egon Schiele series of 2007 ... except now i am Harlequin!


Now, can i bring these Explorations to some fruition in a finished work? Dunno. What will that work look like? Dunno. When will it be finished? Dunno.

Instead, i am sailing on what John Keats called negative capability. More on that in my next post - if i get to complete The Trickster.


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23 comments:

  1. Evening Harry,
    Can't wait!
    Sincerely,
    Gary

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  2. For me, the Trickster is foolish, vain, sly (but not really smart), and sometimes mean in intent. I should read some of the works you mention. My favorites of these so far are the ones with the bright green.

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  3. Me gusta mucho tu continua búsqueda, tu continua exploración. El Trickster que yo conozco, como aficionado al comic, es un enemigo de Flash.
    Excelente trabajo.

    http://www.hyperborea.org/flash/bigimages/trickster-orig.jpg

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  4. I can only say "yes" to all the descriptions of The Trickster. Painting him is quite a task--great explorations.

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  5. Ah, the trickster! I keep thinking of Loki from Wagner's Der Ring Des Niebelung. He was there to play with narcissistic self-delusion. He appears in only the first of the four operas and gets the whole mess going. He made all kinds of trouble.

    I really identify with your self-portraits having made so many myself. Your goal seems to be more self reflective. My goal was to be self-reflective and defiantly snotty. I think snotty is good!

    I think the chief function of the artist is to be a trickster; to be unsettling; To make the audience experience some brain cramps; to make the contrast between what society espouses and what it actually does sharper; to be a nagging conscience.

    I think that is why artists are so vigorously attacked by those who are in power. They understand the threat of a thinking populace.

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  6. I don't know....this is deep! I certainly love all the visuals. It is weird to think of you as "the trickster"..but perhaps I should delve deeper into the word and the meaning. I will be waiting to see the next version :)

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  7. Whenever I come on to your blog Harry I know I will get some intellectual concepts. How much I enjoyed reading about the 'Trickster' and what food for thought. Helen Lock's article was well written and concise. More please! Oh yes, sorry I like your self portraits of course, whatever the colour. Reminds me of 'The Joker' i.e. Batman - don't know why. Regards. Caro.

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  8. Hi Gary. I haven't even made a start yet! Today is the day (hopefully).

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  9. Yes Rhonda, i think our Trickster archetype has been described in all those ways. And that green (with the orange) speaks to me most too.

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  10. Gracias Manel. Yo también recuerdo el tramposo de los comics. Gran imagen. Gracias por el enlace.

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  11. We each have our own Trickster deep down inside somewhere and i suppose he/she looks different for each of us, Hallie.

    Maybe i'm just kidding myself that a brief imaginative execise is really accessing mine. A psychoanalysit would no doubt scoff. But the exploration and reflection is fun trying.

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  12. Molte grazie Laura. E 'molto divertente.

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  13. Funny you should mention Loki, Davida. I remeber reading stories of his exploits in my childhood and the character has always stayed with me. A trouble-maker for sure, though as i recall, Loki was the one who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. So he was also a bringer a light, comfort and cooking - all dear to my heart, haha.

    Yes, snotty is excellent. The life-expectancy of the feisty is greater.

    Though a feisty artist can end up with a fatwa. Fundamentalist of all descriptions loathe anything that is more nuanced than black-and-white thinking - along the lines of their prefered color scheme, of course.

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  14. Hi Celeste. I wouldn't claim to actually be a trickster (I have a great distaste for practical jokes for a start (they are so often premised on cruel humilation of others).

    But i do accept Jung's notion that we each have buried within us a Trickster tendency that often as not breaks out at our own expense. We become the butt of our own contrary impulses.

    Once we are told, "on no acount press the red button", how many of us can't resist, against our better judgement?

    And just who is it that can't resist? Our Trickster.

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  15. That's great, Carolann.

    Yes, the Joker. And the Riddler. And as Manel points out, the Marvel comics character called The Trickster. And Loki. And Brer Rabbit, Buggs Bunny, and every naughty kid that ever pulled a prank.

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  16. fascinating post Harry... the research, an artery carrying fuel to the painting... the trickster perhaps could be that person who knows that being what he/she is, he will be rejected by society and therefore wears a mask to appease society, uses language that will be accepted by others... are we all not tricksters then ?

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  17. Harry you've done it again and influenced my perspective! It is a synergistic process this art making. Your research, thoughts and discussion from friends have entered my inner space mixing dipping into my unconscious pool rippling things to the surface.

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  18. Hi Rahina. Not so much research as dabbling round in my old field of Psychology, a career i had thought to leave behind in order to actualize my other hemisphere of the brain. Guess old habits die hard, lol.

    Interesting thought that one's Persona is a form of social trickery (camouflage). Maybe that's the art of the politcian - cf Trickie Dickie.

    But one's inner Trickster sometimes sabotages a carefully crafted Persona with trips of the tongue or crazy acts of impulse. The little demon!

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  19. Glad you find something of worth in my ramblings, Elizabeth. Thanks for that.

    That's what is so great about our circle blogging artists - we learn so much from each other, are inspired by each other, and much encouraged by each other.

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  20. Hi Harry! What a great conversation you have going with this post!

    I'd like to get back to Loki. The Loki of your childhood stories may be a Prometheus figure, but for Wagner's Ring Cycle, he is the figure who plays on the weakness of the characters. Wotan in particular. It's Wotan desire for power and grandiosity that is his eventual undoing. Loki just let him suffer the consequences of his all too human defects. His problem is that he never learned along the way. Wagner himself had problems in this department.

    Here is the god with human foibles. And it's humans' godlike delusions that get us into so much trouble. That's where the artists and psychologists are needed. Artists need to be both in order to deliver the necessary brain cramps.

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