IDENTIFYING THE SELF(IE)
Flouro colour trapped within translucent paper and sleekly applied paint punctuates the space between reality and virtual reality in these figurative paintings. Images of young women are appropriated from Instagram and carefully manipulated to parody the choreography of poses that are encountered daily on social media platforms. In the 1980s, Fredric Jameson claimed that visual culture was becoming saturated, resulting in a desensitisation towards photographic imagery. The introduction of the camera phone in contemporary society provides evidence to the contrary, as images still attain the capacity to emotionally affect us. Today there is a heightened awareness of the complexities and anxieties surrounding the appropriation and control of the female figure. Self-portraiture, with its long history in art, has been decontextualised with a new mobile immediacy that allows social media users to depict a carefully curated self that encourages immediate interactive engagement.
Through the use of collage and paint, these paintings consider the connection between the generation and consumption of images of women, with a focus on the concept of the (de)construction of identity. With reference to the writings of Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, 1984, these works acknowledge the unification of the subject and the operator within self-portraiture now. When the image-maker becomes the image, fragmentation surrounds the subject matter. The duality between the self portrayed online and the self lived offline are questioned in these paintings. The invention of mobile camera phones has facilitated the proliferation of the selfie, while wide-angle lens and selfie sticks allow the space necessary to create constructed poses depicting whole bodies in conjunction with the close-up selfie that is synonymous with this generation. However, the subject, while having control over the image posted, cannot regulate its meaning to the image’s audience. The enormous archive of images available on instagram are directly sampled from the screen to investigate the complexities of digital self-representation, capturing the performance of a perfected pose and a curated self.
Societal behaviours, with which young women feel obliged to conform, are emphasised in these works through the incorporation of enlarged, collaged features that run concurrent with today’s beauty trends. In recognition of the democratic nature of such platforms it is important for these works to encompass images of women from all backgrounds be it mass-celebrity, wannabe influencer or teenage mother. However, it is important to acknowledge that the algorithms and engagement bait within Instagram have influenced decisions to depict young figures that are synonymous with the platform. Finalised large-scale prints flatten the surface on which the paint slips and collides under commodified lips and smoky eyes. The images are posted once more, in their new context, through the Instagram platform to generate engagement and reflective feedback. Within the boundaries of paint, the work provides a
commentary on the distance that has been abolished between gender, subject and object, the real and the virtual.